BBQ King Smokehouse
This 9-year-old eatery, noted for the natural aroma of its on-premises hickory smoker, came to life after the owners enjoyed a successful foray into the Kansas City Barbecue Society Competition Circuit. A catering operation followed and, ultimately, two McHenry County restaurants opened. According to the restaurant’s co-founder Jason Szmurlo, BBQ King “was built with two things in mind — to serve great barbecue, just the way we like it, and to provide diners with a place to hang out.”
Locations: 11706 Coral St., Huntley, IL and 125 E. Calhoun St., Woodstock, IL
bbqkingsmokehouse.com | 224-654-6201
Rusty Nail Saloon
Best Fish Fry
While the Rusty Nail has a number of food options, the saloon’s menu is most famous for what has been touted as McHenry County’s best Friday night fish fry, featuring all-you-can-eat haddock. Other options include appetizers, breakfasts, broasted chicken, burgers, pizza and prime rib. The eatery is equally well known for its weekly specials, including their time-honored Taco Tuesdays.
Location: 4520 Ringwood Road, Ringwood, IL
rustynailringwood.com | 815-728-3017
Whiskey Ranch Delavan
Best Burger and Best Bloody Mary
This saloon-inspired establishment is a burger lover’s dream. Their menu includes, among other tasty fare, a full assortment of Angus beef burgers. The custom Whiskey Ranch burger, for instance, is topped with bacon, a Jack Daniels barbecue sauce, onion straws and Cheddar Jack cheese. Other burgers feature such names as Bourbon Bacon, The Guac and Honky Tonk. Whiskey Ranch also offers a full menu of appetizers, different assortments of loaded waffle fries, rib eye steaks, grilled salmon and barbecue beef brisket.
Location: W9002 Highway 11, Delavan, WI
thewhiskeyranch.com | 262-882-2800
Anthony’s Steakhouse and Seafood
Best Prime Rib/Steakhouse
Described as a “one-of-a-kind, old-fashioned supper club,” Anthony’s Steakhouse is named after Anthony Condos, who established the eatery with wife Goldie in 1978. The restaurant’s menu includes an array of signature appetizers such as mushroom caps with crabmeat and Greek or deep-fried chicken wings. Anthony’s is also celebrated for its steak selections and premium seafood.
Location: W3354 Highway 50, Lake Geneva, WI
anthonyssteakhouselg.com | 262-248-1818
Best Outdoor Dining
For six years, this Lake Geneva eatery has been baking old world-style Neapolitan pizzas in dual imported Stefano Ferrara wood-fired ovens, capable of cooking up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The menu items are created with a mixture of locally sourced foods and imported Italian ingredients. In the last few years, Oakfire has operated out of a new facility, providing seating from which patrons can enjoy scenic views of Geneva Lake.
Location: 831 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva, WI
oakfire.pizza | 262-812-8007
Best Italian Restaurant
Noted for its lakefront views of Geneva Lake, this eatery is noted for Chef Bryan Baldi’s custom created pasta dishes, steaks and seafood — and, as the name suggests, the custom calamari. Other traditional Italian and continental dishes from Baldi’s repertoire include grilled port chops as well as Seafood Diavolo, complimented with Prince Edward Island mussels, shrimp, calamari and king crabs.
Location: 10 E. Geneva St., Lake Geneva, WI
cafecalamari.com | 262-245-9665
Best Italian Restaurant
Located in the heart of Algonquin, this eatery specializes in authentic Italian cuisine, including a full selection of specialty desserts and wines. The main menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, create-your-own pasta dishes, chicken, veal and fish. In a nod to the Italian influence, Cucina Bella features an open kitchen, brick walls and stained-glass decor.
Location: 220 S. Main St., Algonquin, IL
cucinabellaalgonquin.com | 847-458-2504
Los Tres Hermanos
Best Mexican Restaurant
As the story goes, the roots for Los Tres Hermanos go back to long-held family recipes in Mexico. According to their website, “we would all gather around the table and fill our bellies with the delicious meals (our mother) prepared, making memories.” The menu at Los Tres Hermanos includes an array of appetizers, burritos, chicken, chimichangas, enchiladas, fajitas, nachos, quesadillas, salads, seafood and steaks, plus drinks and desserts.
Location: 31 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn, WI
lostreshermanoswi.com | 262-379-1658
Mixteca Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar
Best Mexican Restaurant
Described as an eatery with “fresh, authentic Mexican dining,” Mixteca offers up a menu filled with appetizers, burritos, fajita dinners, fajita tacos, nachos, tacos, tortas and tostadas. Other custom specialty fare includes enchiladas, fish tacos, beef and chicken flautas and shrimp and chorizo tacos. Additionally, Mixteca’s bartenders provide a variety of freshly squeezed margaritas.
Location: 1390 S. Eastwood Drive, Woodstock, IL
mixtecatequila.com | 815-334-8460
Simple Café Bakery and Market
Best Gluten-Free, Keto and Best Bakery
Taking the farm-to-table movement to the next level, the owners of Simple Café have carved out a niche by offering a menu filled with locally sourced ingredients and strong relationships with local growers. The company’s motto is, “Changing the world, one bite at a time.” Simple Café’s bakery menu includes a variety of breads, including such unique offerings as turkey red rustic, and an assortment of cookies, croissants and scones.
