It has become custom that once the cat is out of the bag that I went to culinary school, people always ask where I like to go out to eat. I live in the western suburbs of Chicago and love to eat out. Date nights are great (obvi), but we don't shy away from going out with our kids as well. During the school year, it's become a tradition to go out as a family on Friday nights. It's one of my favorite family activities. Even if we are loud and leave a TOTAL mess, on occasion, we're well-behaved, so it's high-fives all around.
Here are my top 10(ish) spots:
1. A Toda Madre (Glen Ellyn), Bien Trucha (Geneva), & Altiro (Geneva): These places are the real deal. Honest to goodness Mexican food is alive and well in the suburbs, people! A Toda Madre and Bien Trucha (same owners) both have a cool city feel, while Altiro is off the beaten path in Geneva and feels vacationy and cozy. The menus at both restaurants are pretty similar--don't skip the shrimp with the green sauce at either spot. And if you're into cocktails, you'll be one happy camper.
2. Gia Mia (Wheaton and Geneva) & Fire & Wine (Glen Ellyn): Similar restaurants serving Neapolitan-style pizzas, small plates, fab veggies, and salads. The vibe is loud and fun. It's a great spot for whatever your outing: kids, no kids, date night, ladies night, you name it. I love the pizza's at both spots--don't miss the beet salad at Gia Mia and the grilled romaine salad at Fire & Wine. (the pic above is a spread at Gia Mia...I'm ready to head over there right now.)
3. Bavarian Lodge (Lisle): This is a lively, comfy spot to go in the winter. It gets PACKED so head over there early if you're with your kids or opt for the bar with friends. We always get the cheese pierogi or potato pancake appetizer, a brat dinner, and the kolackys for dessert.
4. Vistro (Hinsdale): This is Chef Paul Virant's casual spot. I've only been here once for lunch, but I'm telling you the burger was just that good. It was topped with house-made pimento cheese...enough said.
5. Caribbean Corner (Downers Grove): Legit Caribbean sandwiches. The perfect easy spot to go for dinner or lunch. Also, train viewing for the kids (if they're into that sort of thing). The jibarito sandwich is my fave (they use fried plantains instead of bread).
6. Nickson's (LaGrange): We started going here when we would be out at Hinsdale Hospital for classes before Nora was born. It's the ideal bar & grill atmosphere and the food is so good; we love going for the burgers and sandwiches.
7. Standard Market (Lisle): A grocery store so bright and fancy, it feels like I'm shopping in the Hamptons (just me?). I go here for specialty items or just the bakery bread. But you have to hit up the bar to grab a bite and drink--excellent sandwiches and appetizers--and pretty reasonable to boot.
8. Sen Sushi (Oak Park): A tiny restaurant with really fresh and delicious sushi. And even more amazing for the suburban sushi...if you consider Oak Park the suburbs (I do). The ghost ship roll has always been our favorite. Per usual with sushi, I recommend dining in, rather than take-out.
9. Blackberry Market (Glen Ellyn): A neighborhood cafe that makes the world's best cinnamon rolls. I love this place for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner-to-go. I also highly recommend their catering options.
10. Alpine Food Shop (Elmwood Park): My friend, Alicia, turned me onto this place. You get a a little slice of the Elmwood Park and the subs are innnnsane. It's hard for me to get a sub anywhere else. Order the Alpine (this should go unsaid).
Chicago folks: where do you like to eat in the 'burbs? I'm always looking for new spots!
*Photo cred: Gia Mia website.