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Whether you’re looking for a unique dinner and entertainment combo that’s exclusive to the area, or a popular new restaurant franchise, the chances of finding what you seek are impressive in Des Plaines.

Tiki Terrace, for example, brings customers to Des Plaines from all over the Chicago area with a dinner-and-show experience that leaves the audience feeling more like they’ve spent the evening in Honolulu. Though it began in a smaller venue in Prospect Heights in 2005, brothers and co-owners Scott and Phil Zuziak were ready to take it to their current location—boasting 3,000 square feet—by 2008. “It’s been our goal to just keep taking steps upward,” said Scott. “This move has been really good for us. Often times our Saturday show will book out weeks in advance.”

Featuring a South Pacific menu that also lends to authentic luau-themed parties, Tiki Terrace is a popular destination for birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties and anniversaries—particularly for those that may have honeymooned in Hawaii. “It’s definitely a unique experience,” said Phil. “It goes beyond just going out to have dinner.”

This is especially true with the aforementioned Saturday show, which puts the spotlight on their in-house entertainment, the Barefoot Hawaiian. A part of Des Plaines since 1983, its owner, Gwen Kennedy, came up with the idea for it while working for Hawaiian Airlines. Kennedy, who began her hula dancing career at a very young age, has taken her business from one that used to be mistaken for a travel agency to a fleet of 125 students. The students take lessons and/or perform across the country, overseas and even for private parties thrown by Oprah Winfrey.

Being based in Des Plaines has served the Barefoot Hawaiian well. Not only does it allow the group to perform at numerous in-town festivals and events, but the town’s proximity to O’Hare Airport lets the Barefoot Hawaiian appear at nearby conventions with ease. “We have a solid base. We’re proud of the way it’s all gone,” said Kennedy, a lifelong Des Plaines resident. “And it’s great to have our own place to do our show [at Tiki Terrace]. It gives us a lot more freedom and creativity.”

Further north in Des Plaines is where McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc saw fit to build his very first franchised restaurant: a golden-arched construction with a red-and-white road sign. Opened April 15, 1955, the restaurant began serving 15-cent hamburgers among its fast-food offerings. While the original restaurant was remodeled several times, the original blueprints remained and were used in building the McDonald’s #1 Store Museum on the same piece of property. (By the way, the red-and-white road sign— features original mascot “Speedee.”)

Visitors are treated to an eyeful of exhibits such as original fry vats, multi-mixers (for milkshakes), grills and soda barrels, all “tended to” by mannequins dressed in the 1955 uniform of dark trousers, white shirts, aprons and paper hats. An opportunity to view vintage ads and photos is also part of the museum; if you seek actual McDonald’s fare, however, you’ll have to cross the street where a modern-day version is open for business.

And if your hamburger (or more apropos, cheeseburger) cravings call for a more laid-back, yet lively atmosphere, one might try the Des Plaines Cheeseburger in Paradise. “The restaurant was based on the idea of a place that Jimmy Buffett would hang out where he could get a really great burger and a really cold beer,” explained managing partner Tom Fremarek.

What the 35-location chain offers is quite a bit more— including unique tropical cocktails, salad dressings and chocolate sauce (for their popular chocolate nachos dessert) made from scratch, as well as a kids’ menu and extensive gluten-free options. But on top of all that is live entertainment—everything from reggae music on Thursday nights (in the summer) to Saturday night beach parties (in the winter). And Cheeseburger in Paradise features something you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Des Plaines: hermit crab races. “Everybody gets a number, and the whole restaurant is actually screaming and yelling as they cheer on their little numbered crab as he runs out of the circle,” said Fremarek. “Coming here is definitely an escape from the everyday.”

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