Eating Your Way through Northbrook’s Willow Festival Shopping Center

Shopping makes me hungry. Come to think of it, most activities make me hungry. So by the time I walk out of the beautiful new Lowe’s at Waukegan and Willow, I’m just about ready to eat the wallpaper paste I just purchased there.

Luckily, I have options… lots of options. Sit down, counter service, or gourmet take-out: I can take my pick. And the best news? It’s all good.

Here’s a primer to what’s available and what you should look for at each restaurant.

Sit Down Restaurants:

Where else can you play bocce or bowl and then eat tasty Italian food? Trick question: they have another place in South Barrington. Great lunch spot, too.

Especially Calorie Worthy: Prosciutto-Fig Flatbread; Chop Salad with Grilled Salmon or Shrimp;  Italian “Jambalaya” Risotto; Butternut Squash Ravioli; Lobster BLT.

It may not be Frontera Grill, but the food is pretty damn good. Rustic and homey atmosphere, fun food, great for sharing. And did I mention $5 Margarita Mondays?

Especially Calorie Worthy: Tinga de Pollo Tostaditas; Made-to-Order Guacamole; Tacos de Mahi Mahi; Grouper Veracruzana; Enchiladas Vegetarianas; Lunch Combos,

Counter Service:

You have to love a place whose tagline is “Get your Angus in here.” And I do. It’s hardly fast food when everything is made to order, and only with fresh, all-natural, never-frozen ingredients (well, except for the milkshakes, but that’s to be expected).

Especially Calorie Worthy: Cajun Fries, with Cheese Sauce (why not?); Gingerbread Milkshake (seasonal); Chili Cheese Dog; Philly Burger; Texas Ranch Burger.

Is it possible that you haven’t been to a Potbelly’s? Clearly, you don’t have teenagers in your house. This is the go-to sub shop, with toasty sandwiches on your choice of regular or whole wheat roll, salads, soups and shakes.

Especially Calorie Worthy: Chicken Salad Sub; the “Wreck” (a meat lover’s paradise); Italian Salad; Loaded Baked Potato Soup; and any Milkshake (mmm… Oreo!).

Roti Mediterranean Grill
Fresh, tasty, and out of the ordinary sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and soups inspired by the food and flavors of the Mediterranean. Get creative with your own favorite ingredients; the plates are perfect for sharing.

Especially Calorie Worthy: Venetian Plate; Lemon-Chicken Soup; Falafel Sandwich; Chicken Roti Salad; Salmon Kabobs with Curried Israeli Couscous; Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

Gourmet Take-Out Options:

Fannie May Candies and Ice Cream
All of your favorite Fannie May Candies and hand-dipped ice cream, too. What could be a better ending to your day?

Starbucks: Unless you live under a rock, I’ve got nothing to add about this coffee giant. Venti Non-Fat Caramel Latte, anyone?

Whole Foods: This is an especially lovely and spacious Whole Foods, with a huge prepared foods section, chockfull of vegetarian and vegan options, sushi, soups and sandwiches. Or if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, buy the ingredients and cook at home!