Though there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there’s only one way to roast a goat—learn from a master. According the Chicago Reader, once John Zaragoza became interested in making birria, he sought out Miguel Segura, a renowned birriero in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico who roasts his meat in backyard brick ovens. Two weeks studying with Segura taught him the varying cuts of birria and how to cultivate trust at the counter by chopping the meat in full view instead of pinkie swearing to each customer that the knives are clean.
Today, John and his family have their own recipe down pat. Kosher salt seasons the goat, which they seal in a steamer for up to six hours before covering it in an ancho-based mole sauce and transferring it to the oven. The cuts also yield a clean consommé broth that doubles as a garnish, which can be sprinkled on top alongside onions, cilantro, lime, and peppers. Handmade corn tortillas add the finishing touch to a birria meal at both Birrieria Zaragoza locations.
The goat can be ordered bone in or out, on a plate or in a taco—Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine ranks the restaurant No. 2 in the Midwest on a list of The 64 Best Tacos in the Country. For a spicy side, John's son Jonathan brews a signature fire-roasted salsa from scratch. Imported Mexican sodas wash down savory bites, whose popularity causes the Zaragozas to go through as many as 22 goats in a single weekend—more than the average caged T-Rex eats in a month.
Wingz slathers its signature fried chicken wings in a dozen different specialty sweet and spicy sauces. A 10-piece wing combo challenges dining groups of up to six to slather their wings in mild-barbecue, hot, or lemon-pepper sauce (other sauces available at $0.50 charge). Pause in between licking fingertips and comparing wet-nap scents to nosh on the combo's side dishes of fries, coleslaw, and bread. A sandwich combo, meanwhile, outfits hands with one of eight hot sandwiches and fries. Tender meat comprises the philly-steak sandwich, while the thinly sliced italian-beef sandwich celebrates Gallic influences with its drizzling of au jus, warm french bread, and dual usage as a festive battering ram on Bastille Day.
Chef Denise Roy, who helms the kitchen at Surf’s Up, knows the value of a good deep fryer: she slips everything from lobster and shrimp to green tomatoes into hers, creating delicious and crunchy seafood dishes. The fryer’s bounty is then dipped into sauces or nestled in tacos, competing with shrimp po’ boys and snow-crab legs for a place in diners’ stomachs, hearts, and hollow peg legs. Hand-cut fries and housemade biscuits accompany the seafood to the tables, which are grouped in a cozy dining room whose blond-wood food counter is decorated with a colorful skurker board, the offspring of a surfboard and a set of water skis.
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Pappanino's 50-year legacy spans the globe. The first Pappanino baked his first pizza in Sicily, but he always nurtured a desire to bring his fresh pizzas to America, so he and his family relocated to Chicago. Decades later, the same love of pizza still fuels the family business, but their menu has expanded to sandwiches, appetizers, and hearty Italian-style dishes and entrees. However, pizza is still the hallmark of the eatery, with varieties ranging from thin to stuffed crust, and more than 27 toppings—from artichoke and giardiniera to barbecue chicken—provide hundreds of combinations to make each pizza unique. The chefs and staff also go on location with a catering menu of their favorite dishes.