April 2022 View more

When Empire Restaurant Group purchased the building that was the longtime home of Jimmy’s Grill, Empire owner Will Cullen decided against calling for the bulldozers right away, even though the restaurant business is typically slowest at the start of the year.

Permits, drawings … all that architectural stuff takes a lot of time,” says Cullen. “We cleaned the place up, added some cosmetic changes, and were able to keep a lot of the kitchen staff. This is our first upscale effort, so this (Bev’s) gives everybody time to practice, see what works and what doesn’t.”

A little paint, all-new lighting, new furniture, and bar tops, and Jimmy’s Place was reborn as a cheerful spot with an open floor plan and (at least on the night I visited) a boomer playlist over the speakers. The name is a nod to Beverly Patterson Frier, the former owner of the building, which keeps the community ties intact. 

This gives the Empire group its fourth restaurant in downtown Naperville, joining Empire Burgers & Brews, Northcott Liquorette, and Hizeman’s Fine Athletic Establishment.

The chef is Nadia Tilkian, who owned Maijean, a French bistro in Clarendon Hills, and was chef at Waterleaf, the upscale dining room on the College of DuPage campus. Both were very good restaurants that deserved to last longer than they did. Tilkian’s menu includes nods to her French-cuisine background, but “contemporary fine dining” would describe the restaurant better.

Highlights among the appetizers are the short rib tots, a trio of deep-fried balls the size of a toddler’s fist, stuffed with mashed potatoes and braised short rib meat and placed on puddles of Parmesan cream. Pure pub food, but tasty. The charred octopus is a much more “cheffy” dish, plated artistically with chunks of carrot and purple potato, sauced with herb oil and a saffron rouille that could have come straight from a bowl of bouillabaisse. The pear carpaccio is similarly beautiful — a salad of razor-thin pear slices piled high with arugula, diced pancetta, hazelnuts, and Manchego cheese.

Like any Empire group restaurant, Bev’s has an upscale burger, specifically the Bev’s Burger, made with dry-aged Slagel Family Farm beef and topped with andouille cheddar. More ambitious is the Steak BLT, which combines sliced flatiron steak, bacon, tomato ragout, goat cheese, and porcini aioli inside a sturdy French roll.

Tilkian takes an Asian approach to the Ora King salmon entrée, placing the seared salmon over black ramen (rice noodles made with black “forbidden” rice) along with edamame, bok choy, and miso-squash butter. The braised-chicken gnocchi—a Parisian-style gnocchi (made with flour, not potato) with wild mushrooms and herbed broth—reminds me of the braised-rabbit gnocchi that Tilkian used to feature at Waterleaf.

There are three desserts on the menu, including a bananas Foster crème brûlée and a chocolate parfait; my party split the lemon meringue tart, a yummy tart with a beautifully toasted meringue topping, alongside dots of raspberry coulis. 

For those who prefer liquid desserts, Bev’s has a nice cocktail menu, overseen by beverage director Alicia Stravanger. The Bev’s old-fashioned, which is anything but old-fashioned, contains vanilla syrup and Irish whiskey liqueur, which give the drink a distinctly sweet finish. The Passport to Peru, a riff on a pisco sour that includes blood-orange juice, is light and refreshing.

Bev’s eventually will become Cali’s Social Club, which will feature fire-roasted proteins and dry-aged steaks in an expanded building that will include an outdoor rooftop patio. It promises to be very impressive when it debuts; Tilkian and Cullen both talk excitedly about the special equipment that will be installed in the kitchen. But that’s months, maybe a year, away. For now, there is Bev’s. And Bev’s, even though it’s destined for a short life, is pretty impressive on its own. 

Photos courtesy BEV’S