After often driving past Parkers' Restaurant & Bar in Downers Grove, a friend and I stepped inside for a weekday lunch and discovered why the parking lot is so frequently packed.
We received a warm welcome at the entry, and were given our choice of seating: the dining room or the club-like lounge with a wine-rack wall, old school red leather chairs and booths, and grand piano for the live evening entertainment.
We opted for a table near the granite-surround fireplace in the elegant dining room, where decorative touches range from culinary-inspired paintings to sumptuous displays of breads off the open kitchen separated from diners by a turquoise mosaic wall. To begin the meal, two varieties of bread and crispy flatbread were served with whipped butter and freshly prepared hummus.
The restaurant stresses its devotion to foods from the American farmer and fisherman, so I ordered grilled Regal Springs Tilapia ($12) served with plain mashed potatoes, green beans and an herb-infused, sun-dried tomato garnish to spice up the mild fish.
My friend raved about the chef's pick called Amish Chicken “Mac and Cheese,” noting, “Any meal starts well when it has a slice of bacon on top. The rich cheese sauce did not overpower the dish, and you could taste the other ingredients.”
The entree ($14) was prepared with cavatappi pasta, Amish chicken, asparagus, smoked gouda and Applewood smoked bacon. My dining companion appreciated the bite-size morsels of chicken incorporated throughout the dish, as opposed to so many meals where slices are dropped on top like an afterthought.
Other enticing options include Lobster Bisque ($9.50); Surf, Surf & Turf Sliders ($15), featuring a Mini Maryland Crab Cake, Tuna Burger and Certified Angus Beef with Tillamook Cheddar Cheeseburger; and Herb Crusted Japanese Eggplant ($14; $18 at dinner) with sun-dried and basil gnocchi, arugula, portobellas, spinach and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Also highlighted is pizza Napoletana ($10.50 to $15), claiming Italian certification as the real deal.
The dinner menu has such offerings as Lake Superior Whitefish Wellington ($23), with shiitake mushrooms, leeks, pine nuts, lemon beurre blanc in puff pastry; and Charcoal Grilled Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast and Confit Leg ($26), with wild rice blend, figs and honey. Burgers ($12 to $14) are available at lunch and at dinner, which features a variety of salads including Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad ($8), with mesclun greens, quinoa, candied walnuts, cranberries, feta and apple cider vinaigrette.
We couldn't resist a sweet finish to lunch. Our attentive server, who recommended the Callebaut Chocolate Cake ($7) served warm with crème anglaise and berries, explained, “Callebaut is the type of Belgian chocolate in the dessert. It's rich with a gooey center.”
We opted for the Vermont Maple Sugar Cotton Candy ($4), nostalgic fun for a group looking to share a sweet tidbit.
“It certainly grabs the attention of the people around you,” said my friend, as the fluffy white confection neared the table and turned heads.
The chocolate cake, Key Lime Pie ($5.50) and Crème Brulee ($7) are strong contenders for our next visit.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
Parkers' Restaurant & Bar
Address: 1000 31st St., Downers Grove
Contact: 630-960-5700, www.parkersamerican.com
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; lounge serves limited menu between lunch and dinner
Dress code: Business casual
Serves: Lunch weekdays and dinner daily