I had a friend from NJ stay with me this weekend in the Northwest suburbs. For every meal, I would have immense difficulty coming up with a great restaurant in the area that was NOT a chain!
He often requested Indian or Mediterranean food so we looked up restaurants around on yellowpages and metromix and very very few options even came up. Chains like "Noodles and Company" were offered as suggestions in our quest for good food.
I was disappointed and frankly embarassed that there was nothing around...does anyone have any suggestions that prove otherwise?!
I sure hope so! Please list them here.
The "northwest suburbs" is a pretty BIG swath - in my mind that is everything from Park Ridge/ Skokie to Rockford. Wheeling used to be home to Le Francais / Roland Liccioni, but that is not the only dining spot in that area. Here is a trick I learned: In fact, simply going to the local search in Google and entering "Wheeling IL" in the 'city' and "French" in the "find business' box yields quite a nice list. From Le Titi De Paris in Arlington Heights to Froggy's, Olives, and Gabriels in Highwood to Carlos in Highland Park. Doing the same thing with "Thai" yields similar results, though honestly most of the places are carryout and it would take months to try them all. Indianian and/or 'tandoor; are good tricks for that cuisine. I know there a place called simply "Tandoor" in Park Ridge that I liked, there are many strip mall Indian places in the Schaumburg area. Many more in the NW burbs "pita & humus fast food hybrids" some owned by folks from Lebanon, others with a Palestian background, still others hailing from Pakistan. Try searching google with simply "pita" in the find business box.
I guess word of mouth is still the best, though sites like chowhound and lth can be consulted beforehand and updated afterwards.
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re: Chew on That
Downtown Arlington Heights has a few options - Fuego is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. As nsxtasy suggests - AltThai is well worth a visit. There's an Italian restaurant next to Fuego that I had a solid meal at a few months back. La Tasca for Tapas is good. And don't forget Paprikash for Hungarian food.
I've enjoyed every meal I've had at Le Titi, but reviews have been mixed lately (mainly about service it seems). Down the road is a breakfast place called Walker Brothers - I never saw the allure but most people I know rave about it - a small chain, three locations I think, another in Schaumburg and one in CA.
Schaumburg has many Indian restaurants - most have locations on Devon as well, but I'm not sure I'd call two locations a "chain." Udupi Palace and Gaylord of India are two of my favorites. A lot of people I know like India House.
I had a surprisingly good meal at Sam and Harry's (it is a chain, but doesn't feel like one - perhaps because there are only four locations nationwide).
I've always thought Evanston had a number of places that may fit your criteria, but I don't know the city well. I did have a very nice, though somewhat overpriced, vegetarian meal at Blind Faith Cafe a while back. I've heard great things about Chef's Station.
There's also the Tramonto restaurants in Wheeling if you're looking for a higher end evening.
>> Down the road is a breakfast place called Walker Brothers - I never saw the allure but most people I know rave about it - a small chain, three locations I think, another in Schaumburg and one in CA. <<
Not exactly. You are confusing two different chains.
There is a franchiser (chain) of pancake restaurants called The Original Pancake House (OPH), which has many locations across the country (I'm guessing a hundred or more) including some in Chicago and its suburbs. Their website is www.originalpancakehouse.com
In 1960, Richard and Everett Walker opened a franchise location of this chain in Wilmette, and called it Walker Brothers Original Pancake House. They are the only franchisees who have been permitted to place an additional name on the restaurants. Walker Brothers now has six locations in the north and northwest suburbs (Wilmette, Glenview, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Arlington Heights, Lake Zurich). Their website is www.walkerbrosoph.com
A few years ago, Richard Walker, the son of one of the sibling founders of Walker Brothers, opened his own, separate, independent chain of restaurants, which now has two locations in the northwest suburbs (Crystal Lake) and one in San Diego. Their website is www.richardwalkers.com
So to summarize, there are three different groups of restaurants:
1. Original Pancake House
2. Walker Brothers Original Pancake House, a subset of (1)
3. Richard Walker's, a separate chain whose founder is related to the founders of (2)
All three groups have similar menus, with omelets and other egg dishes, and pancake and waffles of various sorts. They are probably best known for their baked, cinnamony, puffed-up apple pancake.
