Dinner for two:

So this week has been CRAAAAZY. I typed this blog post about four times but never finished it. Anyway.

Recently, I was house sitting in Downers Grove for the week and I had never been to downtown Downers Grove, except to the mystical magical ice cream place on the train tracks of Main Street called Everyday’s a Sundae (which I also recommend all the time, but that’s for another blog post). I had walked by Gatto’s twice in the past few days while investigating downtown and because of the windows on the side of the building that opened the whole dining room up to the street without ruining the intimacy, I was definitely interested. So I borrowed my friend Carolyn since we have similar taste in food and wine, and we went to investigate downtown Downers Grove’s food scene.

Walking in to the building, you just seat yourself, which was a little unnerving because usually there are signs telling you what to do. There’s a very big open space for dining, one that almost looks like a patio and one that’s smaller and more intimate into the back of the restaurant. There’s a whole area for the bar, which is set up very nicely. There’s low hanging lamps and the lighting is dim to create a romantic atmosphere but it’s not too low that you have to squint at your partner while you eat. They also had a chalkboard menu! I was pretty stoked about that because it felt very rustic but still had an air of elegance, like I was in California.

We were greeted within two minutes of sitting down, which was perfect because I know that’s customary at the restaurant I work at so that was very nice. We were also approached by a busboy with a basket of hot bread in a basket with some olive oil and butter too. Hot bread. Very impressed. My friend had a glass of their merlot and I ordered a dry white wine; he brought me red instead but I wasn’t unopposed to the glass of cab that they brought me, it was dry and delicious.

We both ordered specials, I got a farfalle with scallops in lemon butter and Carolyn ordered a cioppino, which wasn’t on the menu and they also made it the way she wanted, which was with no mussels and extra shrimp served over pasta instead of in a broth. Again, very impressed.

The food wasn’t long awaited, which was nice because we were both dying of hunger. We also both received HUGE PLATES OF PASTA. As a poor college student, I appreciate huge plates of pasta because it means two or three meals. My dish was a little heavy on oil but still super super good, very balanced in flavour. The scallops melted in my mouth in a beautiful way. Scallops are wonderful. Carolyn’s cioppino was delicious, I got to eat all her squid too, since she apparently wasn’t a fan of it.

All and all, fantastic place for a date. Definitely recommend any of the pasta and wine dishes. My only thing would be that it was a little expensive, so if you’re going to come here, prepare yourself and your wallet (it was $50 for both of us). But your lady will be very impressed.

As always for your viewing pleasure:

Menu

Catering 

Banquets

Dinner Recommendation 1: You ready?

So what restaurant started this whole thing? What date did I send my friend Luke on that was so wonderful, he thinks I should write blogs and send people on dates though I am too single to function?

Well, my friends, I give you: Neat Kitchen and Bar.

I came across Neat one day when I was on Yelp. “Yelp“, you all scoff, “that’s pretty much what this blog is trying to be anyway.” I won’t lie, I use Yelp a lot, but Yelp has never let me down. At the time, I wanted a place that was open on Christmas Eve, fairly romantic, and decently priced since I myself was going there for a date at the time.

Personally, I like to surprise my dates, and pretty much everyone I know, but I also fly by the seat of my pants a little bit through life and this date was no exception. I told him we were going somewhere new by his apartment and he trusted me.

Neat is fantastic across the board. Here’s how I would rate it:

FOOD: It’s an American kitchen and wine bar, so we have an assortment of burgers, tacos, salads, steaks, fish and poultry. I remember when I was there, I got the chicken and apple sandwich, which is chicken, granny smith apples, muenster cheese and garlic aioli. Magnificent. All the rest of their food is fancy twists on common food, something I personally really appreciate in cooking. They also have an in house butcher. AN IN HOUSE BUTCHER. Which reassures me that my meat is being taken care of by someone with the appropriate skill. Food for Neat gets an A.

BEER: Beer is important in any restaurant even if you aren’t drinking it. If you can have fancy food, you should at least be able to afford fancy beer, so that your friends who want to drink beer (ie. me) are impressed and can try something new. With 10 on tap beers, 100 bottle brands and 22 can brands, there is a magical variety of darks, stouts, ciders and ales. Beer at Neat also gets an A.

WINE: I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I’m a person who reads the beer list before I read the wine list any place I go, but still, wine is important for those who don’t enjoy beer. Reading the wine list is something I’m trying to get better at, but I know a lot of good fancy (expensive) wine comes from Napa, CA and the majority of the wines on the list seem to hail from there. The oldest wine available seems to be a couple bottles of 2008’s. I wish I knew what that meant. Either way, I’m sure wine people are impressed somewhere but I can’t write home on the matter.

SERVICE: Seeing as we went on Christmas Eve, the service was amazing. We also had the place to ourselves. I have included the Yelp link because people comment on the service there. Seems to be an A.

AMBIANCE: IT’S FREAKING ADORABLE. All wood paneling, Mason jars, little white lights, and a quiet cozy air about it. Girls definitely vibe it, it’s almost like a little ranch. Still fancy though, so it gives a more date like atmosphere, but good for a good time as well. A++++++++

PRICE: For the fact that you get a duck egg on your burger and it’s the best thing on the menu? $13. Really reasonably priced, considering its got the feel of a fancier place, so it’s definitely good for people who want to impress their date but not break their wallet, because even the cheap food is still gourmet and tasty. A.

For your viewing pleasure:

Wine list

Craft beer list

Menu

Welcome.

Hello and welcome, to quote a chef of mine.

My name is Catherine and let me begin by saying I like to eat. I like to eat a lot. I like to try all kinds of different foods, different styles, different ways and in different places with different people. Food is by far the best and most common way to bring people together, from all walks of life, for all different reasons. Isn’t it nice to think that you have something in common with every single other person on this planet?

That’s why I started this blog, because people have been sitting down to have food together forever. We live to eat, it’s what separates us from everything else. We also love to share the food we love with people we love. Why do you think all first dates are dinner and a movie? The trouble is what place for dinner?

That’s where I would hope this blog is useful to you! A friend of mine recently came to me for advice on a place to take his new girlfriend to make a good impression and I gave him a place nearby that had good food, wonderful wine, would impress her as a date, but not break his wallet. He came back the next day and told me the date was a huge success and said I should start a blog giving advice on restaurants I’ve eaten at and where I would recommend good date spots.

So, here we are, friends. I’ll try and post every week of a new place I’ve found or a gem I would recommend time and time again.

See you all tomorrow!