Rosie’s Home Cookin’ proudly dishes up comfort food
Some Marines, when they’re called into battle, will kiss a crucifix or rub a well-worn charm for extra strength. Others will clutch an old photo, blurred by sweat and tears, to remind them what—and who—they are fighting for. And sometimes, as in the case of retired Major Lynn Lowder, clinging tight to a simple, sweet memory of home can work wonders, too.
After all the battles he’s fought—some on foreign battlefields, others on the homefront, helping veterans find the confidence and connections to become entrepreneurs via the Veterans Business Project—Lowder, who served in Vietnam, still waxes nostalgic about a diner he used to frequent in Lovington, Illinois.
Oh, those farm-fresh eggs. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee. The laughter. The gossip. The feeling of community. “When you walked into that place,” Lowder says, “no one was a stranger.”
His affection for old-school diners remained so strong over the years that he decided to open one last year in Naperville (1567 N. Aurora Rd.) He named it Rosie’s Home Cookin’. Like any good soldier (or Marine), he understands the importance of good grub. Old-fashioned biscuits and gravy. Southern potatoes made with a pound of butter per serving. Open-faced meatloaf sandwiches. Skillets. Burgers. And mugs full of hot joe—with the option to spike each with a pat of butter (not the usual in most mess halls).
But Rosie’s was meant to celebrate more than good food. It’s a living museum of symbols, artifacts, and expressions of faith that carried Lowder through many difficult days. The color scheme—scarlet red, light army-green, and white—are a salute to his beloved corps. There’s a dedicated Missing Man table (above), its chair always vacant, that memorializes every soldier who went to war but didn’t come home. The walls are adorned with Norman Rockwell prints, chosen by his wife, a tribute to down-home values and Rosie the Riveter, the diner’s iconic namesake. And there’s the military discounts, which make the inexpensive fare even more affordable for those who’ve served.
“The way you dishonor a warrior who comes home,” says Lowder, a Purple Heart recipient, “is you deny them the dignity of their experiences.” What Lowder has done at Rosie’s, via food and conversation and good service, is the opposite. It’s Lowder’s way of remaining “always faithful”—Semper fidelis—to a way of serving others that’s as immortal as the corps itself.
The mascot for Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken in Naperville—a chafed-looking chicken boasting a fireball hairdo and flames for feathers—would’ve made an excellent addition to the Angry Bird franchise. And it’s an apt symbol for the Virginia-based chain’s unabashedly spicy chicken. At the newly opened Naperville location (760 Rte. 59), operated by Gulam Fatani and his extended family, you’re invited to select your chicken configuration (sandwich, nuggets, fingers) and your desired level of spice. Each tick on the heat spectrum leans on a different pepper, from mild (jalapeño) and medium (cayenne) all way up to a waiver-required Angry Hot (ghost pepper). For those who aren’t interested in popping Prevacid after their meals, there’s a no-heat option as well as plenty of heat-quenching sides, from waffle fries and breakfast waffles to fried okra and a stellar cider slaw. “The slaw at Popeyes takes five minutes to make,” says Fatani, who offers halal products and is debuting wings this summer. “Ours takes four hours. We not only make everything fresh; we make it all from scratch.”
No disrespect to our many fine local restaurants, but for some of us, summer means loading up the car and hitting the open road. So we’re taking a look at eight restaurants—all an hour’s drive or more—that are well worth your time and attention.
Whether as destinations in and of themselves, or delicious stopping points on the way to someplace else, these restaurants belong on your short list of local-ish dining spots. Over four days of driving, I discovered restaurants in four well-traveled areas, along with alternate restaurants located close by.
60 S. Main St., Janesville, Wisconsin
Drive time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Janesville is a picturesque town just across the Illinois border, a place that thrived when GM employed thousands at an assembly plant but was shut down 15 years ago. It was a slow comeback, but in the last few years, residents report, Janesville has rebounded as a city with a surging riverfront downtown, dotted with cute retail shops, the Marvin Roth Community Pavilion that features free weekly live music, and a growing cluster of serious restaurants.
One of these is Lark, which opened in July 2017. “Insanity was the inspiration,” jokes Joan Neeno, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Richard. “My husband, a foodie, always dreamed of opening a restaurant. Back then, the town’s nickname was Chainsville—we didn’t have a lot of locally owned restaurants. We saw a need for a restaurant focused on seasonal and local food and not just burgers and beers.”
Neeno says she and her husband are “blessed” with chef Chase Williams, and it’s hard to dispute that. Williams’s menu shows uncommon range, pulling influences from India, Italy, Germany, the Middle East, and the Philippines. But it’s the local produce that shines brightest, from a bruschetta topped with local oyster mushrooms and lovage pistou to a pea-shoot salad dressed with pecorino cheese and a fried soft-boiled egg (think Scotch egg).
Main courses include a flavorful beef tenderloin with potatoes and asparagus, and a super-thick, cider-brined pork chop that’s the best pork chop I’ve had in a long, long time (this monster was so huge I got a second dinner out of it a couple of days later.)
Lark offers a daily prix fixe that’s a good value (three courses, $46). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the superb cocktail program led by Lia Pennacchi (also the restaurant’s house manager), which lists more than 20 specialty creations. The wine list is smaller, but nearly every wine is available by the glass, and most bottles are priced at less than $40.
On your way out, stop next-door at the Lark Market, which has a nice supply of wines, cheeses, dips, sauces, spreads, charcuterie, heat-and-serve dishes, and other treats.
