Located three miles from Six Flags, The People's Choice Family Fun Center's canary-yellow, 43,000-square-foot arena buzzes with the thrill of friendly competition across 150 arcade games and the 18-hole Rocky's Fun House Miniature Golf course. Styled to mimic a circus, the venue features statues of carnival barkers who challenge guests to step right up to skee-ball and air hockey. Players gather loot at the redemption center, where they can exchange spools of tickets won at arcade games for the more than 1,000 prizes, from candy and stuffed animals to electronics and a lifetime of self-satisfaction. Servers at the food court dish out festival eats including cotton candy and pizza, and vendors at Hershey's Ice Cream Shoppe fill cones, cups, and top hats with frosty treats. The center also plays host to holiday events and private parties throughout the year. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the carnival resides an 18-hole miniature golf course known as Rocky's Fun House Miniature Golf. Here, putters tiptoe through a darkened wonderland of glow-in-the-dark circus shapes. A phosphorescent replication of trapeze artists, elephants, and escaped monkeys running amok greets putt-putt posses in the circus-themed segment, challenging their ability to focus on deviously placed holes. A moving ferris wheel towers over players as they size up the unique challenges of each hole and read the grain of the AstroTurf; fun-house mirrors bend beams of light into goofy, distorted reflections. At the final hole, which is guarded by a strongman bell ringer, those who sink a hole in one win a free round of golf for two and the lifelong friendship of Rocky, the triceratops mascot.
Stuffed deer antlers, a large canoe suspended from the ceiling, and carvings of bears surround diners at Bill's Pizza & Pub. The northwoods seeps indoors at the venerable pizza place, which exhibits the idiosyncratic decor of a lodge. The wood-grained eatery first established its novel dining room more than 50 years ago, when its founder and namesake converted a garage into a roadside pizza joint. There, Bill and his wife, Pat, devised the double-decker pizza that still emerges piping hot from the kitchens at two locations. Both locales exhibit the same relaxed setting, in which families can scarf double-decker slices and freely toss peanut shells to the floor or out windows at mounted policemen.
In the mind's eye, pizza is always round, but Eugene and John Jetts imagined a different kind of pie. Thinking outside the box led them to square pans, which could be easily lined with dough to create crispy, deep-dish pizzas. They started churning out their hearty creations under the moniker Jett's Pizza, and while they have lost a 't' throughout the years, they haven't sacrificed their original passion for great pie. According to Eugene, “"There are a lot of ways out there to make cheaper pizza. Jet's is about better pizza. That's why we have never skimped on the product or the ingredients, and never will." They also still use their now codified original crust recipe in more than 200 different kitchens across the United States, a feat rivaled by only a handful of other pizza companies and the Earth, whose crust recipe is displayed in every kitchen on the planet.
Carried out by pie fans or delivered to their doors, fresh toppings and sauces parade out of Donati's Pizza on discs of the kitchen's signature dough, alongside a menu's worth of casual Italian fare. Spinach-cheese bread primes palates as a melty, crusty starter ($4.99), and the artichoke salad's hearts recite sonnets to the cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers from their romaine-lettuce nest ($6.99). Diners may blueprint their own pizzas, choosing from six sizes and more than 20 toppings to fashion a bespoke feast. Scatter canadian bacon and hot giardiniera across a large pizza ($15.50) or personalize a pie by inviting italian beef, enviously green olives, and mushrooms home for dinner ($7.99). Specialty pizzas leave the design to the professionals, such as the Southside ($14+), whose bacon slices splay across a grid of sausage and onion. A choice of italian, farm-fresh ranch, or metaphysical dressing paints sandwiches ($5.99), such as the provolone-graced barbecue chicken, which arrives hot or cold on focaccia or french bread.
In 1966, taxi drivers Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli finally became fed up with their stop-and-go lives full of honking horns and rush-hour traffic. So they shut off their engines, handed in their keys, and took root. Along with pal George Loverde, they invested in property just off the bustling Magnificent Mile, but then didn’t know what to do with it. According to a 2004 profile in the Chicago Tribune, they got their direction when someone finally said, “Put pizza in it.”
Though the rest is history, it wasn’t quite easy. Bartoli and Loverde came from Italian and Sicilian backgrounds, but neither knew the key to a good pizza. It wasn’t until they hired Alice Mae Redmond, the woman responsible for the dough at Pizzeria Uno, that the Gino's East Chicagoans know and love was truly born. Although Alice Mae retired back in 1989, the recipe for her flaky, golden deep-dish pizza crust lives on.
Today, Gino’s still stands at its original spot on Michigan and Superior but has also stretched to 10 other city and suburban locations. Whether dining downtown or in St. Charles, customers find Alice Mae’s signature crust piled with mounds of cheese, sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and plenty of fresh toppings—from sausage and pepperoni to jalapeños and ground beef. Hot from the oven, pizzas arrive at tables snuggled inside seasoned deep-dish pans, ready to welcome a fork and knife. Thin-crust varieties are also available for those who don’t know how to work silverware, as is a bounty of sandwiches.
Chef David Maish trained at Chicago's Washburne Trade School, worked corporate events and banquets, and cooked at casual dining restaurants before opening the first David's Bistro in 1997. That Des Plaines location was open for nearly a decade, and after a brief break from business, David reopened his namesake restaurant in 2009, this time in Antioch. At the new location, David stresses the importance of hospitality and employs a knowledgeable wait staff, as highlighted by NBC5's Street teamer, Hungry Z, who said, "Chef David goes out of his way to ensure his staff knows the menu as well as he does."
The menu features a lot of the same contemporary American recipes David prepared at his last restaurant, such as the maple-glazed salmon. But the number of dishes has expanded to include more international ones, such as new zealand lamb chops, as well as vegetable-filled pastas and pizzas topped with buffalo mozzarella and baked scallops. There’s also a kids’ menu filled with child-sized portions of spaghetti and meatballs and grilled cheese paninis, as well as pages where kids can color or practice their long division.