I've lived in Chicago for about five years, but rarely venture into the burbs. Recommendations for outstanding restaurants outside the city proper? I probably wouldn't drive very far for fast food (even though I love Italian beef and the like, I'm happy with my choices here in the city), but otherwise no limits on cuisine or price.
Campagnola is okay, but if you're looking for Italian food in Evanston in a relaxed atmosphere, Va Pensiero is far, far better. I've eaten quite a few times at both, and it's really no contest at all. (The outdoor patio at Va Pensiero is particularly relaxing, weather permitting.)
There are some wonderful places to eat up in the 'burbs. I'll skip over places like Morton's and Wildfire, since those restaurants have Chicago locations as well.
The original Bob Chinn's is in Wheeling. While very casual and relaxed inside, their seafood is top notch and extremely fresh. Waits on weekends can be exceptionally long and the restaurant can seem a bit hectic, but that all depends on when you come in and what experience you are looking for. They should have Copper River Salmon in the next few weeks.
Tramonto's Steak and Seafood is one of my favorite restaurants around. With food inspired by the TRU duo of Gand and Tramonto, they offer superb steakhouse fare, as well as a very nice offering of fresh fish selections. Gand's desserts are superb, as is to be expected. This is a fairly upscale restaurant and reservations are fairly necessary on weekends.
RT Lounge, which is upstairs from Tramonto's, offers the full steakhouse menu, in addition to some lounge favorites, such as kobe beef sliders, and a full sushi bar. A great choice if you want a more relaxed, lounge-like atmosphere but don't want to skimp on food.
Claim Jumper, a chain that's fairly new to the area, is a great choice if you are looking for a family friendly place that has a very extensive menu. The restaurant has a Cheesecake Factory vibe and feel to it - if they moved one out West and gave it a Western theme! Good entrees, huge sizes and amazingly large desserts to share.
Le Francais, a restaurant that I haven't visited yet (but have heard great things about from friends) is a great choice if you are looking for high-end French cuisine. This is a very upscale restaurant, so if you don't fee like wearing a jacket, you may want to look elsewhere. :
Just a couple of suggestions! Hope this helps! :)
There are some excellent restaurants in the northern suburbs. And the best of all haven't even been mentioned yet. ;)
Oceanique, in Evanston, has spectacular, sinfully-good food. They specialize in seafood, but everything there is wonderful - the soups, the sauces, the desserts (oh! the desserts! mmmm). www.oceanique.com
Michael, in Winnetka, is also excellent in every way. Sinfully delicious food, in a casual but elegant atmosphere. www.michaelrestaurant.com I wrote up my most recent visit: www.chowhound.com/topics/119164
Le Titi de Paris, in Arlington Heights, is also consistently excellent. www.letitideparis.com
Several other places in Evanston are consistently excellent:
Chef's Station - www.chefs-station.com
Va Pensiero - www.va-p.com
The Stained Glass - www.thestainedglass.com
Jacky's Bistro - www.jackysbistro.com
There are lots of steakhouses, including Pete Miller's (Evanston, Wheeling), Wildfire (Glenview, Lincolnshire), Stoney River (Deerfield, Deer Park), Carson's (Deerfield - also excellent barbecue ribs), etc.
For seafood, Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview is consistently excellent, and I find their preparations far more appealing than those at Bob Chinn's. www.mitchellsfishmarket.com
Le Francais (Wheeling) and Carlos (Highwood) have been around for many years and are both still excellent for upscale French food. BTW, Le Francais's website notes that attire is now business casual. However, I would choose the casual elegance (and exquisite food) of Oceanique, Michael, or Le Titi de Paris over either of these.