From Burbank to Peotone and from Joliet to Chicago Heights, these Southland suburbs offer a wide range of ethnic specialties, American classics, contemporary fare and one-of-a-kind offerings ready for the tasting. And, there's a bit of history thrown in too.
A must stop in a Southland culinary tour is Courtright's in Willow Springs. Courtright's combines a lovely setting indoors and out, an award winning French chef, a well-executed menu, and an impressive 17,000 bottle wine cellar to attract diners from near and far.
Wine and contemporary fare meet up at Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Orland Park. Cooper's Hawk matches handcrafted wines with a selection of dishes designed to make perfect pairings.You can also get a wine education in the Tasting Room.
In neighboring Tinley Park, Tin Fish offers a contemporary version of a 1940s East Coast seafood house. The menu changes daily and emphasizes seasonal items from the sea, as well as land. In fall, choose Nantucket Cape Scallops and in late May through July get Maryland soft shell crabs, all served up in an inviting space.
Longevity and history take a few forms with some restaurants housed in historic buildings. Seek out Tallgrass in Lockport for both history and the culinary acclaim. It's housed in a restored 110-year-old Victorian building. This year the restaurant received its 18th consecutive AAA 2012 Four Diamond Award.
Public Landing, also in Lockport, is located in the Gaylord Building, which was built in 1838 and is one of 28 National Trust Historic Sites.
Princess Café in Beecher entices residents from both Illinois and Indiana with its prime steaks and seafood. It's home is a building that dates back to 1863 that was once known as the Old Stage Tavern, a rest stop for stagecoach travelers that had food, primarily German, that was known for miles around.
Housed in Blue Island's historic district, Maple Tree Inn serves up authentic Creole/Cajun fare in a historical building circa1890 that was used as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Longevity is the mantle given to several restaurants in these suburbs. Jack Gibbon's Gardens in Oak Forest has been a local favorite since 1922, offering a large menu of steaks, chops and seafood. Also among the "old timers" is Merichka's in Crest Hill. This Will County eatery has been family owned and operated since 1933. Its trademark sign and logo is in the shape of a boomerang so "customers keep coming back."
Ethnic foods abound from Italian and German, as well as some of the newer ethnic favorites such as Middle Eastern and sushi.
German food lovers head to Frankfort and Chef Klaus' Bier Stube. Filled with authentic German memorabilia, this charming country inn offers diners hearty and comforting German specialties, a wide beer menu and lots of German music on the weekends.
RoccoVino's is a recent addition to the Orland Park Italian dining scene, adding this south suburban location to its Carol Stream and Elk Grove Village spots. It brings the same extensive menu featuring pizza in all forms as well as specialty pasta dishes and a variety of chicken, steak, veal and seafood dishes.
Bridgeview is home to Al Bawadi Grill, specializing in Middle Eastern fare and mesquite grilled meats. Kitaro Grill and Sushi Lounge in Lemont offers a dazzling array of sushi from sashimi to maki rolls, such as The Lemont Queen.
If the craving is for comfort food head to Dusties Southern Style Buffet in Matteson. The Soul Food eatery has a menu featuring a variety of down home classics like smothered, baked, and crispy fried chicken, four cheese macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.
Peruse some of the more unique establishment these suburbs offer, such as Chuck's Southern Comforts Café in Burbank. Its eclectic menu includes everything from Mexican, Tex Mex, Cajun, American barbecue and southern stew. Or try Thom's Turkey Barbecue in Country Club Hills where the emphasis is on turkey and chicken to offer health-conscious alternatives.
Pickwick Society Tearoom in Frankfort plays off the charm of the town to offer a tranquil respite in different rooms filled with vintage and antique items. Based loosely on Louisa May Alcott's classic "Little Women," the tearoom's menu includes an extensive tea list, lunch items, as well as full or afternoon teas with reservations.