Reel Club
“Daily?” asks Mychael Bonner. “Sometimes twice daily.” That’s how often Oak Brook’s Reel Club flies in fresh fish, according to Bonner, the exec chef as well as a partner. The guy spent 13 years at Maggiano’s, then a couple of years at Di Pescara in Northbrook, and he couldn’t be more psyched about his latest gig with Lettuce Entertain You. So how is this different from Di Pescara—or Shaw’s and Joe’s, for that matter? “We do all the favorites with more hipness and new flavor combinations,” says Bonner: like a crab cocktail served on a floating ice vessel with a snap light underneath for drama. We half expect a dish like that to take a bow. 272 Oakbrook Center Drive, Oak Brook; 630-368-9400. –Penny Pollack

Photography: (A Mano) Tyllie Barbosa  Food Styling: Christina Zerkis



Sweet Collective

Three separate enterprises unite as one sucrose-soaked destination on a what-the-heck block of Lincoln Avenue. The Sugar Syndicate contributes eye-popping trompe l’oeil cakes. Rich Chocolates & Candies offers truffles whose locally minded names (Pilsen, Devon Street) hint at their globetrotting flavors. But the star of the show is Ruth and Phil’s Gourmet Ice Cream. Trips to the farmers’ market and a regard for seasonality provide the inspiration for a tangy cinnamon sour-cream ice cream and a piercing green apple/cucumber/red pepper sorbet. Other standouts include the complex passion-fruit/orange-tea sorbet. Note the weird hours—Wednesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and by appointment—and don’t expect to find a seat: There are elevators bigger than this storefront. 5333 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-293-0888. –Nathaniel Zimmer



Pannenkoeken Café

Not everyone who travels to Amsterdam falls in love with a pancake and later returns to the Netherlands to apprentice at a restaurant just to get the skinny on how to make it. That’s what Linda Ellis did, and the result is this cozy Lincoln Square nook, which opened in September to showcase her Dutch treat. “My mom always dreamed of starting her own breakfast place,” says her daughter, Gina, who works the dining area, “but the pannenkoeken was definitely the key.” And it is dandy. A tad thicker than a crêpe but considerably more svelte than your everyday flapjack, it’s a perfectly round, plate-dwarfing, not-too-sweet, lacy-edged knockout. It comes with several toppings, our current faves being (a) a chocolate-sauce-spritzed, banana-dotted chocolate banana version laden with whipped cream ($7.95), and (b) a beauty decorated with thinly sliced apples, caramelized hazelnuts, whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon ($6.75). But the café also turns out a lush Belgian waffle showered with bananas and strawberries; crisp French toast; and a variety of egg dishes, including a well-stocked veggie omelet. Plans are in gear to expand both the menu and hours, so weekend dinner will be on tap by the time this article appears. A good thing, too, as an avid pannenkoeken coterie sprang up the minute the place opened. 4757 N. Western Ave.; 773-769-8800. –Jill Rohde



Maya Del Sol
Just in time for winter, Maya Del Sol heats up Oak Park with an energetic crowd and potent, fruity drinks. It’s a wonder that the friendly bartenders don’t run out of the signature margaritas, made with top-shelf tequila and fresh citrus juice and served in a martini glass. But mojitos with fresh muddled mint and the Mayapolitan (similar to a cosmo) prove popular as well. Before you have another of either, sample the spicy “Latin fusion” creations of chef Ruben Beltran (previously of Frontera Grill)—particularly the nachos topped with pot roast braised in honey and cider vinegar, and seared scallops in chili-and-tomatillo sauce. 144 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park; 708-358-9800. –Kim Conte 

Photography: Kendall Karmanian