214 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville
This Cantonese and Hunan restaurant is more than 100 years old (it opened in 1922) and proudly calls itself the second-oldest Chinese restaurant in the country (the oldest, perhaps surprisingly, is in Montana). The interior is little changed from its early days, still low-lit and romantic, though co-owner Tom Fong says the round booths (which inspired the restaurant’s name) have been reupholstered. The menu ranges from old-timey egg foo yong, chop suey, and chow mein dishes (popular with longtime customers, Fong says) to spicy kung pao shrimp, General Tso’s chicken, and Hunan beef dishes favored by the younger crowd.
You can reach the 90-seat dining room only via a long, steep staircase (the restaurant predates accessibility regulations), but locals say the climb is worth it. When I snuck a peek at the dining room, a woman was by the register, waiting for her carryout order. “You eating here?” she asked me. “You should.”
Deer Path Inn
255 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest
Drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Summer sees a lot of visits to this North Shore suburb, and not simply because the Chicago Bears hold its training camp here. Historically a town to which well-to-do Chicagoans fled to escape the city’s summer heat, Lake Forest is also conveniently close to Ravinia music festival (201 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park), Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe), and Lake Michigan beaches.
The historic Deer Path Inn, which dates back to 1929, is a destination unto itself, attracting large parties (weddings, reunions), family travelers, and dining enthusiasts. There are three restaurants on the property: the White Hart Pub, a proper English pub whose lunch and dinner menus include bangers and mash, cottage pie, and fish and chips; the Bar, a wood-paneled room with a casual menu and a highly creative cocktail program featuring thoughtful drinks in unique presentations; and the grand English Room, which includes the main room, a sun-drenched atrium, and a courtyard patio.
The English Room offers the most upscale dining experience; the menu includes such impressive dishes as grilled Spanish octopus with vegetables and spring-onion sauce, almond-crusted Dover sole with Champagne beurre blanc, and Alaskan halibut over cauliflower risotto. Some of the pubby fare from the White Hart (burgers, Cornish pasties and the like) are also available.
The English Room is also home to the Deer Path Inn’s afternoon tea service Wednesdays to Saturdays and its famed Champagne brunch (an elaborate buffet) Sundays.
The surprise (to me, at least), is that Deer Path Inn also has a serious and sophisticated sushi program. Overseen by a dedicated sushi chef, the menu features a variety of maki rolls, nigiri and sashimi platters, by-the-piece sushi, and a selection of a half-dozen sake. The toro tartare, which can be ordered with caviar if you’re splurging, is especially good.
Sushi service starts at 4 p.m. and is available in all three restaurants; the Bar even pours a fanciful Sushi Martini, served in a coupe glass topped with chopsticks and what appears to be a tuna nigiri (it isn’t).
181 E. Laurel Ave., Lake Forest
Glen Keefer ran the very popular Keefer’s steakhouse in Chicago’s River North neighborhood before joining forces with restaurateur Ryan O’Donnell to open Sophia Steak in Wilmette. The Lake Forest location is a virtual twin sister of the original location (though better looking, some say) and offers the same menu of wet- and dry-aged steaks and chilled seafood specialties (yellowfin tartare, hamachi crudo, lobster aguachile). Check out the day’s featured special, such as lamb chops (Thursday), roasted branzino (Friday), prime rib (Saturday), and fried chicken (Sunday).
Bartlett’s Fish Camp
12 on the Lake, Michigan City, Indiana
Drive time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Close by the Michigan City marina is a casual, waterfront restaurant that’s just a few minutes from the Indiana Dunes National Park. It’s also an ideal in-between stopover for those traveling to and from southwest Michigan resort towns, and, in fall, for people returning from Notre Dame football games. (Fortunately, the restaurant has enough of a local following to sustain it in the winter months.)
The dining room is done in oak flooring, pine paneling, and tasteful nautical art. An outdoor deck offers water-view dining when weather permits.
Bartlett’s Fish Camp (most everybody just calls it Fish Camp), sounds like a place you’d visit in search of perch and other lake fish, and to an extent that’s true. But the menu, by chef-owner Nicole Bissonnette (a well-known chef in these parts, going back to the days when she ran Bistro 157 in downtown Valparaiso), embraces shellfish of most kinds, octopus from the Mediterranean, salmon, and lobster. Lots of lobster, in fact—the crustacean shows up in Fish Camp’s Cobb salad, lobster mac and cheese (delicious, by the way), and, naturally, lobster rolls. Even the bouillabaisse—another menu strength—is made with an anise-scented tomato-lobster broth. “Lake fish isn’t always plentiful, so I like to have choices,” Bissonnette explains. “And I’ve been serving octopus for 20 years, going back to Bistro 157.”
Oysters are always a good bet here. Generally, you’ll find at least two varieties of raw oysters on the menu, as well as baked oysters Rockefeller and a couple of oyster shooters—one classic, in a Bloody Mary concoction, and one that isn’t really a shooter at all, but a beautifully dressed in-shell oyster perched above what’s essentially a mini martini.
Other good picks include the crispy crab cakes, perked up by a Chinese mustard aïoli, and the grilled baby octopus, with Spanish-style papas bravas. Apart from seafood, the menu includes skirt steak with chimichurri, a very good chicken schnitzel, and a couple of entrée-size salads.
3480 Warren Woods Rd., Three Oaks, Michigan
Granor Farm is a working farm that seeks to broaden public understanding of organic food. To that end, it operates a summer Farm Camp for kids ages 5 to 10 (the campers grow and cook food). And twice a week, on Friday and Saturday evenings, the farm offers sit-down private dining in a beautiful, glass-enclosed greenhouse a few dozen yards from where the food is grown.
