Located just 17 miles north west of Chicago, Des Plaines is a worthwhile destination in its own right. Its arts scene really comes alive in summer with outdoor concerts series, and its recreational activities include the Park District and large casinos. It also houses the McDonald’s number one store museum, but here are 10 restaurants that blow the fast food chain out of the water.
Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House Interior Courtesy of Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House
Hugo's Frog Bar and Chop House
Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
Situated within Rivers Casino, Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House is one of Des Plaines’ most visited restaurants. It prides itself as being one of the finest seafood restaurants in the Chicago area. While it has some stiff competition from the fish markets, it is undeniably one of the most sophisticated of the seafood and chop restaurants in terms of surroundings. The interior is designed as a marriage between a classic steak house and contemporary design, with the picture wall and large bar being the main focal points. There is a wide variety of chops and seafood and new customers are recommended to try the local favorites – including the frog legs.
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A restaurant for burger aficionados, American Wildburger gives an unprecedented amount of choice for diners who are looking to find the perfect burger. Customers can either try one of the signature burgers or build their own, choosing from different meats, buns, toppings and cheeses for personalization that goes beyond most other burger restaurants. All burgers, as you would expect, are made to order and they use high quality ingredients for all of their food. At weekends they offer new special burgers, so this is a good time to visit if you’re feeling adventurous.
If you are looking for fresh seafood in Illinois, Boston Fish Market is the place to go. It is busy throughout the day as it functions both as an active fish market and a renowned restaurant – its dishes have been among the Chicago Tribune’s top 10. Many of the dishes are cooked in the Greek style, which is characterized by its relative lack of additional seasoning and sauces in order to let the flavor of the seafood shine as the star of the plate. The dishes are relatively simple, mainly salads, sandwiches and fried half pounds with sides, but are presented with finesse and with an unrivalled taste in the area. A good stop for those who want dinner and to take home 5lbs of fresh salmon.
Cafe La Cave offers grand dining with a glamor that makes it one of the most popular destinations for date nights and special events. The lobby was designed to recall the splendor of Versailles, and the large staircases, chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you are in a manor house from centuries gone by. The menu centers on seafood and steak cooked in the traditional French style, as well as regularly changing specials and the pasta du jour. This family run restaurant is renowned for its personalized and friendly service, that is sometimes lacking in such grand settings. Extravagant dining without the matching price tag.
Des Plaines’ original seafood market and restaurant. Don’s Dock first opened in 1951 and has been operated by the Johnson family ever since. The family has four generations of experience in catching, handling and preparing seafood, so diners can expect fresh, expertly prepared dishes. The fish dishes that are served in the restaurant come fried by the pound, and there are also smaller fried or grilled meals, including fish and chips, small shrimp and calamari, which are all cooked in vegetable oil and are free from trans fats. The steamed shrimp are also popular starter or side and these come either peeled or with the shell on. The building remains largely unchanged from the 1950s, giving diners a peek into Des Plaines’ history along with their seafood.
Real Sicilian and southern Italian food in the heart of Des Plaines. The head chef and owner of Giacomo’s, Giacomo Zita, was born in Sicily and has used his roots to inform the dishes. The interior is casual yet elegant with tablecloths, exposed brick walls and large windows giving it a classic and airy feel. There is also an outdoor patio for dining during the warmer months with views over gardens. All of their pasta is handmade on site, and there are plenty of options of meat, seafood, veal, vegetarian, house specials and create-your-own pasta dishes.
Gail’s Carriage Inn has quite the reputation in the area. Its accolades include best pancakes in the Midwest, Chicago’s Best best eggs, and best breakfasts in Chicago. This is the fourth restaurant to be owned and run by the eponymous Gail, who for over 25 years has carved out quite a reputation in the area for the quality of her food and versatility of being able to run everything from fine dining to laid back breakfast joints. This restaurant is very much the latter, and has long established itself as one of Des Plaines’ most popular breakfast and lunch spots. From skillets, french toast, crêpes, waffles and eggs to south of the border dishes, you will be hard pressed to find a more extensive and appetizing breakfast menu.
Since opening in 2008, Katie’s Kitchen has grown in popularity to become a serious contender in the fight for best breakfast in the area. It has already been awarded the Best French Toast accolade by Chicago Magazineon two occasions. Its menu sets a slightly more continental niche than other breakfast restaurants in the area, with Belgian waffles, cinnamon swirl French toast and crêpes being among the most popular options on the menu. There are also classic egg, oatmeal and skillet dishes and some healthy choices too. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and the best seats in the house are near the large fireplace in the winter or on the open air patio during summer.
As featured on the Food Network and regularly on Chicago’s Best lists, Paradise Pup is renowned in the area as serving the best burgers, hot dogs and fully loaded fries. There is usually a wait to be served, and this can be quite substantial during the lunch and dinner rushes, but it’s most certainly worth it. The specialties are the char-burgers and three-layer fries with melted cheese, sour cream and bacon bits. Its walk up counter and picnic table seating area makes it one of Des Plaines’ most casual dining experience, but this is undeniably the best way to enjoy this legendary food. Great taste, fair prices, and the hype has definitely been justified throughout its long history.
Via Roma‘s motto is ‘always fresh – always Italian’, and that really says it all. This small family run business boasts a menu of Italian dishes based on traditional recipes from Rome, and they utilize local and fresh ingredients in order to best replicate the authentic taste of these classic dishes. Serving sizes are large, as are the menu options which only grow with the daily or weekly specials that are written up on the blackboard. The restaurant itself is quite small which means that you often have to book in advance for a table or be prepared to wait. In the summer, the rear patio helps to add to the restaurant’s popularity. As a BYOB restaurant, you can enjoy homemade Italian cooking without breaking the bank.