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Naperville denizens hungry for a nice meal out that is close to home have two options to whet their appetites. They can either get a taste of Chicago—literally—at one of the several city restaurants that have spawned nearly identical locations in the 60540 area code—including Sullivan’s Steakhouse (244 S. Main St.; 630-305-0230), Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House (55 S. Main; 630-548-3764), Catch 35 (35 S. Washington; 630-717-3500), Bistrot Margot (216 S. Washington; 630-778-1944), and La Sorella di Francesca (18 W. Jefferson; 630-961-2706). Or, they can venture off the well-trodden culinary path to sample some of the following independent establishments:
Photography: Kate Roth
10 West's chocolate trio desert
10 West (10 W. Jackson Ave.; 630-548-3100), with its precocious, global offerings, eclectic wine list, and professional waitstaff, delivers a dining experience on par with some of the higher-rated restaurants in the city. Standout items like portobello mushroom and goat cheese terrine tossed with sweet apple-beet compote, and venison loin dressed to the nines with butternut squash custard, spinach gnocchi, and an assertive cherry-chipotle zinfandel reduction, demonstrate chef Christopher Albano’s nimble pairings of colors, textures, and flavors. Some diners may think the high-quality cuisine outclasses the aged farmhouse setting adorned with mod furniture and décor; still, others appreciate the intimacy the old-fashioned charm lends to their visit.
Mésón Sabika (1025 Aurora Ave.; 630-983-3000) heats up the Naperville dining scene with an ambitious menu of hot and cold tapas and a list of interesting, affordable wines hailing solely from Spain. Offerings such as cured salmon on toast and salty serrano ham with tomato and whole garlic cloves stay true to the restaurant’s Spanish roots, while alternatives like bacon-wrapped dates in a red-pepper cream sauce, and duck leg confit plated with cinnamon apples, wild mushrooms, and orange wine sauce, successfully veer from the traditional. Reservations are a must at this perennial favorite housed in a restored 19th-century mansion—the wait on a recent Friday exceeded three hours!
Suburbanites with a taste for Mediterranean-inspired eats can satisfy their cravings at Raffi’s on 5th (200 E. 5th Ave.; 630-961-8203). With soaring ceilings and bare white walls, the industrial-style loft location inside Fifth Avenue Station is rather bleak on slow nights, but the friendly service and robust offerings help warm the contemporary space. Flaky grilled salmon with a good mustard sauce served on a bed of bright herbed couscous is touted as the house specialty—and for good reason. Finish the meal with rustic desserts, such as roasted pineapple swimming in lemongrass milk or chewy bourma (phyllo dough cylinders rolled with walnuts and honey).
The trendy, bi-level Tango (5 W. Jack-son Ave.; 630-848-1818) may boast an international mélange of cuisines including hot and cold tapas, Italian pastas, and even some French-inspired seafood and chicken dishes, but the signature Argentinean-grilled steaks and sangría prepared tableside are its claim to fame. Serious carne connoisseurs will go wild for the 32-ounce grilled “world’s longest steak.” And house specialties—like the blackened rib eye encrusted in Gorgonzola and finished with a brandy cream sauce; golden-brown plantains; and a deep-fried dessert crêpe stuffed with cheesecake filling—are definitely not for the health-conscious crowd.
The folks behind La Piazza Café (192 W. Gartner Rd.; 630-305-9280) have done wonders with a nondescript strip mall location, transforming an ordinary storefront space into a kitschy, faux Italian villa with warm lighting and ceiling-high painted frescoes. Italian-inspired pastas, risottos, and meat and seafood dishes don’t always hit their mark, but a few exceptional menu items—for example, a special of tuna tartare appetizer with sprightly mango coulis, and a wonderfully earthy, naturally flavored pumpkin gelato—keep Naperville residents coming back for more.