Heartland bounty with true farm-to-table flair in Naperville
Courtesy of Allegory
Names of menu items are creative, like “Trout (Up a Creek),” “Move to the Beet” and “We Want to Cook Octopus.” That makes perusing the offerings fun, but Allegory in Naperville lives up to its name beyond such whimsy. The food itself is inventive, with ingredient combinations that are eclectic yet ultimately mesh in a flavorful, memorable and multi-sensory way. The story behind the unique menu is one of true farm-to-table cooking, as chef-owner Christopher Mason has cleverly incorporated as many locally sourced foods and beverages as possible.
That point is shared almost immediately by servers, who proudly recount that this is the only eatery of its kind in Naperville. It’s also driven home in dishes that evoke heartland bounty, from the “Pleasant Pheasant Pot Pie” to the “Dorf of Sorts” mixed greens salad studded with cranberries, raisins, apples, grapes and candied walnuts.
Allegory opened in late fall in a prime downtown location long occupied by the cajun-influenced Heaven on Seven. Its appeal has already spread — be prepared for a wait on a weekend night if you don’t have a reservation. A small bar can tide you over, with locally crafted beers like Oswego Well’s Run Dry. Cocktails, too, are made with locally sourced spirits, such as the Tail End made with Sneaky Fox vodka, vermouth, rosemary simple syrup, lemon, soda and “torched” rosemary.
The setting reflects the establishment’s farmstead focus. The owner left the exposed brick walls from the previous space but added down-home touches like reclaimed barn wood panels, hand-hewn tables and benches in the waiting area, tableside mason jars with candles inside, and larger mason jars tucked with foliage hanging from the ceiling along with strings of old-time lightbulbs.
Chef Mason and his culinary team — who wear Hawaiian shirts in the kitchen for a vibe of fun, we’re told — prepare small and shared plates like a “Chef’s Never Bored” charcuterie board and “Not Poutine,” made with potato skins, smoked brisket, queso fresco, mushroom demi, sweety drop peppers and a zippy horseradish crema. The salad menu — dubbed “Foliage” — has an assortment of greens and toppings. A solid choice is the spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, cured red onion, duck egg, sunchoke chips, candied walnuts and, yes, more bacon.
Sandwiches, billed as “Hands-ys” include a Veg Out burger and beef burger, as well as a trio of tacos. Entrées showcase Midwest-sourced meat, poultry and fish. A standout — and a good belly-warming choice for cold winter nights — is the “Short Ribless,” a 12-hour braised boneless short rib on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and crowned with a slaw made from fennel, parsnips, carrots and a fragrant, flourishing sprig of fresh rosemary.
Stick around for rib-sticking desserts. We liked the hazelnut cake slice served with a just-tart-enough cranberry compote.
Contact: 224 S. Main St., Naperville. 630 536-8862. www.allegorynaperville.com
Recommended Dishes: Braised, boneless short rib; hand-held sandwiches
Shared plates: $11 – $16
Salads: $13 – $14
Entrées: $16 – $25
Hours: Tue – Thur: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri – Sat, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sun, 11 a.m. –- 9 p.m.