WHERE: 1200 W. Hawthorne Lane, West Chicago
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; full kitchen closes earlier
CONTACT: www.hawthornesbackyard.com, 630-293-6700
DRESS CODE: Casual
With a little imagination, you might think you've wandered off a Montana turnpike and landed in a rustic, rural roadhouse at Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago. The post-and-beam construction in the dining room set on four acres of wooded grounds help fuel the illusion. And the restaurant and bar definitely cater to logger-size appetites with generous portions of homemade fare.
Among the standouts is Momma's Pot Roast sandwich, which we tried in its appetizer incarnation, happily learning we were in for the Tuesday half-price deal on starters. Served as four sliders on soft buns, they were big on well-seasoned, slow-cooked flavor.
“Frazzled Onions” topped the sliders and my dining companion's pulled pork sandwich. Fine ribbons of crispy, battered onions lend a tangy touch as garnish, and are a lighter, tasty alternative to onion rings.
We shared a cup of the grill's signature tomato-artichoke soup, prepared with big chunks of artichoke in a mildly piquant, light broth.
The pulled pork sandwich serves as a taste test for the full-fledged pig roasts Hawthorne's holds, including catering private events.
“Very tasty,” was the two-word review as my companion gave full attention to the sandwich in hand, served with creamy cole slaw that has a gentle kick. It's one of a choice of sides.
The adjoining bar offers seven beers on tap, including Guinness, and an ample list of standard domestic and imported beers. Hawthorne's also delivers its own twist on cocktails, including a Jack Honey Breakfast Shot whose ingredients include bacon. There's no wine list.
Our server recommended the wings and the barbecue ribs, and I couldn't resist the latter. Incredibly flavorful, the baby back ribs didn't require a slathering of the extra house barbecue sauce provided, but spoke volumes about taste all by themselves.
Entrees at Hawthorne's Backyard range from $10.99 to $19.99, with Saturday nights featuring a crab leg and prime rib buffet for $25.99, beginning at 5 p.m. Bands play most Saturdays on the stage in the dining room, where a few tables are moved aside to accommodate dancing. The music usually ranges between rock and country, explained the server, noting it kicks off after 9 p.m.
For seafood fans, he recommends the barbecue grilled salmon entree and a blackened grouper sandwich. A holdover from the previous restaurant at the site is the “King James” fish fry Friday nights.
The casual, family-friendly dining room offers tables and booths, and has several televisions tuned silently to sports.
When warm weather arrives, it's time to head to the spacious patio.
Patrons can arrange to play volleyball, horseshoes, bocce ball and bags.
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.