Most of the restaurants I've profiled hereno matter how amazing or unimpressive they arehave one thing in common: They're in Chicago.
However, contrary to what some may believe, there are some interesting culinary experiences in the suburbsand Wilmette's Firefly Kitchen ( 111 Green Bay Rd.; FFKitchen.com ) is definitely one of the area's more promising restaurants.
Firefly has an interesting decor. On one level, it comes across as almost rustic, although it's advertised as a Brooklyn-style bistro. However, it's also pretty fun and intimate at the same time. On one side, there is a group of suspended light bulbs near a wall that reads "Neon heart/day-glow eyes. A city lit by fireflies"a quote from U2's "City of Blinding Lights." I could almost see this restaurant in Chicago's Andersonville. ( There I go, wandering back to the city. )
The restaurant did reach to Chicago in one important way. Firefly plucked James Pierce, who previously worked at The Bar at the Peninsula Chicago, to manage the place as well as oversee the drink lists. I have to say that the drink I orderedKnocking on Heaven's Door ( Death's Door Vodka, lemon and rhubarb tea, with a raspberry garnish )was pretty refreshing. Pierce said it's Firefly's most popular drink. It's easy to understand why.
Chef Dean Salerno, a native New Yorker, has concocted a menu that's pretty enticing. ( I wanted to try almost everything. ) Appetizers include Maine lobster spring rolls ( especially tasty with a little cumin-citrus sauce ), hibachi skewers, grilled veg goat cheese terrine and Maryland-style crab cakes.
One of the highlights of the meal my friend and I had was the smoked pork mac and cheese. ( Luella's Southern Kitchen probably has the best mac and cheese I've had this yearbut this is a close second. ) Salerno described a process with the pork that includes brining ( for eight days ) and smokingand you can practically taste his love of cooking in every bite.
We also got the Salerno burger and the roasted organic chicken. The former had a delightful kick, while the latter ( served with potato croquettes ) is as notable for its presentation as its distinctive taste. Salerno manipulates the chicken ( in a good way ) unless it resembles some sort of avian volcano. I almost didn't want to touch this piece of art, but it was pretty tastyespecially when coupled with garlic.
Firefly is a place for everyone. On the evening we went there, I saw families as well as people on dates and women enjoying ladies' night. ( There were a lot of the latter there, interestingly. )
Also, be sure to check out the outdoor dining area/beer garden. Patrons have to walk up an alley beside the restaurant to reach a beautiful area that happens to be next to residential and commercial unitsbut that also happens to feel worlds away.
The only drawback was experienced as we left the indoor area, as the noise level was definitely increasing to a conversationally challenging standard. However, that's what sometimes happens at a popular placeand Firefly definitely deserves to be popular. Take a trip to the suburbs.