It's interesting that more restaurants don't employ this idea.
If a dining establishment is around long enough, it discontinues certain itemssometimes seasonally, sometimes permanently. However, if the dishes are popular enough, it'd be nice to have a "greatest hits" menu, if you will.
This is something Zealous (419 W. Superior St.; zealousrestaurant.com ) did recently with its "Best of the Best" menu offering.
The five-course meal started with scallops wrapped in proscuitto and basil in rice papera dish the restaurant first unveiled in 1993. (Zealous was in Elmhurst and moved to its current River North location approximately 15 years ago.) What followed was grilled Hudson Valley foie gras, spicy lobster toast and roasted pineapple vinaigrette (2000); for me, this was the highlight of the night.
Next was a delightful olio consisting of seared duck breast, sweet Illinois cornbread, caramelized onion barbecue sauce and black-bean corn salsa (1995). To cleanse the palate, we had rhubarb soup and peach sorbet with green apple and strawberry (a version of the chilled lychee and melon soup that patrons had in 1997). Last, but certainly not least, there was a dessert combo consisting of chocolate ginger pudding cake, sticky rice coconut panna cotta and opal basil ice cream (1999).
Sadly, the "Best of the Best" has been, well, discontinued. However, I'm confident the idea will return. However, Zealous' current five-course menu is bound to delight patrons as well, with dishes such as roasted duck breast, tortellini and sweet potato emulsion with pistachio vinaigrette; and a dessert duo of Armagnac-soaked prune chocolate cake with ice cream and a warm Ni-o doughnut with chocolate ginger ice cream. (There is also a seven-course meal with a quartet of desserts.)
Other offerings at Zealous range from Szechuan blue crab cakes to roasted halibut to Korean-style fried Miller Farm chicken to the "Z" burger, which comes with Havarti cheese and a tomato remoulade on a house-made dill roll.
Also, the service is impeccable, as one would naturally expectand chef Michael Taus not only has culinary skills but social ones as well, as he is quite engaging. He can engagingly talk about music for hours, but probably knows a ton about other topics as well.
So, going from Zealous to the offerings at Q-BBQ (locations in Naperville and LaGrange; www.q-bbq.com;), I was initially a bit concerned.
Being a hardcore city dweller, the suburbs are literally a whole new world for me (although, strangely enough, I love the suburban feel of the city's Andersonville neighborhood). As I saw Chicago disappear in the rear-view mirror, my heart slowly sank, thinking that somehow my quality of life would be sacrificed simply by driving out to Naperville.
Well, I plan on going back to Naperville. Q-BBQ is one of those places where you can't help but smile while you're there and when you leave.
When you walk in, the servers give you the biggest (genuine) smiles you've probably seen at a restaurant in some time. As soon as you sit, the word that springs to mind is "homey." It's a very comfortable space with a variety of music coming from the speakers, from country to rock to pop.
The charming Abby suggested the Papa-Q sampler platter, which sounded challenging. (Vegetarians are pretty much out of luck here, except for maybe the "Creamy Q-Slaw" and green beans.) It's pretty much a farm on a tray: pulled chicken, pulled beef, pulled pork, spicy sausage, ribs, chicken wingsyou get the idea. However, you also get two sides, and I opted for the Mac-Q-cheese (which is topped with Cheez-Its) and the baked beans (which one of my dining companions loved even more than I did). By the way, there are several sauces there, ranging from tangy to make-you-sweat hot.
The meats were uniformly tastyalthough things got even better when Abby suggested we try the brisket burnt ends (which are slow-roasted for 22 hours, given a rub and roasted for two more hours). They were heavenly.
Even when you leave, there's a sign that reads "Thank Q, Naperville." Yes, it's cheesybut again, you sense that the sentiment is real.
My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed Q-BBQ's food, service and down-home atmosphere. I might even become suburbanwell, let's just say that I'll visit the suburbs again.