Playing It Cool

July 2018 View more

With a slick white marble bar, staffers in flannel and rock concert tees and a goggle-clad Flyboy statue from hot Chicago artist Hebru Brantley guarding the front door, Downers Grove newcomer Cadence Kitchen & Co. (5101 Mochel Drive), is rocking some serious trend points.

But despite the record-shaped logo bearing the tagline “Good Beats, Great Eats,” this isn’t an exclusive rock bar. When Tim Canning turned the former Lemon Tree Grocer into a new restaurant, he joined forces with longtime friend and fellow chef Todd Davies. “[We pictured] a great gathering place where people were really comfortable coming in with their family members or friends, for date night, for a great fresh cocktail or just from-scratch food,” Davies says.

Foodie Favorites
The menu is split into five sections: snacks, shareables, smalls, salads and mains. Some smalls and mains were about the same size and there’s no shame in going solo on a shareable,
so I say order what flavors pique your interest and lean on your server for pointers on portions.

A few dishes—roasted brussels sprouts with duck confit, mushroom risotto with truffle butter, beef short rib with horseradish crème fraiche—may feel a little past their prime trend-wise for avid restaurant-goers, but you could also argue they’ve become comfort-food classics in their own right. For those craving something edgier, there are options such as the beet tartare—not a typo, that’s beet the root vegetable, not beef the meat—with mojito vinegar, avocado, fresh mozzarella and pepitas.

I tasted some hits and some near misses. Mesquite-roasted mushroom tacos lacked the smokiness I expected and grilled octopus with tart beet puree and oranges could’ve use a hit of something creamy or rich, like a drizzle of aioli. On the other hand, spicy shrimp with mascarpone polenta and beer-braised mussels were both seriously satisfying. Freshly baked rolls painted with a stripe of piquant chimichurri and stuffed with cheddar and chorizo were tongue-tinglingly tasty.

Drinks on Point
Lemon Tree always had a solid stock of wine and local craft beers, so unsurprisingly, Cadence’s drink menu is mouthwatering, with draft options such as Peeled Grapefruit Pilsner from Chicago’s Moody Tongue and CBD Pale Ale from Downers Grove’s own Alter Brewing Company.

They’re not the only game in town with decent local craft beer, though, so the cocktails are the real boon. Boozy gourmands will appreciate all the details that make spirits-sipping a next-level experience: diamond-cut rocks glasses, floral-emblazoned coupes, freshly peeled citrus garnishes and richly sweet Amarena cherries (one taste and you’ll never go back to the basic neon-red variety). Cocktails are inspired by popular songs, and many are Cadence’s spin on the classics. Mexicali Blues, named for the Grateful Dead tune, is a smoky mezcal-spiked margarita with a black salt rim. My bartender said their take on the old fashioned—called Country Roads, a nod to John Denver—was “pristine,” and it only took me one sip to agree.

Frozen cocktails swirling in icy coolers behind the bar are best sipped under an umbrella on the front patio. There’s the oh-so-trendy Frozé, a light and fruity rosé wine slush, and The Bittersweet, a potent frozen negroni that reminded me of the famed negroni slushy from Parson’s Chicken & Fish in Chicago that flooded Instagram a few summers ago.

With some fine-tuning, I’m confident the Cadence crew will get every single dish on the same plane as the drinks. Though not nearly as catchy, in my mind that tagline could very well be “Good Beats, Great Eats, Grand Drinks.”