Stand facing one way in the parking lot of Niko’s Lodge and you’re in suburban Algonquin; turn the other way, and you’re in a mountain resort town. As diners pass under immense dark wood beams, they encounter a handsome pinewood bar, a roaring fireplace flanked by comfy furniture, and, drifting through it all, the fragrance of steak, rotisserie chicken, and pork ribs. Flavors tend toward hearty American favorites: barbecue, meatloaf, and decadent combinations such as a chicken-and-bacon mac and cheese, to name a few. Much of the fish is supplied by nearby rivers and lakes, and all the beef comes from upper-Midwestern Braveheart Black Angus cattle. If guests have saved some belly space, they can step outside to the fire pits to toast complimentary s’mores and destroy napkins on which they wrote embarrassing sonnets to pot roast.
Dan Beelow culls his Mundelein-raised cuts of beef and pork from his brother Duane's prized stock, ensuring that the meat that takes center stage at Beelow's Steakhouse's best USDA-graded quality. The succulent cuts of slow-roasted prime rib and steaks are aged a minimum of 45 days and fired over mesquite wood or a single match before joining fresh seafood and locally sourced produce atop white-cloth-covered tables. The passion for all things local extends to the bar, where mixologists assemble Snowshoe martinis with locally crafted Few white whiskey and regional musicians strum away until the late hours of Friday night.
Part restaurant and part concert hall, Austin's Saloon & Eatery houses both a sit-down dining room and a separate main stage showcasing local and national acts throughout the week. The restaurant's menu blends barbecue and inventive American fare with starters such as chicken wings ($7.95) and golden-fried beer-dough nuggets ($5.50) made to mimic the exact shape and alcohol content of most asteroids. Wrap hands and mouths around one of six burgers ($8.50+) or don a bib and dive into a barbecue combo platter ($17.95) pairing chicken and a half-slab of ribs, both cooked on a wood roaster.
Happenstance restaurateurs Rakesh and Sarina Chopra opened Sansaveria after a whirlwind excursion to the city of lights left them longing to bring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris back home with them. Meals commence with classic appetizers such as the baked onion soup ($5) or a French charcuterie plate, boasting a collection of cured meats, artisan cheeses, and multilingual croustades ($12). Pair plats principaux such as the garlic and herb sautéed steak Mediterranean ($27), or the wine-basted, caper-kissed sautéed tilapia carciofi ($19), with one of more than 40 wines, or choose any three by-the-glass options to sample a flight of fermented fancy. Suppers saunter toward their sugary conclusions with decadent delights including homemade bananas foster and Grand Marnier–filled crêpes ($7), or with sweet cocktails such as the creamy and indulgent choco-tini or a Sambuca Romana cordial—known for its impeccable manners.
Phil Gilardi, Jr. carries on his family’s legacy as the fourth generation to embrace the classic flavors and culinary techniques of the Old World. Joined by his uncle, Dan Sullivan, Phil packs his menu with the timeless recipes honed by his great-grandmother, Sophie, and his grandmother, Angie, as well as a few ideas of his own. Executive Chef Fabrizio Patano balances this blend of traditional and contemporary influences, crafting a lineup of Italian comfort foods with elevated touches.
Chef Patano and his team demonstrate their commitment to the menu’s Old World roots by importing prosciutto and parmigiano cheese for their entrees. At the same time, they highlight the inherent simplicity of Italian home cooking by hand-rolling their pastas and making fresh sauces in-house. This fusion of imported ingredients and homespun touches is readily apparent throughout the kitchen’s refined dishes, such as breaded veal cutlets with asparagus, lobster, and rich hollandaise sauce.
The casually elevated charm of the menu also influences the décor of Philly G’s, which sprawls across the floor plan and covered porch of a stately home. Textured walls lit by glowing sconces surround the tables draped with seafoam-green and white linens and flanked by high-backed chairs. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, the lounge area hosts live entertainment for diners, regaling them with musical performances as opposed to staged readings of last week’s winning lottery numbers.