Even if Gulliver's ovens went cool and the warm-weather chatter on its back patio went silent, visitors would still be drawn through the unassuming façade to witness the sights inside. Fortunately for hungry patrons, the kitchen continues to operate, quieting stomachs' growls with its take on Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. After slapping a mound of their housemade dough into the pan, chefs carefully contour the crust to leave thick, chewy edges and a thin, golden bottom. Next, layers of cheese, are topped using fresh ingredients. Pub-goers can also enjoy a tasty cornucopia of Italian soups, fresh salads, sandwiches, 100% Angus beef burgers, wings, and entrees sates pizza-averse diners. Sports fanatics can revel in traditional meals and watch their favorite team on 27 HD-TV screens. On Friday's, families can entertain their kid's with magic and balloon artistry shows.
Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
The staff at Dunlays makes this bar and grill into a welcoming spot to grab a bite or knock one back. Dine in comfort in the warm restaurant space, which features ample amounts of richly stained wood and a variety of menu selections. Commence the feed with the chicken roulade with roasted parsnips, sautéed brussel sprouts, and cider jus ($14) and the beet salad with arugula, goat cheese, and spiced walnuts ($9), or sate the hunger of an entire group of ravenous highwaymen with the sopressata (aged pepperoni) pizza ($11). A daily soup of the day ($5) warms up the ice-riddled stomachs of patrons throughout the winter, while the famous skillet cookie ($8) is a house-specialty way to sweetly complete any meal. At the bar discover martinis with an assortment of freshly squeezed juices, a craft-beer menu, and a variety of wines by the glass or bottle.
From the beckoning peals of jazz-playing buskers in Jackson Square to the amiable rush of revelers traipsing down Bourbon Street, New Orleans’ French Quarter earns its reputation as one of America’s liveliest locales. The chefs at French Quarter New Orleans Kitchen bring this same bonhomie to the plate, recreating Cajun staples including blackened fish, gumbo, and Cajun-spiced steak. Like holding a jazz funeral for a dead goldfish, the dining room’s bead-strewn chandeliers and gold and crimson walls add a touch of Fat Tuesday flair to everyday life. As guests sup on spicy jambalaya and sip southern cocktails, a lineup of live acts entertains crowds with DJs and blues bands.
Roundhead's Pizza Pub keeps head holes stuffed with an assortment of menu items as patrons affix their sight-spheres on one of the sports bar's more than 28 TVs. Roundhead's special pizza, packed with sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms (12", $16.25+), silences the grumbling bellies of Blackhawks and Bulls supporters as they argue about whether hockey players or basketball players make more capable museum docents. Kick off a Thursday night trivia session in Lombard with a generous portion of meat-filled homemade lasagna ($11.59) or an order of ultimate nachos, an assortment of cheese, chili, sour cream, and jalapeños perched atop a tortilla chip-mountain like a gooey, amorphous Sherpa ($9.49). Roundhead's also offers a formidable lunch buffet ($7.99), served weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which turns growling midday munchies into whimpering afternoon siestas.
For more than 20 years, the staff at Riley's Gathering Place have slaked thirst and staunched hunger with a full bar and a menu of tavern-style eats, including salads, burgers, melts, and wraps. Fourteen flat screen televisions flank the wood-paneled walls, as bar-high tabletops play Duck, Duck, Goose with stools. A patio hosts al fresco dining in good weather. Free wireless Internet at Riley's Gathering Place means that debates can only last for so long until someone verifies that the chicken and the egg were invented at the exact same time.