“Fuel stands for ‘food you eat locally.’ We try to source everything locally, within a 100-square-mile radius from [the] restaurant." This is how owner Tim Lenon summarized his restaurant's philosophy to Wilmette Life, and Fuel Wilmette is undoubtedly committed to supporting the region's farms and culinary artisans. Cage-free eggs and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats arrive from Wisconsin, the staff finds organic produce at area farmers' markets, and Heavenly Hearth Bread Company—located just a couple blocks away—bakes fresh batches of breads for the restaurant every morning. And the farm-to-table concept applies to all three meals. Cups of fair-trade coffee accompany breakfasts of chorizo omelets, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, or quiche brimming with seasonal ingredients. The dinner menu's selection of New American cuisine tends to change as the restaurant receives fresh bounties of meats and produce. This allows the chefs to flex their culinary muscles and experiment with international flavors while still spotlighting the local ingredients. Grass-fed beef sliders with housemade bacon embody classic American cuisine, while green lentils with roasted winter vegetables and citrus-marinated tilapia tacos demonstrate the chefs' range. Fuel Wilmette's relatively sleek, black-and-white décor stands in contrast to its menu's earthy roots, but it still embraces the same theme of sustainability. According to TribLocal Wilmette/Kenilworth, the hundreds of ceiling tiles in the dining room are made from recycled PVC pipes and the hanging lights were constructed using recycled plastics. These features blend in seamlessly with the modern room's dark-tiled floors, large front windows, and chalkboards.
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 staff members 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 in Sri Lanka to develop their very own crops and went the extra mile to ensure quality by roasting all the beans in-house. As the staff brews single cups with an artisanal pour-over method, customers can 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.
For Chef Rob, cooking fine cuisine is a family affair. He learned his skills at the knee of his Sicilian grandmother, who taught him everything he knows about how to run a kitchen. Today, he still hones his recipes in a similar setting, cooking furiously as his wife and daughter stand ready to dutifully taste his creations. After finishing his at-home experiments with the daily haul from the local market, he heads to Wilmette Chop House to begin preparing food for that night?s hungry customers.
During the dinner rush, Rob welcomes many of the same faces that he laughed and joked with at the market that morning. He oversees a grill filled with filet mignon, lobster tails, and his signature double-cut bone-in smoked pork chops. These delicious proteins come out hot on the heels of fresh-baked bread, acquired from Heavenly Hearth Bakery just around the corner. To wash down Chef Rob?s creations, bartenders mix up the restaurant?s signature cocktail?the Thin Mintini. In addition to describing the drink's refreshing taste, the beverage?s name also hints at the building?s history; the venue once served as the original bakery for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Not content to cater only to two of the five senses, Rob also retains the services of professional musicians at his piano bar on most evenings, who wow audiences and reviewers with their skill at the keys and with catching food tossed at their mouths.