By JD Hollyfield

The best part of summer? The longer days — earlier sunrises and later sunsets — which allow food, libations, and socializing to remain in full focus. A romantic brunch? A light lunch outside with an eye-catching patio? Or a lively dinner watching people and joking with friends? We sought out varied culinary experiences surrounded by unique settings and décor. Check out these must-visit spots!

Craft Urban
211 James St, Geneva, IL

Craft Urban

First on our must-stop food and ambiance tour is Craft Urban located in the heart of downtown Geneva. Owner and chef Bernie Laskowski, culinary mastermind, puts his creative talent into everything. With thirty years’ experience in the food industry, we picked his brain for his personal favorites on the menu, and his response was “It’s like asking who your favorite child is!” Okay, yes, we understand!

For those looking to get a head start on the weekend or revive from a night out, start off with the perfect drink under their “hair of the dog” brunch menu. Bernie’s recommendation? Bottomless mimosas paired with their seasonal sticky buns. But do not wait too long in the day to snag these pastries! They sell out nearly every brunch. My personal favorite from this menu is the chicken ‘n biscuits, smothered in chorizo gravy, and topped with over easy eggs.

More of a lunch or dinner goer? This local American-flare spot has “not so traditional” options on the menu that allow for patrons to step outside the box of the normal eats whether it be brunch, lunch, or dinner. Our recommendations: the eclectic mix of dry aged steaks or NOLA style gumbo. They will not disappoint.

It is also fair to say Craft Urban has a stellar hand-crafted cocktail menu for all to please. Did someone say happy hour? Monday thru Friday from 3 – 6pm, enjoy libations and fan favorite appetizers at a deep discount. We suggest the gooey cheese curds and buffalo cauliflower.

With a cool, relaxed vibe, patrons do not flood this hotspot just for the food. The ambiance is a selling point on its own. “As a chef you not only think about the food, but equally the atmosphere you are asking someone to come into,” Bernie shared. From a table indoors to their trendy patio seating, there is not a bad spot or plate!

The Foxtail
5237 Main St, Downers Grove

The Foxtail

Dining simply is not about food anymore. It is a compilation of taste and experience. From the trendy greenery mirroring the valleys of Italy; vaulted ceiling; rounded, Grecian-inspired windows, and scaled, grooved textures like the seaside roads, Tony Lawler, general manager is not embellishing when he describes the ambiance of The Foxtail as an experience of its own. “Our goal was to make you feel like you weren’t in just another neighborhood joint but a fun, exciting place that transported you outside of Downers Grove.” And they nailed it!

On to the menu. Traditional breakfast lovers beware; this is not where the hungry brunch crowd goes for pancakes. They come for the highly recommended jumbo lump crab omelet. The menu is heavy on seafood. Come to enjoy the raw bar filled with oysters and chirashi poke bowl or the enticing sharable appetizers, steaks, and chops.

Tony’s personal recommendation is the paella — orzo, chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, red bell pepper, onion, peas, saffron broth, parsley. The Foxtail will not leave you hungry, or thirsty for that matter. From mocktails to cocktails, any hour of the day, this hopping place has everyone covered.

Make sure to ask for seating on their enchanting patio to enjoy the warm weather. Like inside, their outdoor décor has tons of charm with tons of greens, bright marbled tables, white lattice walls, and woven wicker chairs. When the warm breeze is flowing, it is the perfect place to be.

New Whiskey Bar
24205 Lockport St, Plainfield
4732 Main St, Lisle

New Whiskey Bar

Last on our tour, is a hidden gem, located in Plainfield’s charming downtown (location in Lisle, too). NWB focuses on elevated bar and comfort food. Settle outside on their quaint patio or enjoy the rustic charm of their dining room. Once seated, trust me and order one of their must-haves: the pulled pork poutine appetizer dish! Fries smothered in pulled pork, gravy, and egg?? No brainer. There are a handful of lush salad options for the calorie conscious, but you will also want to try their chef-crafted burgers or house-made, four-cheese-sauce mac and cheese selection. NWB purchases most ingredients locally — farm-to-table for the win!

Specialty cocktails include an array of whiskeys, as its name implies. The bourbon selection is next level. This is the place to go when in the mood to indulge in top notch brands. Not a bourbon fan? Try their signature pink drink: Seasonal fruit, organic cucumber vodka, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lemon juice. Need I say more?

Great food is the gateway to our hearts (and stomach). Unique atmosphere and eccentric drinks are a bonus! Whether it is the views of a stellar patio, the hand-crafted cocktail, or trying new food for the first time, make sure to snag a seat at one of these culinary creations and enjoy the final days of summer!

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