Chef Abra Berens (pictured), who this year was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Great Lakes award, assembles a multicourse menu based on the farm’s harvest that week. “We brainstorm the menu the weekend before,” Berens says, “and we harvest on Wednesday and Thursday.”
That tight time frame means menus aren’t announced in advance. I can tell you that there will be about seven courses, as well as a little snack to begin, and that it will be delicious. Wine pairings are provided by a local shop. Price is usually $142.22 or $164.10, reservations and nonrefundable prepayment is required, and any dietary issues must be conveyed when making reservations. An opening reception gives guests information—this is a farm that happens to serve occasional dinners, not a restaurant that happens to grow vegetables—and a brief walking tour (leave the fancy shoes at home). All told, allow three to four hours for the memorable experience.
Chef Art Smith’s Reunion
700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Drive time: 1 hour
About a gazillion or so people make their way to Chicago’s lakefront, and specifically Navy Pier, each year. Navy Pier has plenty of dining options, but I’d steer you to this cute, comfort-food restaurant by chef Art Smith.
Smith is well known in Chicago circles, going all the way back to his days cooking for Oprah Winfrey to his more recent Chicago projects, Chicago Q and Blue Door Kitchen & Garden (Smith remains executive chef of both restaurants). His latest eatery, which opened at the west end of Navy Pier late last summer, is closely related to Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, his restaurant in Florida’s Disney Springs.
The Reunion decor is rustic: wood-plank flooring in different widths, mismatched hanging lamps, banquettes upholstered in blue-jeans fabric (pockets and all). It’s an ideal place to enjoy such Art Smith Southern-cooking signatures as fried chicken (a must), shrimp and grits, fried okra, Frogmore stew, hush puppies, and hummingbird cake. Portions are hearty, and sharing is encouraged.
With 300 seats, Reunion can handle large parties (Sunday brunch is particularly popular), and the awning-shaded outdoor seating offers nice city views.
464 N. Halsted St., Chicago
One can debate whether Tony Priolo’s Piccolo Sogno (“little dream”) is the city’s best Italian restaurant. What’s inarguable is that Piccolo Sogno’s fenced, landscaped patio is the prettiest outdoor dining venue in Chicago. Another bonus: Piccolo Sogno has its own valet-parking lot.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dined here, and my menu choices change only with the number of people dining with me. My advice: Never skip the fried squash blossoms. Get one of the four pizzas, and the peach and arugula salad if it’s available. Check the specials list for limited-time gems or go tried-and-true with the branzino al forno, mixed-mushroom risotto, spaghetti neri with seafood, or the fish stew. If general manager Alfredo Padilla is on the floor, put the wine selection in his hands. You won’t be sorry.
Photos: Jamie and Eric Photography (Granor Farm); Lark (Lark); Phil Vettel (Cozy Inn); Deer Path Inn (Deer Path Inn); Ballyhoo Hospitality (Sophia Steak); Joe Gonzalez/Blackbean Photography (Bartlett’s Fish Camp); Jamie and Eric Photography (Granor Farm); Art Smith’s Reunion (Art Smith’s Reunion); Piccolo Sogno (Barbabietole)
Nothing says summer like a cooler of icy-cold drinks and a sizzling grill. These days, however, it’s essential that the pitmaster’s bag of tricks include a top-notch vegetarian or vegan showstopper. Using a rich steakhouse marinade, this recipe takes the versatile portobello mushroom to an umami-bomb level of chewy goodness. Add caramelized onion, roasted red pepper, a tangy quick-pickle radish (for a delightful crunch), and the rich funk of a gorgonzola, and you’ve got a winner by anyone’s measure.
MAKES 6 servings
6 large portobello mushroom caps 4 red onions, sliced 2 summer squash, sliced ½ inch on the bias 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced 6 ounces crumbled gorgonzola (vegan alternative: Follow Your Heart brand is fantastic.) 1 package arugula (or another green) 6 artisan rolls (ciabatta, baguettes, or other bread of choice)
¾ cup olive oil ¼ cup soy sauce ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or vegan alternative) 1½ teaspoons dry mustard 1 tablespoon ketchup (or tomato purée) ¼ teaspoon ground clove 1 teaspoon sugar ½ teaspoon black garlic powder (or regular is fine) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1½ teaspoons ground pepper
1 cup mayonnaise (or vegan option) 1 lemon, zest and juice 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon olive oil
6 radishes, thinly sliced ½ cup apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar 1½ teaspoon kosher salt 1 cup water
1. Gently clean mushroom caps and trim the stems.
2. Mix marinade and pour over mushrooms. Set aside.
3. Mix aïoli ingredients. Cover and chill.
4. Mix radish pickling brine and pour over radishes. Chill.
5. Drizzle the red peppers and squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place peppers on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Add squash and cook for 10 more minutes. Set aside.
6. In a nonstick pan, sauté onions until caramelized. Remove onions and wipe out the pan before heating again to high heat.
7. Place drained, marinated mushrooms, gill side down, and compress with heavy pan or weight. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes or until caramelized. Turn over and repeat.
8. Brush caps with some leftover marinade. Place on medium-high preheated barbecue grill or on ridged grill pan, 1 to 2 minutes per side or until grill-marked.
9. On toasted buns, spread a layer of the aïoli and sprinkle with cheese. Top with layers of roasted squash, caramelized onion, pickled radish, mushrooms, and greens.
PRO TIP: The secret to standout bello steaks is a hot sear and little moisture. Cooking mushrooms gill-side down (initially) and under a heavy weight eliminates the soggy results that can give these sandwiches a bad rap.
