Gastronomic Revolutions—Seasons 52

July 2012 View more


Seasonal shopping at Oakbrook Center is generally a fairly straightforward proposition — sweaters and pants are replaced by tank tops and shorts which are replaced by sweaters and pants yet again, and thus the circle of retail life follows the mostly predictable ebbs and flows of the mercury. But with the recent arrival of Seasons 52 to the complex’s orbital belt of moderately upscale eateries, visitors can now extend their seasonal adjustments to the dinner table as well.



While the notion of having four rotating menus based on the meteorological changes of the calendar is one of the most obvious manifestations of the Seasons 52 mantra of enabling guests to ‘celebrate living well’, the restaurant also focuses on employing fresh ingredients in healthy preparations – all less than 475 calories, with nary a pat of butter to be found. They are as good for the conscience as they are for the palate. It’s a high-minded attempt to bring the personalized, neighborhood feel of a chef-driven, farmer’s market-inspired concept to what is, in fact, the 22nd outlet of a successful nationwide chain.

Beyond that hard-to-believe calorie limitation, some of the other impressive statistics that tend to capture the imagination revolve around the expansive wine selection, which includes more than 100 different choices, 62 are available by the glass. The focus on wine not only manifests itself on the menu, but also in the architectural detail of the prairie-style dining room and bar area, with colorful bottles in various combinations and angles dotting the walls and pillars.


Anytime hot-button words like “fresh”, “organic”, and “healthy” start getting thrown around, more than a few wary diners are bound to scurry to the relative safety of a place where you can smell the fryer from the parking lot. But it’s safe to say that the rapid expansion that brought Seasons 52 to the western suburbs wouldn’t have happened if healthy and delicious had been found to be mutually exclusive pursuits. In fact, a scan of the offerings quickly put to rest any notion that a fresh, healthy meal must inevitably involve sacrifice and/or copious helpings of cottage cheese.

Our sampling of the springtime menu began with a pair of light, flavorful flatbreads, one pairing of goat cheese with a host of garden goodies, and the other nodding toward the summer season with a combination of spicy chipotle shrimp and grilled pineapple. Next up was a mixture of field greens with grilled Portobello mushrooms, roasted pistachios and truffle dressing, uniquely presented (in a manner we won’t spoil here) to unlock the strong earthy aroma.


For dinner, we opted for a couple of dishes that probably wouldn’t qualify as ‘light’ in most other contexts — a goat cheese ravioli that benefited greatly from its simple preparation with fresh garlic, basil and tomatoes, and a mixed grill of lean grass-fed tenderloin and organic quail alongside mashed sweet potatoes that lacked neither flavor nor richness. As we had been during several of the evening’s courses, here again we were amazed by the prospect that they had actually managed to bring dishes this satisfying and flavorful to the table with the touted 475-calorie ceiling intact.

But dessert would be out of the question in this setting, right? Not when it arrives in one of the most appealing but underutilized formats in the dining world – the miniature. Between the two of us, we shared just-right portions of carrot cake, pecan pie, chocolate mocha mousse and rocky road that proved to be the perfect punctuation mark to the meal, sending us home eager to return and see what the next season might have in store.

Seasons 52
3 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

Photos by Greg Shapps