Urban Foray

March 2018 View more

Thanks to GPS and other wonders of our technological age, the notion of getting lost or not being able to find something or someone has mostly been rendered a curious misadventure of a past era. So it’s unlikely that the name of restaurateur Bernie Laskowski’s latest venture will lead folks to reflexively and mistakenly gas up the roadster and head downtown.

Because despite the name—not to mention its owner’s CV, which includes stops at Chicago institutions like Everest, Bin 36 and Park Grill—Craft Urban isn’t the latest high-minded concept to join the West Loop’s embarrassment of gastronomical riches. Instead it’s a handsome addition to the flourishing Tri-cities dining scene. Laskowski’s latest venture brings a sense of innovation and urban energy to a west suburban zip code that has, in recent years, enjoyed an enviable influx of well-considered chef-driven eateries.

City Scene
Tucked just around the corner from the busy intersection of Third and State in downtown Geneva, Craft Urban immediately suggests a cozy hideaway, a feeling that is affirmed upon entering the compact, brick-lined space. A smallish bar upfront offers a few high-tops and a dozen front-row seats from which to observe the beverage program in action. It was an assortment of mostly classic cocktails they were busy mixing on our Thursday evening visit, as the tables quickly filled, the volume began to rise and the room took on more of the lively vibe for which it was clearly aiming.

As they enjoyed those cocktails, diners perused a menu that divides its appetizer slate between a handful of bar snacks and an assemblage of toasts, marshaled under the heading of “breads and spreads.” From these groupings, we chose to share a helping of the cheese curds (and are happy to report that the fried cheese renaissance continues apace in the western ’burbs), which mingled on the plate with tempura-fried pickles, and a creamy French onion dip accompanied by an assortment of radishes, wedges of squash and house-made chips for dipping.

Refined Comfort
The main courses, meanwhile, demanded serious contemplation. While small in number, the range here was impressive—from fresh rainbow trout to an imposing fried chicken sandwich with jalapeño honey and slaw to the classic Southern staple of shrimp and grits (late-night diners on Fridays and Saturdays can also choose from a 10-p.m.-and-after ramen selection).

After plenty of heated debate on a bitterly cold evening, we finally opted for shared tastes of the butcher’s beef—a tender cut cooked to perfection and sliced over roasted potatoes and root vegetables—and the BLT on brioche, which swapped the traditional mayo for Green Goddess dressing and the standard bacon for a thick slab of pork belly. A hot-and-cold veggie section was the place to find salads and sides, including the crispy Urban fries that accompanied our sandwich, and a hearty pumpkin soup.

Though too stuffed to do much damage in this last area, we were somehow not at all shy about perusing the dessert menu, where a process of elimination unfortunately left the chocolate mousse and apple pie behind in favor of mom’s pound cake—lightly toasted and served with berries and sweet yogurt—and the towering hand-crafted sundae of vanilla gelato, hot fudge and hazelnut crumble. Never had I conceived of a trip to Geneva that didn’t include a scoop at Graham’s, but this sundae rendered the possibility moot—in much the same way that Craft Urban definitively quashed the notion that suburban dining need be boring, standard or predictable.