It’s cherry season! Whether you prefer them sweet or sour, this simple rustic tart is delicious no matter how you slice it. The pairing of cherry and almond (in the filling and the sweetened almond-flour frangipane base) is a flavor classic for good reason.
As with most pie or tart recipes, using a purchased pie crust is one way to save a little time. But don’t let homemade pastry intimidate you. The buttery-rich and flaky pâte brisée recipe below makes short work of this process with the help of a food processor. (And this pastry’s flavor and crumb is well worth it.)
Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert is the cherry on top any summer picnic or evening dinner party.
MAKES 6 servings
1½ cups flour ½ teaspoon salt 1½ sticks chilled butter cut into ½-inch pieces ¼ to ⅓ cup ice water
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix flour and salt in a food processor (or bowl).
3. Cut in the butter, pulsing 5 seconds to combine (or cut in by hand).
4. Add ice water, pulsing five times (or stirring), just until dough forms a ball.
5. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.
6. Roll out dough to an 18-by-18-inch circle on a floured surface.
7. Lay out the dough on a baking tray with parchment paper. Chill, covered, for 20 minutes
6 cups pitted cherries (sour or sweet) ½ cup sugar (for sweet) or 1 cup sugar (for sour) ¼ cup corn starch ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon almond extract ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 dash cinnamon 1 tablespoon butter
1. Add all ingredients to a deep saucepan and stir over medium heat until thick (about 5 minutes).
2. Set aside to cool.
PRO TIP: Freshest berries have stems attached and firm flesh (if the sweet variety) or slightly softer flesh (if sour).
Aurora native Joey J. Saye returns to his hometown for Blues on the Fox this month
When blues singer-songwriter Joey J. Saye celebrates his 30th birthday June 1, he’ll blow out his candles knowing he’s blown away a major career goal. “I wanted to hit the road and do a tour at least once before 30,” says Saye, who grew up in Aurora and now lives in Chicago. “I was very, very, very lucky and blessed to be able to go on three international tours and a couple domestic tours.” This spring he had just returned from performing in Europe, with the jet lag to prove it. On June 17, he’ll take the stage at RiverEdge Park in Aurora for the Blues on the Fox festival.
After graduating from Waubonsie Valley High School, Saye attended College of DuPage and then DePaul University. “By the time I got to COD, I was already really obsessed with music,” he says. He credits his father for nudging him in that direction. “We would travel together a lot, me and my pops. He was a truck driver for some time,” Saye says. “I remember being on the road in the early 2000s … and he had this big black wallet that would carry CDs. I just remember watching my dad flip through those CDs like he was searching for gold. He would pick something out and put something in and hum, and to see how much peace it would bring him, that’s where my love for music came from.”
Saye taught himself to play guitar, and blues eventually became his chosen genre. “I never had formal lessons, but Comcast on-demand—that was a really hot commodity at the time. I remember doing guitar lessons on there,” he says. “When I heard blues, it really made me focus … When I was 16, COD had a radio show with a blues program every Saturday night called ‘Blues Before Sunrise.’ I remember hearing B.B. King’s ‘You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now’ in the middle of the night.”
Saye had stopped playing guitar to focus on earning his economics degree at DePaul, but he started sharing his music online again in 2019 after graduating. His big break, so to speak, came from social media chatter during the pandemic. “There was a big article with [Chicago blues singer] Tail Dragger [Jones], and it was bemoaning the lack of Black youth playing blues, or something like that,” Saye says. “A musician had posted this article and said, ‘Does anybody know any young Black men in Chicago playing traditional blues music?’ My name had popped up somehow, and all of a sudden 30 people checking me out online turned to literally thousands and then hundreds of thousands. That brought a lot of opportunities that led to tours and trips to the Carolinas and Texas and Reno.”
Saye is set to perform on the same bill at Blues on the Fox as blues legend Jimmie Vaughan. The two first met when Vaughan last performed at the fest nearly a decade ago in 2014. Saye attended as a fan and remembers Vaughan’s performance vividly. “He was mean-mugging me—looking straight at me, going right underneath my skin, because he could see how much I loved it,” Saye says. A friend of Saye’s knew Vaughan, and they ended up backstage after the show. “Jimmie sits by us, and it was like an hour or two of him telling us stories about him growing up and how he used to do things, like using karaoke microphones,” Saye says. “At that age, with my love for blues and my little bit of knowledge at the time, I felt like talking to Jimmie, he was the only person I made sense to. I remember talking to him about some detailed blues stuff and he was like, ‘That’s exactly right. Maybe I’ll come to your show sometime.’”
It’s not easy to slip the shadow of a famous father. Just ask Frank Sinatra Jr.—or Mud Morganfield. Now 68 and the eldest son of iconic Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters, Morganfield knows that shadow is permanent. But he’s comfortable in its shade.
Over the past four decades, since ditching truck driving to play music professionally, Morganfield has managed to carve out his own bluesy niche—in part by enthusiastically embracing Muddy as a creative inspiration. He even put out a tribute album, For Pops, in 2014. (It doesn’t include Muddy’s signature tune, “Mannish Boy,” but Morganfield’s live 2013 rendition at the Haven Club in Oxford is something to behold. Fifty years earlier, also in England, a new rock band took their name from one of the song’s verses: “I’m a man/I’m a rollin’ stone.” No one knows what became of them.)
Not long before Morganfield’s June 17 Blues on the Fox appearance at Aurora’s RiverEdge Park, he talked about playing, touring and, of course, Dad.
