Fuel Restaurant's kitchen staff prepares a rotating menu of gourmet fare completely on site using quality ingredients from local sources, including produce and eggs from nearby farms, bread from neighboring Heavenly Hearth Bread Company, and meat from Wisconsin. Salads freshly mixed by a house DJ greet dinner guests in three varieties, including a caprese, whose fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes mingle under a drizzling of balsamic vinegar, and a slightly sweet toss of pickled fennel, apple slices, candied walnuts, and goat cheese.
There is a huge gap between what parents want to eat and what their kids do. Between picky eating habits and the lure of shiny plastic toys, it can seem impossible to get kids to eat out without having to scarf chicken nuggets yourself. Two Wilmette fathers grew tired of this cycle and the poor quality of food their kids were craving, so they decided to create a restaurant where they, their wives, and their kids could all get an enjoyable meal.
The result was Gilson’s, an American bistro that uses sustainably caught and locally grown ingredients that adults value, and couches it in a friendly atmosphere complete with a children’s menu that accommodates picky eaters without plying them with processed junk food. The bistro reflects its two identities with an outdoor patio and exposed-brick dining room, with a more upscale wine bar that caters to guests wanting to sip international vintages in a more intimate space.
For the adults, chefs specialize in seafood. They accent shrimp and ahi tuna with layers of mango salsa and wasabi mayo to create complex flavor profiles without boiling up a rubik's-cube reduction. House specialties such as the fish tacos and Wyoming bison burgers get pared down to create smaller lunch portions, alongside a selection of organic sandwiches and salads.
Chuck Wagon redesigns American classics with one simple ingredient: slices of succulent gyro, straight from the spit. Chefs pile slices of it atop grilled cheese sandwiches and the eatery’s standout cheeseburger, the Niki, which The Winnetka Current lauded as “a big reason Chuck Wagon has a legendary status around the North Shore.” The chefs also cook prime ground beef burgers, the Waitress Special (grilled cheese with gyro meat on top), hot dogs, and chicken strips, which diners savor at bar stools inside the cozy eatery. Nearly every inch of wall space is filled with photographs that the owner takes himself, and a large gumball machine both adds a sweet ending to quick meals and solidifies the eatery’s antique edge.
The baristas at The Rock House wouldn’t lavish their attention on any old beans picked out of a wholesale catalogue—they needed a more personal experience with the coffee-growing industry. To guarantee the wholly non-exploitative origins of each cup of java served at their shop, the coffee brewers partnered with growers to develop their very own crops and went the extra mile to ensure quality by roasting all the beans in-house. As the baristas brew single cups with an artisanal pour-over method, customers can sip Sri Lankan teas, sift through rock-’n’-roll-inspired merchandise under the light streaming from naked light bulbs, chandeliers, and disco balls.
As Chuck Rometty sat in his yard one day, sipping a beer next to his 160-pound newfoundland, he wondered how he might re-create that relaxing experience on a daily basis. To do so, he founded The Big Black Dog Tavern & Grill, where pictures of large, sable-coated canines on the brick walls pay homage to Rometty's beloved pet. As for the beer portion of his vision, bartenders pour cold drafts from four rotating taps and open 55 different bottles of imported and domestic beer, including picks from Chicago- and Midwest-based breweries. The chefs smoke the pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket in-house and present diners a choice of texas barbecue, memphis sweet, or carolina mustard sauce. As Chicago magazine points out, the eatery is steps away from Rometty's other restaurant, the bistro and wine bar called Gilson's. The new, comparatively casual BBD space boasts cozy wooden booths, several TVs for sports fans, and a jukebox playing songs that only dogs can hear.
Falafel Bistro & Wine Bar cajoles the tahini-demanding bellies of vegetarians and omnivores alike with fresh wraps, salads, baguettes, and desserts, as well as a spectrum of Mediterranean specialties. Chef and owner Ilan Cohen slings traditional family meals straight from his native Israel onto the tables of his American bistro haven. Chickpea cheerleaders can form pyramids with one of many hummus-centered dishes, such as the sabih pita sandwich, with roasted eggplant and hard-boiled egg ($8), or the mahi-mahi beet wrap, rolled with sumptuous tiers of garbanzo mash, spinach, and alfalfa ($17).