I've dined at numerous locations of all three chains. In my experience, the six Walker Brothers locations offer quality and consistency that is much, MUCH better than either the non-Walker Brothers OPH locations or the Richard Walker's restaurants. Everything from the pancakes themselves, to the coffee, to the egg dishes, just everything at Walker Brothers is well-prepared and absolutely delicious. At the non-Walker Brothers OPH locations, the quality and consistency is more variable; I've had some meals that were very good, and others that were barely passable. I've been mostly disappointed with my meals at the Richard Walker's locations, which seem like a pale imitation of the OPH franchise locations, let alone the superb Walker Brothers locations. However, Richard Walker's is still okay, and worth going to if you happen to be located close to one of their locations rather than one of the Walker Brothers locations.
>> I've always thought Evanston had a number of places that may fit your criteria, but I don't know the city well. I did have a very nice, though somewhat overpriced, vegetarian meal at Blind Faith Cafe a while back. I've heard great things about Chef's Station. <<
Although I wouldn't call Evanston a "northwest suburb" ;) , it has many, many excellent restaurants. The very best places in Evanston fall into the "casual fine dining" category, and I would rank them as follows:
1. Oceanique (seafood) - www.oceanique.com
2. Chef's Station (contemporary American) - www.chefs-station.com
3. Jacky's Bistro (contemporary American/French) - www.jackysbistro.com
4. Va Pensiero (Italian) - www.va-p.com
5. The Stained Glass (contemporary American with wine bar) - www.thestainedglass.com
6. Pete Miller's (steakhouse) - www.petemillers.com
7. Jilly's Cafe (contemporary American) - www.jillyscafe.com
There are many, many more restaurants of all kinds in Evanston, including IMHO the best Thai restaurant in the entire Chicago area (Thai Sookdee - www.thaisookdee.com ), a very good Mexican restaurant offering creative daily specials (Lupita's - www.lupitasmexicanrestaurant.com ), and many, many more.
Oh I definitely agree about Evanston not being being Northwest - but the OP mentioned it as a frequently visited suburb.
AND I stand corrected and thensome about the Walker Brothers info. That's actually very interesting and I wonder if the people I know who rave about it know that it's tied to OPH.
The place I was referring to was Walker Bros Original Pancake House - Arlington Hts on 825 Dundee Rd.
re: Chew on That
I would also suggest Milwaukee Ave. in Glenview...kind of near Lake. You have Pita Inn which is wonderful and there is a great Greek place right next door. There's also India House on Rt. 83 in Buffalo Grove. Very good! An Indian friend of ours turned us on to it and he is a regular.
Bibi rose is right. Surf through LTHforum and see what you can find. There will be lots of ideas there.
>>You have Pita Inn which is wonderful and there is a great Greek place right next door. >>
The Greek place is Periyali-- highly recommended. It looks unprepossessing but they have a nice patio you can sit on in warm weather. Just up the way is Cafe Lucci, a very good Italian restaurant with a great wine list and a bar where they serve humungous cocktails.
Also, a really fun stop for out-of-towners in the suburbs is Mitsuwa supermarket. You NJ friend may have one nearby but most people don't. It has a nice food court where you can have lunch before shopping. Some of the seasonal displays are awesome. In Niles, Super H Mart is another nice Asian supermarket but the food court is (IMO) not as good as Mitsuwa's.
There are lots of excellent non-chain restaurants in the northwest suburbs. Just a few examples...
Flamingo's Seafood in Mount Prospect - best Mexican food in the Chicago area - www.flamingosseafood.com
Black Ram Steakhouse in Des Plaines - terrific steak and seafood restaurant - www.blackramsteakhouse.com
Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights - great French food - www.letitideparis.com
AltThai in Arlington Heights - very good Thai - www.altthai.com
As suggested above, if you do a search using the names of a few towns in the area you're interested in, you'll find lots more recommendations.