Q: How long did it take you to feel like you were coming into your own and getting out from under your father’s shadow? A: I can never get out from under that shadow. It’s a double-edged sword. I am the firstborn male of Muddy Waters, so people look for me to do that stuff. And other people are like, “He needs to do him.” But I don’t care, as long as I can honor Dad and myself. If Muddy had been a painter, I’d have been a painter. If he’d have been a carpenter, I’d have been a carpenter.
Q: When you sing your dad’s music, you’re doing more than performing; you’re channeling. A:Well, I’ll tell you, I have no idea. I do what I do, man, and I thank God for that. I do know this: I came here tapping on my mother’s stomach inside. I’ve always had the blues, man. It always ran through me. I’ve been scorned so many times for beatin’ on furniture and just tappin’ on stuff. I used to go to bed at night and tap on my mattress till I fell asleep. I always had that rhythm, those notes, that blues. It just was in me.
Q: What is the key to being a great bluesman? A: It’s something you’re born with and it’s life experience. I had to go get my own blues. I was born and raised in Chicago on the streets, on the West Side in the Lawndale area. It was a pretty rough area; I had to fight all the time. And I had to get my blues. You can play the blues backwards and forwards and you can do it excellent, but until you get some real blues, you ain’t got no blues. You got to go through something.
Q: How do you want to make people feel when they hear your music? A: Well, I don’t want them to feel sad. I want to uplift people. Back in Dad’s day, there was so much hardship till everything they sang about was almost like, “Please, help me. Please save me.” And I don’t want to sing that. I want people to come out and dance and have a great time. If they come to the show and they’re down and out, if I have to jump off that freakin’ stage and do my old-ass dance [I will]. When that person leaves, they need to feel better than they did when they first came in.
Q: What’s your current touring schedule like? Are you mostly staying in the country or are you overseas a lot? A: I’m beginning to pick up some work here in this country, man. It’s been a little bit of a nightmare, a long drive trying to keep working here in the U.S. I’ve been getting a lot of work overseas. It’s the only place where I can walk down the street, and they’re still playing Muddy Waters out of their windows.
The best art fairs, food fests, outdoor concerts, and entertainment the season has to offer
You’ve waited all year, and it’s finally here: time for open-air art fairs and twilight concerts, breezy beer fests and late nights under the glow of carnival lights. However you like to spend your summer—shopping, rocking out, or noshing—there’s truly something for everyone.
FOR CULTURE VULTURES
The longest running art fair in the state, the Naperville Woman’s Club Fine Art & Artisan Fair (nwcfineartfair.org) returns for its 63rd year June 24–25. “It’s an interesting history as the early fair was held in a park where artists placed their works on park benches or hung from clotheslines,” says Susan Stockton, event chairperson. “So we’ve come a long way.” Held at Naper Settlement (523 S. Webster St., Naperville) with free admission and produced entirely by volunteers, the fest features more than 100 artists showcasing their works for sale. Fair-goers can flex their own artistic muscles by taking part in an interactive mural project. “It’s an 8-by-12-foot mural that’s broken down into 8-by-8-inch squares,” Stockton explains. This year artist Gregory Frederic’s Chase the Dream will be parsed into 216 sections for visitors to paint, then each completed square will be stapled to a wooden frame, re-creating the entire painting. The club also is adding some new elements to the fair this year. “We’re hoping to have photo ops where attendees can stick their face in a framed masterpiece,” Stockton says. “We’re also hoping to have live entertainment—local classical or jazz musicians or a chorus to perform throughout the show.”
Returning for its 15th year, Oak Brook Artisan Market (oakbrookartisanmarket.com) brings more than 75 makers of art, decor, gourmet eats, and bath goodies to Oakbrook Center (100 Oakbrook Ctr., Oak Brook) the weekend of June 10–11. “There’s everything from cutting boards to art prints to various home goods, woodworking, pottery,” says Jonathan Smith, who cofounded the market with wife, Lynna. Sibling event Naperville Artisan Market (napervilleartisanmarket.com) returns for a second year at CityGate Centre (2135 CityGate Lane, Naperville) August 12–13 and shares about half of the same vendors from the Oak Brook market. “We’ll have jewelry, handmade handbags, and a lot of sustainable fashion,” Smith says. “Typically we have someone who upcycles and remakes vintage clothing, which is always kind of fun and interesting.” All vendors are small businesses based in the Chicago area or the near Midwest. “One of our taglines is, ‘Keep your friends close and your supply chain closer,’ ” Smith says. The outdoor locale at CityGate also comes with some appealing indoor amenities. “Because it’s right near Hotel Arista, there’s indoor restrooms—no porta-potties—and you can go into Lavazza and have a coffee or a pastry or to Zorba Cocktail Bar and sit down and have glass of wine and make a morning or afternoon of it.”
Mark your calendar for more art fairs
Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival June 3–4 at Burlington Park, 30 E. Chicago Ave. hinsdalechamber.com
Burr Ridge Art Fair June 24–25 at Burr Ridge Village Center, 701 Village Center Dr. amdurproductions.com
Geneva Arts Fair July 29–30 on South Third Street in downtown Geneva. genevachamber.com
Wine and Art Walk Aug. 19–20 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Rte. 53, Lisle. mortonarb.org
Alley Art Festival Aug. 26 in downtown Aurora at Downer Place and Water Street Mall. auroradowntown.org
Downers Grove Fine Arts Festival Sept. 9–10 on Main Street between Maple Avenue and Curtiss Street. downtowndg.org
Feast on offerings from local mobile eateries all in one place at Lemont Food Truck Festival (forgeparks.com), slated for July 1 at the Forge (1001 Main St., Lemont). This fest for foodies made its debut last summer featuring 14 trucks serving everything from Neapolitan-style pizza to empanadas to lobster rolls. This year’s truck lineup is sure to be a blast with a backdrop of live music. A $10 ticket buys you general admission to the fest from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., or you can arrive at 11 a.m. by upgrading to the $15 Early Eater pass. Food, beer, and activities ranging from archery and axe throwing to laser tag are all priced à la carte.