Location: 525 Broad St., Lake Geneva, WI
simplebakeryandmarket.com | 262-248-3556
Egg Harbor Café
Serving up breakfast since 1985, Egg Harbor Café has been providing diners with a variety of egg dishes at a growing stable of restaurants in more than 35 years since. The café is “fueled by a mission-driven culture and the central belief that people — our customers and employees — are the company’s most valuable resource.” The restaurant’s claim to fame is its unusual egg dishes and warm, friendly country setting.
Locations: 20 in three states (including 827 Main St., Lake Geneva, WI)
eggharborcafe.com | 262-248-1207
Best Waterfront Dining
Touted as Geneva Lake’s only lakeside restaurant, Pier 290 provides such unique amenities as heated outdoor canopies, fire pits and fireplaces for diners. Menu options include classic entrees such as Chilean sea bass, crusted chicken breast, pan fried walleye and salmon. Diners can also order specialty cuts from the grill, fillets, pork chops, and ribs, not to mention salads, sandwiches and soups.
Location: 1 Liechty Drive, Williams Bay, WI
pier290.com | 262-245-2100
Best Chinese Restaurant
A Walworth County staple for more than four decades, Moy’s Restaurant offers a variety of Mandarin and Cantonese food in a fine dining atmosphere. Menu items include fresh, made-to-order house specialties such as almond pressed duck, cashew shrimp, Hong Kong steak, Moy’s almond ding and orange chicken. The drink menu includes a variety of exotic cocktails and Chinese beer. Moy’s also offers banquet facilities and a carryout menu.
Location: 3 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn, WI
moysrestaurant.com | 262-723-3993
Best Chinese Restaurant
Founder Connie Moy aspired to open her own restaurant and share her family’s recipes with the world, according to a story on Plum Garden’s website. When she arrived to the United States and settled in McHenry in 1965, Moy brought her dream with her, working hard to make it come true. The result was Plum Garden: a tasty eatery that offers a variety of Asian classics as well as custom creations like orange chicken and dishes inspired by Hong Kong cuisine.
Location: 3917 Main St., McHenry, IL
plumgardenrestaurant.com | 815-385-1530
Port Edward Restaurant
Best Waterfront Dining
Situated along the Fox River, this restaurant has served up its fine dining and seafood specialties for more than half a century—since founder Edward Wolowiec opened the doors in 1964. Today, this Algonquin mainstay features a full wine cellar, live music, a riverside patio and seasonal dockside dining. The menu contains an array of appetizers, cocktails and desserts.
Location: 20 W. Algonquin Road, Algonquin, IL
portedward.com | 847-658-5441
Boxed and Burlap
Best Coffee Shop
With a two-tiered goal of serving up artisan coffee and other products and providing a community gathering space, husband and wife proprietors, John and Lindsay Neighbors, have forged a mission-minded approach to their business since opening in 2016. Their website highlights this point: “Through Boxed and Burlap, we hope to share the joy of community, creating, creativity, high-quality craftsmanship and living authentically with others.” In addition to coffee, Boxed and Burlap sells curated, branded merchandise, including handcrafted items closely aligned with the shop’s focus on authenticity.
Location: 2935 Highway 67, Delavan, WI
boxedandburlap.com | 262-374-5497
Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters
Best Coffee Shop
This locally run establishment began as a small café and drive-thru in Crystal Lake in 2006, and has since expanded into four full-fledged locations. The shop’s owners have relationships with multiple coffee growers and, as such, rotate the selection of caffeinated brews from one week to the next. Samplings of some of Conscious Coffee’s specialty selections come from such regions as the Costa Rican Las Lajas and the Uganda Bukonzo, the latter being a Fair Trade operation.
Locations: Four stores (including 77 W. Main St., Cary, IL and 5005 Northeast Highway, Crystal Lake, IL)
consciouscup.com | 224-357-8484 and 815-356-0115
Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard
Best Ice Cream
This family-owned and operated frozen custard shop has long been offering up a variety of sweet treats to visitors in the McHenry County area. Locally produced specialties and flavors come through in the assortment of affogatos, concretes, cones, shakes and sundaes. Julie Ann’s also offers a variety of cakes, including classic birthday, confetti cookie dough and layered chocolate as well as pies.
Location: 6500 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, IL
julieanns.com | 815-459-9117
Riverside Bake Shop
This bakeshop, located in downtown McHenry, has been serving customer’s bakery needs for 40 years. The menu of daily fresh-from-the-oven goods includes breads, cakes, cookies, donuts, and sweet rolls. Riverside also features custom items, including wedding cakes and specialty pies, breads, and hard rolls.
Location: 1309 N. Riverside, McHenry, IL
riversidebakeshop.com | 815-385-0044
Lorelei Bittner’s Bakery
Four generations of family members are behind this veteran bakery operation, which has been a part of the Walworth County business scene since 1946. Over the years, their experienced bakers have concocted a multitude of cakes, danishes, coffee cakes, and other traditional pastries and bakery favorites. More recently, Lorelei Bittner’s has branched off into the dog treats arena with made-from-scratch beefy delights for the four-footed connoisseur.
Location: 495 Interchange North, Lake Geneva, WI
loreleibittnersbakery.com | 262-248-2330
Thank you to all of the businesses who provided their photographs to include in this feature.