When the incomparable Nina Simone sang "It's a new dawn/it's a new day" in her immortal song "Feeling Good," it's a safe bet she wasn't referring to a coronavirus pandemic.
However, that current development has made it a new day for restaurants, and owners and staffers had to learn a different way of working and interacting. I visited two suburban spots recently ( as the suburbs reopened outdoor dining before Chicago ), and witnessed tables that were at least six feet apart, bottles of hand sanitizer conspicuously spaced at front counters, and servers sporting face coverings and gloves. ( By the way, none of the diners at either spotsave for my dining companion and myselfsported face coverings even when arriving, so don't say you haven't been warned. )
Outside of Chicago, most restaurants are part of shopping complexes, and this is certainly true of The Clubhouse Oak Brook ( TheClubhouse.com ), which is in Oakbrook Center. Even dining al fresco, The Clubhouse radiates a sophisticated atmosphere, even with a scaled-down menu.
However, it's hard to tell that the number of selections is lower than normal because of the variety that's still available ( such as appetizers, salads, sandwiches, favorites and more ). Kick back with a mango lemonade while indulging in such dishes as sweet chili ginger calamariperfectly fried, served with that sauce and basil-infused olive oil. The entree salads are huge, and the carne asada version is very impressive, and it's a melange of grilled sirloin, two types of lettuce, chimichurri sauce, white cheddar cheese, black bean-and-corn relish, avocado, corn tortilla strips, BBQ ranch dressing and more. ( Other entree salad choices include the Clubhouse chopped, seafood Cobb and chicken Caesar. )
As for sandwiches, one could do a lot worse than the grilled chicken-and-brie option, complete with arugula, avocado, caramelized onion, tomato and aioli, on tomato ciabatta. ( Of course, you can customize your selection. ) My friend went for one of the favorites: the chicken Romano, and she felt the dish was absolutely amazing. However, these just represent the tip of the iceberg, as there are seafood dishes like orange basil salmon; various steak choices; sides like lobster mac 'n cheese and jalapeno grits; and desserts like the scrumptious raspberry cheesecake.
( By the way, this spot also offers three specialty grill kits in addition to family-pack options and a la carte menu items.The kits include items such as steaks, pork chops and Wagyu beef patties. )
Offering significantly fewer choicesbut just as impressiveis the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises spot Bub City Rosemont ( Bub-City.com/rosemont ), a restaurant that is part of the Parkway Bank Park entertainment district and that is open Wednesdays through Sundays. A sign at the front counter ( "Git yer diet ass outta here/We serve real food" ) says it all, as the casual country-themed spot offers comfort food done right ( although vegans will unfortunately find very little to satisfy themselves here ).
Available for patio service, delivery and carryout are items such as chopped salad, delicious chicken wings, charcoal-roasted baby back ribs, golden waffle fries and Texas pit beans. But let me tell you: The brisket at this spot is one of the best I've ever hadand I've been to my share of BBQ spots. The staff ( led by Clay Tormey ) is among the friendliest you'll ever encounter.
By the way, indoor dining in the suburbs and Chicago is slated to start Friday, June 26another dawn of a new day.
Note: Profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.