Foodies also can find local food trucks cooking up tasty eats in downtown Aurora throughout the summer. First Fridays—a year-round open-house event at downtown Aurora businesses—will have a Pride theme and a food-truck court on June 2. After a hiatus in July, First Fridays will return August 4 and coincide with the Stolp Block Party (auroradowntown.org). Stolp Avenue between Galena Boulevard and Downer Place will close for the day to make room for booths from local artists and a fleet of food trucks, including Holy Pierogi, Grumpy Gaucho, and Strawberries BBQ, plus Tapville Social’s mobile taproom. High-energy funk band Tamarie T. & Thee Elektra Kumpany are set to perform in the riverfront gazebo at Millennium Plaza.
Taco fans, this ones for you: Snack your way around downtown Aurora on September 19 at the Taco Crawl hosted by Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry (mariewilkinsonfoodpantry.org). Participants meet at Society 57 at 4 p.m. to pick up their taco passport and T-shirt before making their way to local restaurants such as Altiro Latin Fusion and La Quinta de los Reyes. Crawlers can dine at their own pace before meeting back at Society 57 at 8 p.m. for an after party with dessert and drinks. “Everyone can bring their passport back to enter it in a raffle and we will do a drawing for prizes, and share experiences about where people went and what they liked,” says Diane Renner, pantry director. The food pantry hosted an identical crawl in May that sold out quickly, so don’t sleep on tickets ($30) for this end-of-summer repeat.
New Patios to Visit
1. At Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar (1775 22nd St., Oak Brook), dogs are welcome to join their owners on the covered patio, which features a fire pit ringed with cushy chairs. Staff will cater to your pooch with a bowl of water and chicken or beef dishes from its dog menu.
2. After opening last fall, Go Brewing (1665 Quincy Ave., Naperville) is gearing up for its first full summer season with a covered patio with a firepit, bags sets, heaters for chilly nights, and a pull-up bar to show off your athletic skills in between sips.
3. The new outdoor space at Whiskey Bend (222 W. Main St., St. Charles) boasts fire tables, a bar, and a stage for musicians to perform on summer weekends.
Beer + Wine Fests
Kick off beer fest season with Summer on Tap, a fresh new event June 24 hosted by the Morton Arboretum (4100 Rte. 53, Lisle, mortonarb.org). Tasting booths offering locally made beers, ciders, and meads as well as spiked seltzers and cocktails will line the wooded trails along Meadow Lake. Tickets ($50–$70) include 20 three-ounce samples and access to the entire grounds.
In response to the soaring popularity of spiked seltzer, last year the organizers of the long-running Wheaton Brew Fest renamed it Wheaton Brew and Seltzer Fest (wheatonparkdistrict.com/events/brewfest), and it’s set to return in all its bubbly glory to Memorial Park (225 Karlskoga Ave.) August 5. This ticketed 21-and-up fest ($60; $25 for designated drivers) will feature 60-plus craft beers and spiked seltzers, and each attendee can choose up to 32 two-ounce samples. A portion of event proceeds benefit CASA of DuPage County and the DuPage County Historical Museum Foundation.
If cocktails are more your style, gather some fun-loving friends to sip fluorescent drinks at Glow in the Park August 12 at Cantigny Park (1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, cantigny.org). With glow-in-the-dark inflatables and giant lawn games, this 21-and-up event promises plenty of nostalgic fun to liven up your evening.
Rounding out the season is Elmhurst Craft Beer Fest (elmhurstcraftbeerfest.com) September 16, hosted by the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation on the grounds of the Elmhurst History Museum (120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst). “It’s kind of the culmination of summer here in Elmhurst because it’s one of the last events that are outside,” says Cathy Jordan, fest chair. More than 50 beverage companies are expected to pour not only craft beer but also cider, mead, and spiked seltzer, including Afterthought Brewing Company in Lombard, Standard Meadery in Villa Park, and Obscurity Brewing & Craft Mead in Elburn. Fest profits go directly to fund exhibits and educational programs for the Elmhurst History Museum. “I’m a craft beer aficionado and was a home brewer once upon a time, and I have to say we have some great brewers coming,” says Dave Oberg, director of the Elmhurst History Museum. “We’ve got live music, too, that day, and it’s terrific. Petty Cash, which is a fun mashup of Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, and Lake Effect—both are really high-energy bands, which makes for a really fun day.” Tickets range from $45 to $70 plus a $20 designated-driver option. Score $5 off your ticket at a June 16 presale event at Pints (112 S. York St., Elmhurst), a local sports bar and fest sponsor.
Didn’t nab tickets to The Eras Tour? Taylor Swift tribute band Sparks Fly is one of the 12 acts set to perform at the Naper Nights summer concert series (napernights.org) at Naper Settlement (523 S. Webster St., Naperville) June 16–17, July 14–15, and August 18–19. Two acts perform each evening. Performers include the American Idiots (Green Day tribute), Gaslighter (the Chicks tribute) and the Red NOT Chili Peppers (well, we think you can guess). Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids ages 4–12.
