Story Time

February 2019 View more

Allegory is a cozy new eatery in downtown Naperville.

Given the substantial paying-of-dues time and effort and that goes into it, the long-gestating dream of opening one’s own restaurant is usually about much more for the proprietor than just selling food. A grocery store sells food, and a restaurant sells a story. So after a long career of helping other people realize their restaurant visions as an industry consultant, it’s more than fitting that Chris Mason decided to incorporate the notion of storytelling right into the name of the first place he could truly call his own.

“Over time, I hope the story I’m telling is my own,” Mason says of Allegory, his eclectically personal restaurant in downtown Naperville (224 South Main Street, 630.536.8862, “I put my own blood, sweat, and tears into getting this place just the way I wanted it, and I have my hands on everything we’re doing—from the design to the menu to the music.”


That drive to put his mark on every aspect of Allegory starts with the look and feel of the room itself, which features reclaimed barn wood, metal siding, and end-grain wood flooring that Mason spent six months crafting and installing by hand (with the help of his retired father), in an attempt to give the place the intimate, relaxed vibe of a cozy backyard get-together. Mission accomplished on this front, as it quickly becomes hard to even recall just how different the place felt as the longtime home of Heaven on Seven.

The story continues across the compact but wide-ranging menu, which follows no distinct pattern other than a decided focus on made-from-scratch dishes utilizing seasonal, locally grown ingredients. Rotating—based on availability and Mason’s restless whims—are a handful each of appetizers (smalls), salads (foliage), sandwiches (hands-y), and entrées (biggs), all complemented by a drink menu that includes a variety of local beers, a well-chosen selection of Italian and French wines, and several imaginative cocktails.

Voracious Readers

Digging into those various chapters of the menu is where the fun really starts, as we perused the fancifully titled choices before settling on a shared pair of table-setters in the Dorf of Sorts salad—Mason’s piled-high take on the classic Waldorf, replete with cranberries, grapes, apple chunks, and candied walnuts—and the tempura squash rings appetizer, lightly fried and nicely spiced wedges.

While entrées like pan-seared trout and pheasant pot pie beckoned from the “biggs” slate, we opted for a couple of sandwiches for our main course and never looked back. The standout of the Veg Out for veg-heads and meat-eaters alike was the delectable pretzel bun into which it was tucked. (If Mason and his crew are actually baking these things onsite, ask for about a dozen to take home.) On the other side of the table, meanwhile, the Phil E. Sangwich was inspiring plenty of brotherly love with its fire-roasted red and green peppers, a trio of gooey cheeses, and a heap of succulent prime rib commingling atop a thick bed of sourdough. Despite being grouped with the other sandwiches under the “hands-y” label, this was a knife-and-fork experience all the way.

Killer beet hummus

Of course, no good story can be complete without a well-written ending, but our initial concern upon not seeing dessert options on the menu was allayed as our server ticked off five tempting possibilities. And while settling on grandma’s pumpkin pie (a largely straightforward take on the autumnal classic) amid a host of more adventurous-sounding options may have seemed like a missed opportunity for one last unexpected twist in the story of this night, it instead brought us back to that feeling Mason was trying to create all along: The comfort of home.

Photos courtesy Allegory