Time magazine has consistently rated the Chicago suburb of Naperville as one of the best places to live in the United States of America, citing highly rated schools and low crime rates. Yet while many downtown areas pay for these improvements with their cultural identity, Naperville has retained its own distinctive flavor, boasting thriving museums, art galleries, and over fifty restaurants. This article introduces nine of Naperville’s best dining experiences.
High-end restaurant Catch 35 is famous for its fresh, skillfully prepared seafood and delicious premium steak. Fresh oysters are prepared every day, while reviewers consistently praise its ‘highly knowledgeable staff’ and range of flavorsome desserts that tempt even the fullest diner. Fabulous pastries are also freshly prepared daily, on site. The decor matches the culinary finery, with a restrained and delicate interior enhanced by tastefully selected artwork. It is often very difficult for an upscale restaurant to retain a distinctive identity, but Catch 35 Naperville manages to flourish on its own terms.
Arguing over how to barbecue could be one of America’s favorite pastimes, with the southern states – specifically Texas – claiming that you’ll never get a better BBQ anywhere else. Gemato’s was not only included in ‘Chicago’s Best BBQ’s’ but draws patrons from all over the country. Established in 1996 by brothers Mario and Tom, Gemato’s offers good old fashioned American BBQ cooked on a wood-burning stove with a Greek twist. They pride themselves on the care they take with their cooking technique, and the carefully maintained quality of the stove, wood, and smoke that goes in to their famous food. Their specialties include riveting ribs and their moist, flavorsome chicken.
Indian cuisine has long been a staple of the British diet. Ask a British person what their favorite food is and they’re likely to name one of a dozen Indian dishes. Yet Indian food has, until very recently, been something of a rarity in the United States. If Indian food is what you’re looking for, Naperville certainly delivers with Indian Harvest. All the favorites are here – from aloo gobhi (fresh cauliflower and potatoes parboiled and fried in spices) to roganjosh (lamb cooked in a rich cardamom sauce). Of course, it wouldn’t be an Indian restaurant without the most famous of dishes, chicken tikka masala. Although the chicken marinated in spices and served in a rich and creamy tomato sauce is not strictly authentic in origin – legend has it that the dish originated in London when a patron found out that chicken tikka was traditionally served without a sauce – tikka masala remains the perfect introduction for the newcomer in all its lightly spiced, flavorsome glory.
Lou Malnati’s pizzas are legendary – not just in Naperville but throughout the world. This is a large claim, but the founder Lou Malnati is the son of Rudy Malnati – the man responsible for the creation of the original deep dish pizza. So when you think of the original Chicago pizza, you should be thinking of this restaurant. With such a prestigious inheritance, some restaurants might rest on their laurels and rely on their fame. Lou Malnati’s reviews however, remain consistently exemplary, praising their ‘deep dish with butter crust’ and proclaiming them a restaurant which ‘never disappoints’.
La Sorella Di Francesca’s
Francesca’s was already a big name in Illinois when it decided to branch out into Naperville. The resulting restaurant, the name of which translates as ‘Francesca’s sister’, is more than distinctive enough to stand on its own two feet. This is not your standard Italian restaurant. La Sorella Di Francesca specializes in northern Italian cuisine – that is to say, the hearty, rustic, and filling specialties of Rome, Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria. Housed in what was Naperville’s old city hall, the decor is light and airy, almost as good as joining a table outside an Italian villa. A well-stocked bar awaits you after dinner and is just the ticket to round off one of their filling meals.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Meson Sabika is its location – housed in a striking estate, the restaurant provides a quaint and intimate surrounding for the diner. The white building with historic columns, shaded courtyards and beautiful tiling creates the impression that one is visiting a museum or an old world restaurant, rather than its actual location near the center of Naperville. Established in 1990, Meson Sabika is predominantly a tapas bar, but this is not a restriction – Meson Sabika offer an excellent selection of dishes, all expertly prepared. Moreover, despite very reasonable prices, the restaurant remains true to authentic Spanish cooking. It carries off this simple mission with flair, attracting diners not just from all over the city, but from all over the state and beyond. Particularly recommended are the bacon-wrapped dates, the paella – a staple but very well prepared – and the gambas marinadas (marinated shrimp). As you might expect, the sangria doesn’t disappoint either.
Shinto’s Naperville is a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar which offers the full and immersive experience of dining at a Japanese restaurant. Its decor is simple yet elegant, mirroring the up-market, fashionable ambiance. Sushi is very difficult to get right – fresh fish and excellent preparation are required to make a perfect dish, but Shinto’s is an expert at this. Not only is the sushi and steak prepared in front of you, the latter on a traditional hibachi grill, but you can even learn to prepare sushi yourself – Shinto operates rolling classes for anyone interested. Moreover, the range of cocktails and drinks available match the quality of the fish and steak.
SugarToad offer modern American cuisine and immaculate cocktails in the finest of surroundings. Although part of the upscale and highly rated Hotel Arista, SugarToad is well worth a visit, even if you’re not staying at the hotel. This is not one of the non-descript restaurants often found attached to upscale hotels. Instead, SugarToad has established a long standing reputation that even reaches outside of Chicago itself. Fresh, simple ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves in a variety of dishes for all appetites and times of day. As ever, these can be complimented by a variety of drinks for all budgets, tastes, and preferences, from a delicate glass of fine wine to classic or inventive cocktails.
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