You don't have to be a street food connoisseur to savvy the difference between a Cozy Dog and an ordinary corn dog. Dipped in batter and deep-fried when ordered, the Cozy's batter jacket has a vivid crunch and the dog within is plump with juice. Family baskets include four Cozy Dogs and a large order of French fries. The fries are cut here and delightful.
Of all the Original Pancake Houses around the country, Walker Brothers is the best. Must eats: the German pancake and apple pancake, both of which are made with egg-rich batter that causes them to puff high above the skillet in which they are baked. The apple pancake, a veritable mesa of breakfast, is a bubbling feast of fruit and cinnamon and tender batter .
The donut, the whole donut, and nothing but the donut. That's what Firecakes is all about, its specialties ranging from basic honey glazed and old-fashioned buttermilk to such inventions as butterscotch praline, triple Valrhona chocolate cake, and Sicilian pistachio. Simply, these are among the best donuts anywhere.
Freddy's is a small corner grocery store with an immense menu of sandwiches and hot dishes. Although it is indeed a pizzeria, and the pizzas are good, it's the pastas, seafood salad, chicken marsala and lemon chicken, stuffed eggplant, etc., etc., that make it a treasured destination in Cicero. There are more wonderful dishes on the menu than could be sampled in a half dozen visits, and the gelato is some of the best anywhere.
Shannon's Five Star is a large, friendly diner / coffee shop along old Route 66 where blue plate specials star at lunch and supper and hearty breakfast is the big meal of the day. Specialties include a three-meat breakfast skillet suited for lumberjack appetites.
Run by the same family that founded it in 1933, Merichka's is a big restaurant and banquet hall with an extensive menu of Saturday-night splurge meals. The Roadfood lure is its Poor Boy Steak -- an under $10 sandwich that radiates the perfume of house made "butterine," a potent mix of margarine and garlic.
In this local three-meal-a-day diner, the go-to dish is a hamburger that gets pressed flat on the grill so its edges turn crisp. Breakfast is served all day, and dinner specials include fried chicken on Tuesday and walleye on Friday.
Is this the ultimate Chicago sandwich? The beef is just garlicky enough to halo its protein magnitude, and if you get a combo, the tender beef is balanced by sausage that is dense, taut, and chewy. Add some of Johnnie's vibrant giardiniera and you will hear angels sing.
A small shop in the front room of a genuine corned beef (and pastrami) factory, this little gem makes first-rate versions of everybody's favorite cured-meat sandwiches as well as Italian beef and true-Chicago hot dogs. An utterly charming place to visit, but note that seating is very limited -- all outdoors at a single picnic table.