Whenever I travel, I look for smaller, locally owned and sometimes out-of-the-ordinary places to dine, avoiding chain restaurants whenever possible. This had led me to some amazing meals here in the US, Canada, Europe, and beyond. At home in Chicago, I try to follow this more European style of dining (aside from the occasional trips to Portillo’s!); however it can be quite a challenge. Although Chicago has numerous top-notch restaurants, the suburbs of the Windy City are dominated by chain restaurants that offer the same food and same predictable atmosphere. However, every once in a while, I find a place that offers something beyond your standard ambience but still offers good food that doesn’t cost a fortune. For example, I would have never known or even considered dining at Big Chef Burger in Schaumburg (30 minutes north of Chicago), but decided to give it a try upon receiving an invitation from the restaurant.
Big Chef is what you get when you cross classic comfort food with a 6’6” tall Italian Chef. From brick oven pizzas, to huge gourmet burgers and gooey desserts, Big Chef (no doubt named for the Big Chef himself, Cristiano), is a quaint, full service, Italian-style bistro that offers large, homemade specialties (try the real potato chips) to local patrons, all while enjoying a perfect view of the open kitchen. You could easily feel comfortable going here for a casual lunch with friends or out for pizza with the family. And the cloth napkins, hard wood tables, card-stock table menus, and friendly staff all add to the bistro-like experience.
Places like Big Chef Burger are not easy to find in major metropolitan suburbs that cater to time-pressed, hardworking families. But when you do find them, they are welcomed with open arms and BIG appetites.