Highland Park launches first Restaurant Week
Kim Cohen, owner of Highland Pop, will be featuring a buy-three, get-one-free deal on her gourmet popcorn during Highland Park's inaugural Restaurant Week. | Lee Litas photos~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 16, 2012 1:24PM
Not to be outdone by other nosh-centric happenings elsewhere, Highland Park, with its long, proud tradition of culinary delights, has launched its own week in celebration of all the “dishes that make Highland Park a destination for foodies from near and far.” Starting early in the morning on April 19 and running through April 29, familiar Table Hopping favorites including 2nd Street Bistro & 2nd Street Enoteca, Benjamin, Cafe Central, La Casa de Isaac and Moishe, Nieto’s and Vibe 1935 will all be offering specials. Here, then, are some new places and faces that merit a special trip to downtown Highland Park.
ArrivaDolce, 1823 Saint Johns Ave. (847) 433-3103. Started by two school friends, Jill Gross and Amy Touchette, ArrivaDolce strives to make its mark on the local coffee scene in Highland Park by serving up a cozy neighborhood gathering spot with rustic Italian offerings, including gelato. The majority of the baked goods are made in-house by baker Marilyn Stewart of the French Pastry School, and run the gamut from tangy lemon loaf ($2.50) and muffins ($2.25) to signature items such as the amazing oatmeal-pecan-cherry-chocolate chip cookies ($2). During Restaurant Week, the gelato and coffee bar will be offering free samples of carefully chosen pairings of gourmet French-press teas or coffees together with home-baked delicacies. Come in and expand your sipping vocabulary with a dark roast Sumatra coffee, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe medium roast, a roasted almond tea served with granola or the sinfully aromatic Perilicious tea served paired with a dried fruit shortbread.
Bluegrass, 1636 Old Deerfield Road. (847) 831-0595. Open in June of 2004, Bluegrass is a real simple, all-American, unpretentious restaurant, according to its owner Jim Lederer. A bit off the beaten path, just down Old Deerfield Road, this salt-of-the-earth spot has quietly survived eight years in a volatile economy by just doing what it does best: “It’s just good, ol’ fashioned dining with outstanding service,” said Lederer.
During Restaurant Week, Bluegrass’ Executive Chef Warren Jones will be highlighting the eatery’s strong points with lunch specials for $16.36, prix fixe dinners for $33.33, and dishes from each one of their thematic annual specials including: Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras, BBQ Fest and Oktoberfest specials.
Try their Camarones a la Mexicana: 10 jumbo shrimp in a blend of vegetables sauteed in a roasted tomato sauce with butter, onions and cilantro, and served with refried beans and Spanish rice ($21.95). The Guerrero Chicken Breast is another stand-out, draped in salsa, broiled with Chihuahua cheese and finished with fried jalapeno and onions with lime ($16.95). And Chef Dave’s Rattoos are a spicy choice of Jalapeno peppers stuffed with homemade Italian sausage, then wrapped in bacon and dusted with Parmesan cheese (2/$7.95).
Between featured dishes and HPRW specials Lederer is not kidding when he says: “We have got a lot of things going on.”
Frost Gelato, 617 Central Ave. (847) 432-2233. Sidle up to the counter at Frost Gelato and you may have just found your new favorite hangout. Frost’s delectable, lower-calorie and richer-tasting version of ice cream is sure to get you hooked.
Using a proprietary mix out of Italy, Frost rotates roughly 300 different flavors of gelato, dairy-free sorbets and even sugar-free versions of both — which taste anything but low-in-sugar. The helpful soda jerks will be only too happy to make you any of an infinite variety of frosty concoctions, from traditional sundaes and milk shakes to the more refined (and signature) Sorbettinis and coffee drinks.
Kids will love the flavors and parents will love the fact that a regular serving size (3.5 ounces) of gelato only has 2.6 grams of fat and 132-180 calories. And dairy-free sorbets are even healthier, with zero grams of fat and 95 calories per 3.5 ounce serving.
Prices range from $3.68 for a “piccolo,” $4.57 for “media” and $4.99 for “grande.”
For Restaurant Week, Frost Gelato will feature an authentic root beer float made with rich vanilla gelato in a “cool” take-away mug that changes color from white to blue when you freeze it ($4.85), and a Spizzico Scoop Sampler trio of gelato ($3).
Highland Pop, 464 Central Ave. (847) 433-4200.
Highland Pop gourmet popcorn shop is the newest addition to Highland Park’s lineup of epicurean offerings. Promising to use only the highest quality ingredients, owner Kim Cohen says she never wants “a kid with an allergy to feel like they can’t eat here.” All treats, therefore, are nut-free and gluten-free.
For Restaurant Week, Cohen plans to offer a four-for-three deal on her popcorn which can be any combination of seven rich and delicious flavors, including caramel, cheddar, the Highland Park (a mix of caramel and cheddar), white cheddar jalapeno, s’mores, chocolate taffy apple, and tutty fruity ($3.49 skinny/$4.99 large/$6.99 x-tra large).
Real Urban BBQ
, 610 Central Ave. (224) 770-4227. Real Urban BBQ (RUB) may be a newcomer to the North Shore culinary scene, but in its 15 months of existence it has already developed a reputation for having surreptitiously renamed Highland Park “Highland Pork.” Frankly, after going through 3,000 pounds of brisket and 600 slabs of ribs each week, that may not be a stretch.
Serving straightforward, regional barbecue, RUB specializes in sauces, including mustard to go with poultry items, vinegar with pork, and sweet sauces with beef and brisket. Adding to that, RUB offers 14 different side dishes that include everything from mac-n-cheese to succulent baked beans and upscale items such sweet potato souffle and homemade cornbread.
“We’re using the best quality ingredients and we’re delivering the best quality product,” said chef/owner owner Jeff Shapiro. A beer and wine license doesn’t hurt business either.
Average price tag is $11-$12 per person regularly, but for Restaurant Week, RUB is offering diners a math problem, “5 x 5 = $25,” which translates to five meats and five sides for, well, you guessed it.
Find Table Hopping on Facebook & Twitter.