As music fans have come to expect, quintessential outdoor music venue RiverEdge Park (riveredgeaurora.com) in Aurora will be rocking all summer long. This year’s concert lineup includes iconic rock acts Styx July 11 ($50), Poi Dog Pondering August 26 ($30), and REO Speedwagon September 2 ($50). Blues on the Fox returns June 16–17 for its 27th year. Ruthie Foster hits the stage first on Friday before headliner Jimmie Vaughan, while Saturday’s bill features performances from Aurora native Joey J. Saye (see Music Scene), Mud Morganfield (see Spotlight), and Kenny Neal before headliner Christone “Kingfish” Ingram takes the stage. And always low on price and big on fun, the Downtown Alive! concert series returns with throwback hip-hop act Too Hype Crew June 30 and pop-rock band 7th Heaven July 7. Tickets are just $5.
Arbor Evenings, Morton Arboretum’s summer concert series (mortonarb.org) is also a perennial favorite. BYO picnic spread to this family-friendly event with live music, dancing, and lawn games on Wednesdays through August 23. New this year, you can buy a reusable wine glass ($16) and bring it back for $1 off future wine purchases at Arbor Evenings concerts throughout the summer. Tickets are $13 per person, $5 for children, and free for age 1 and under.
Mark your calendar for more outdoor concerts
Cantigny’s Outdoor Concert Series Sunday afternoons and some Saturday evenings. $30/car. Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton. cantigny.org
Live & Uncorked 7 p.m. Thursdays, June 8–July 7. BYOB event for ages 21 and up. $8 prepurchase; $10 day-of. Blackberry Farm, 100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora. blackberryfarm.info
The Forge’s Summer Music Series offers live music in June, July, and August, including Forge Fest July 3. Prices vary. 1001 Main St., Lemont.
Summer Entertainment Series June 23–24, July 14–15, August 11–12, September 8–9. $10. Memorial Park, 225 Karlskoga Ave., Wheaton. memorialparkwheaton.com
Wine Down Wednesdays brings back its Flatbed Concert Series in July and August at Arranmore Farm & Polo Club. And don’t forget Cabernet Cabaret, July 29. Ticket prices vary. 34 Rance Rd., Oswego. arranmorefarmandpoloclub.com
Free Outdoor Concerts
🍹 Concessions available
Downers Grove Summer Concert Series 7 p.m. Tuesdays May 23–August 15 🍹 Veterans Memorial Pavilion at Fishel Park, 1036 Grove St., Downers Grove. dgparks.org
St. Charles Summer Concerts 7 p.m. Thursdays May 25–August 10 Lincoln Park gazebo in downtown St. Charles on West Main and Fourth Streets. stcparks.org
Naperville Municipal Band 7:30 p.m. Thursdays June 1–August 10 🍹 Central Park Bandshell, 104 E. Benton Ave. napervilleband.org
Naperville Children’s Lunch Hour Entertainment 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Tuesdays June 13–July 25 Alternating between Rotary Hill and 95th Street Community Plaza locations. napervilleparks.org
Uniquely Thursdays 6 p.m. Thursdays June 15–August 17 🍹 Burlington Park, 30 Chicago Ave., Hinsdale. hinsdalechamber.com
Batavia River Rhapsody 7 p.m. Wednesdays June 21–August 9 🍹 Peg Bond Center, 151 N. Island Ave., Batavia. bataviaparks.org
Summer in the Parks Various dates and locations June 21–August 9 Naperville’s BrightSide Theatre will perform songs from musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber. brightsidetheatre.com
Woodridge Summer Concert Series 7 p.m. Wednesdays June 28–August 9 Concerts held in a different park each week. woodridgeparks.org
Lisle Summer Entertainment Series 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 3 (9:15 p.m. fireworks) 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays July 13–August 2 Lisle Community Park, 1800 Short St., Lisle. lisleparkdistrict.org
Concerts in the Park 7 p.m. Wednesdays July 5–July 26 🍹 RiverPark, 151 River Ln., Geneva. genevaparks.org
Wednesdays at the Plaza 7 p.m. Wednesdays July 12–August 9 Millennium Plaza, 21 S. Stolp Ave. auroradowntown.org
No matter where you live in the Western burbs, there’s sure to be an outdoor movie series nearby. Grab a blanket, pack up some snacks, and take advantage of these free summer flicks.
