Fresh Flavors

May 2020 View more

Inside Downers Grove’s newest restaurant, a neon sign declaring “I’m just here for the …” bathes the dining room in a millennial pink glow. It’s deliciously appropriate for the Foxtail (5237 Main St., 630.541.9240), as there are countless appealing ways to complete that thought. Fresh oysters? Weekday brunch? Cool vibes? First-class cocktails?

After spending some time there, I’m going to say “yes” to all of the above. The Foxtail is the second restaurant in downtown Downers from chef-owners Todd Davies and Tim Canning, who opened Cadence Kitchen & Co. in 2018. If you think of the two restaurants as distinct siblings, Cadence is the dark, flannel-wearing rocker; the Foxtail is bright and sophisticated, and studied abroad in Europe.

Davies and Canning envisioned a restaurant for light, healthy weekday brunch and lunch options in a beautiful, sit-down dining room. They also pictured a hip place with live music to hit up for cocktails or freshly prepared seafood from a raw bar. And so, the Foxtail serves brunch Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and then dinner 3 p.m. until late. When they hired chef Maya Nahouli, her Lebanese heritage and experience cooking Mediterranean cuisine—especially her love of seafood—gave the menu an inspired focus.

There are plenty of spots to settle in at the Foxtail, from high-top tables under a cascade of hanging plants to a pastel velvet booth near the corner platform where DJs spin or musicians play acoustic sets. But for a date, the best seats in the house may be at the raw bar, where you can watch a chef shuck oysters and slice seafood for the restaurant’s poke, crudo, and carpaccio preparations.

Those oysters arrive on ice-filled platters with housemade cocktail sauce, peppery mignonette, and the cutest little doll-size bottle of Tabasco you’ve ever seen. On my visit, they were shucking belons: massive, briny beauties in palm-size shells hand-picked by divers in Maine’s Damariscotta River. Toss one back, close your eyes, and I swear you’ll feel like you’re knee-deep in the coastal waters. Other stellar raw seafood options include a citrusy hamachi crudo with razor-thin slices of serrano and tender octopus carpaccio with crispy matchsticks of apple.

There are equally tasty dishes coming out of the kitchen, from addictive smoked salmon arancini to lamb and beef kefta with lemon salsa, hummus and puffy house-baked pita. A crisp, light spin on the classic wedge salad features Burrata, dried cranberries, almonds, and bits of red pepper and bacon, all bathed in a tangy white balsamic-blue cheese vinaigrette. Perfectly al dente agnolotti—think ravioli, but smaller—with lamb shank filling and creamy brown butter sauce is rich and comforting.

Ghosted cocktail

The Foxtail has a robust wine and beer menu, but if you enjoy a well-made cocktail, I’d recommend partaking. Drinks created by beverage director Johnny Holder are on par with the most serious of craft cocktail bars, but fun names and housemade candy garnishes show this crew digs whimsy, too. The cognac-based Ghosted is garnished with pineapple gumdrops—bouncy little pâte de fruit-like cubes skewered on a toothpick—while the Whatta Man, a old-fashioned made with salted caramel syrup, made me smile with both its Salt-N-Pepa reference and its spiced marshmallow garnish.

There’s also a rotating barrel-aged cocktail named for the company Davies and Canning formed, Not Kind Of. “The name stemmed from us saying, ‘We are going to produce the best dining and drinks and experience that we possibly can—not kind of,’ ” Davies says. “We are not taking shortcuts; we are not cheaping out on anything.” From that fluffy housemade pita to the restroom wallpaper custom-printed with the restaurant’s fox logo, that level of attention is crystal clear throughout.

As of presstime, the Foxtail was offering a limited carryout and delivery-only menu in compliance with the statewide ban on dine-in service to prevent COVID-19 spread. The menu features what chef-owner Todd Davies calls “fan favorites” from the Foxtail and sibling restaurant Cadence Kitchen (also temporarily closed), as well as family meals that serve four to six people. Visit for the latest.

Photos by Regan Baroni