Expressly Leslie Café, born from a Woodstock Farmers Market concession trailer, was named one of the best vegetarian dining spots by readers of the Northwest Herald. The menu brims with Middle Eastern specialties such as falafel, hummus, and pita pocket sandwiches, along with salads hailing from Morocco, Israeli, and Egypt. All these dishes are freshly made in the restaurant without additives, high fructose corn syrup, or Spam-filled Twinkies. You can follow owner Leslie Cook's thoughts on vegetarianism, cooking with wholesome ingredients, and current events in the world of nutrition on her blog.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Time Out Chicago Kids raves about the strawberry lemonade flavor. Chicago magazine claims the "coconut tastes fresh from the tree." And Michael Mednick, owner and founder of Anthony's Italian Ice, which has been open for more than 20 years, knows exactly why. After a stint selling name-brand ices, an unsatisfied Mednick decided to test his Italian ice-making talents by tossing fresh fruits into an old ice-making machine. A series of trials, errors, and brain freezes finally led Mednick to the sweet spot he holds today: manning his own Southport store, where he churns out 25 decadent Italian ice flavors⎯such as lemon, mango, and peach⎯from scratch.
Though Italian ice is Anthony’s big draw, the shop also purveys smooth ice cream produced by fellow Chicago shop Bobtail, and offsets dessert appetites with Italian beef sandwiches, locally made soups, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Considering the diversity of backgrounds that have contributed to Red Chopsticks, it's not surprising that the restaurant has a pan-Asian style. The founders previously conceived Oysy Sushi and Baisi Thai, and Executive Chef Li, a native of Zhengzhou City, left his post at the Zhengzhou International Hotel to man kitchens in St. Louis and Chicago's Chinatown before taking his post at Red Chopsticks.
The menu is predominantly Chinese, as evidenced by entrees such as szechuan pork and kung pao beef. But patrons will also find other Asian specialties, including pad thai noodles that entangle cabbage, chicken, and peanuts, and clear singapore rice noodles colored by bean sprouts and carrots. No matter the dish, Chef Li prepares everything from scratch, including sauces, pastries, and silverware, and uses a fresh assortment of veggies and produce.
Everyday, the aroma of steaming lobster and grilled carne asada escapes into the dining room from the kitchen of Playa Del Sol, where chefs prepare each dish to order. Within the dining room, marked by blue and red walls, guests dig into any number of traditional Mexican dishes, ranging from deep-fried whole red snapper with veracruzana sauce to housemade tamales. Further emphasizing their focus on seafood, paintings of beachgoers in vintage swimsuits adorn the walls and servers gently speak in breathy, oceanic whispers. Behind the full bar, staff members fill up margarita glasses with original, mango, and raspberry flavors and muddle mint leaves for refreshing mojitos.
The owners of Pita Puff imported a little piece of the Mediterranean Basin with them when they came to America. It's not a tangible object, but rather an attitude, a missive of easy-going evenings with good company and tasty food. This can be summed up in one word?Sahtain?which means, "Enjoy your food." And Pita Puff makes that an easy thing to do with their Mediterranean staples. The menu includes falafel sandwiches, lentil soups, baba ghanouj for dipping and grape leaves for finger-snacking. And then there are the items from the grill: chicken schwarma made with tomatoes, dry onions, and tahini, tender lamb shish kabobs, and beef kafta??all served with a creamy mound of hummus and a fresh salad.