🍿 Concessions available
DARIEN The Summer of Movies June 1, 15, 29; July 13, 27; August 10 🍿 Each movie night held at dusk in a different location. darienparks.com
GENEVA Movies in the Park June 6, July 11, August 1 Movies begin at dusk. 🍿 Moore Park, 877 Geneva Dr. genevaparks.org
WESTMONT Movies in the Park June 9, July 14, August 11 Movies begin at dusk. 🍿 Each movie night is at a different park. westmontparks.org
WHEATON Movies Under the Stars 8 p.m. June 9 and July 28, 6 p.m. October 13 Wheaton Public Library’s West Plaza, 225 N. Cross St. downtownwheaton.com
WARRENVILLE Summer Movies in the Park June 15, July 20, August 17 Seating opens at 8 p.m. Movies begin at dusk. 🍿 Cerny Park, 4S150 River Rd. warrenvilleparks.org
ELMHURST Movie in the Park June 16, July 14, August 4 Movies begin at dusk. Wilder Park, 175 S. Prospect Ave. epd.org
BATAVIA Movies in the Park July 19 and August 2 Movies begin after River Rhapsody concerts. Batavia Riverwalk. bataviaparks.org
AURORA Movies at Mundy July 27 and August 24 Seating opens at 7 p.m. Movies begin at dusk. 🍿 Mundy Park, 21 S. Broadway. auroradowntown.org
NAPERVILLE Night at the Movies July 28; August 11, 25; September 8, 22 Movies begin at dusk and alternate between Rotary Hill and 95th Street Community Plaza locations. napervilleparks.org
More Fest Fun
Save the date for these summer events
Cream of Wheaton June 1–4 at Memorial Park, 225 Karlskoga Ave. Featuring: Live music, food vendors, beer garden, arts and crafts fair, carnival, 5K and 10K races wheatonparkdistrict.com/creamofwheaton
Calvalcade of Planes June 3–4 at Clow International Airport in Bolingbrook Featuring: Aircraft displays and shows, plane and helicopter rides, food vendors cavalcadeofplanes.com
PrairieFest June 15–18 in downtown Oswego Featuring: Live music, petting zoo, pony rides, carnival, parade, food vendors, expo village prairiefest.com
Geneva’s 73rd Annual Swedish Days Festival June 21–25 in downtown Geneva Featuring: Car show, nightly entertainment, craft beer tent, food vendors genevachamber.com
Rotary GroveFest June 22–25 in downtown Downers Grove Featuring: Live music, food vendors, carnival, craft beer fest, car show rotarygrovefest.com
DuPage County Fair July 28–30 at the DuPage Event Center & Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Rd., Wheaton Featuring: Carnival, live music, food vendors, talent contest, exhibitors, livestock judging dupagecountyfair.org
Naperville Jaycees’ Last Fling Sept. 1–4 in downtown Naperville Featuring: Live music, food vendors, carnival, parade, business expo lastfling.org
Photos: Slav Polinski (lead photos); The Morton Arboretum; Naper Settlement; Last Fling Photography Team; Cantigny Park; Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport. ART FAIRS: Oak Brook Artisan Market; Naperville Woman’s Club; Aurora Downtown; Brandon Butler (Stolp Block Party). FOOD FESTS: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar; Erin Dobosiewicz | Cinder and Vinegar Photography. OUTDOOR CONCERTS: Naper Settlement; Batavia Park District. OUTDOOR MOVIES: Batavia Park District; Walt Disney Pictures Pixar; Paramount; Naperville Park District; Cream of Wheaton staff; Geneva Chamber of Commerce; Last Fling Photography Team.
A 100-year-old Hinsdale house gets a refresh that blends old and new
After years—or even decades—living in the same house, it’s easy to become stuck in the status quo: same furniture arrangements, same paint colors, same accessories. This was the case for a Hinsdale couple, who decided it was time to remodel their kitchen and family room after many years.
With this project complete, they faced a new problem: The rest of the first floor no longer seemed in sync with the remodeled areas. The couple felt like the remaining rooms looked like “grandmother’s house,” says Stephanie Sarris, principal designer and owner of Hinsdale-based Bellehaven Designs. When they decided that an entire first-floor redesign was in order, Sarris was hired to complete the project.
This, however, wasn’t to be your standard home refresh. The couple kept much of their existing furniture, which consisted of good-quality antiques and investment pieces that had served them well, were much loved, and fit the character of their 100-plus-year-old home.
“These clients have good taste and are lucky to own good furniture,” says Sarris, who notes that this approach is also more sustainable and budget friendly. She added paint, wallpaper, and upholstery in uplifting colors and prints and planned reupholstering of key pieces in fresh fabrics.
The designer kept the good vibes going by building on colors and styles used in the earlier phase of the project and adding colorful artworks that exude joy and happiness. “The most challenging part of working with any new client is learning their taste,” she says. “In this case, we were able to build upon our previous work together.”
1. (Above) Cole & Son wallpaper in the style of William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement brightens up the foyer in this 100-plus-year-old Hinsdale home. Stephanie Sarris of Bellehaven Designs refreshed built-in cabinetry with Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy to sync with a previously completed kitchen redesign. The flower-shaped light fixture was purchased from Visual Comfort & Co.
2. Sapphire blue swivel chairs by the Charles Stewart Company were among the few new pieces of furniture added in this refresh. The clients instead chose to reupholster many existing quality pieces, such as the sitting-room love seat (seen from behind). Local artist Maureen Claffy’s piece Tree of Life adds color and joy to the mostly neutral room.
3. Old and new elements harmonize after Sarris’s redesign, such as a pair of West Elm vases atop a sideboard already owned by the clients and a century-old French chandelier with three different kinds of hand-carved crystals.
4. Several different patterns in teal coexist happily in the dining room, including a leafy William Morris Co. wallpaper and a Dash & Albert rug made of recycled sari silk. Sarris chose white accessories to counterbalance the formal furniture. Hinsdale artist Maureen Claffy, a friend of Sarris’s, created the artwork (titled Expansion) that hangs above the buffet.
5. Navy and teal paint combine for a lively vibe in the sunroom, continuing a color motif found throughout the first floor. Sarris, the designer, corralled plants in a trough for a neat look and replaced the hardware in the windows, which had been painted over many times throughout the decades.
6. A whimsical Anthropologie tree-and-bird lamp keeps the dining room from becoming too stuffy.
7. Sarris bought interesting and attractive books from Amazon to enliven the family room coffee table, artfully combining them with gold West Elm trays and Anthropologie candles, as well as items from the homeowners’ personal collection.
8. A sunny window is now a favorite perch for reading or for cozying up with a drink. Two Victorian-style chairs, previously decorated with needlepoint, have new life after being reupholstered in a cut velvet botanical fabric by Osborne & Little (see “Time to Reup?”).