With a new craft brewery opening in every Chicago suburb, it’s time to return some love to the oenophiles in the neighborhood. Most restaurants offer a wine list but few are as wine-focused as Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants. The Chicago area based chain must be doing something right since more than 160,000 sippers have joined its member wine club and by the looks of the Barrington outpost (on a Tuesday night no less) in tasting rooms, bars and the restaurant – patrons love being in this club.
All 22 of Cooper’s Hawk locations offer a new spring menu that features recommendations directly from its customers. The man in charge, (otherwise known as Executive Chef and Vice President of Beverage & Culinary Innovation), Matt McMillin sought diner feedback on dishes on sites like Menu Pages, Trip Advisor and Yelp (and you thought Yelp was mainly for disgruntled industry workers). He also quizzed members of the wine club about food trends and the chain’s quarterly chef dinners. To put a finer point on it – lots of people already love the new menu additions.
New spring selections include a lovely, fresh Asian Ahi Tuna Sashimi starter served raw with ponzu-ginger vinaigrette, avocado, radish, wasabi cream and Sriracha which hits a lot of flavors found at many other popular eateries. Ditto with the Shaved Brussels Sprout and Roasted Beet Bruschetta. Brussels sprouts and beets don’t seem to have worn out their welcome on Midwestern menus but Cooper’s Hawk adds nice extras to make the app a little distinctive – whipped ricotta, Marcona almond, shaved Parmesan and a balsamic glaze.
Vegetarians now have a flavorful option: Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas – corn tortillas, stuffed with Butternut squash, black beans, sweet corn and melted cheese, accompanied by avocado, Ancho cream, pico de gallo, chipotle tomato sauce and a corn-jicama salad. Two-fisted sandwiches making their spring debut include Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich and The Leonard Burger – capped with American cheese, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato and signature sauce. The piece de resistance of the new items has to be an impressive Gnocchi Bolognese with Braised Short Rib. It sounds more like a winter dish, however, you’ll be glad you ordered it no matter the weather. The rich dish is punctuated with Stracciatella cheese instead of the usual ricotta, It’s a winner.
The dessert menu now stars Key Lime Pie in a glass which is presented upside-down and topped with brown-butter toasted graham cracker sprinkles it sings “Florida.” Have enough wine and you’re bound to be swayed by the server’s description of Smore’s Budino – Caramel Custard, Valrhona Chocolate Mousse, Brown-Butter Toasted Graham Cracker.
Speaking of wine, go for a flight that features generous pours of the award-winning Cooper’s Hawk wine collection. It’s a deal starting at around $13.99.