Emmett's Ale House
WHERE: 5200 Main St., Downers Grove
HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: emmettsalehouse.com, 630-434-8500
If you're walking along Main Street in downtown Downers Grove, Emmett's Ale House is bound to attract your attention. The bright, yellow brick exterior and yellow-and-black-striped awnings give it an old-fashioned yet well-maintained look that's very inviting.
And if you've worked up an appetite while strolling through town, the dining experience you'll find inside is a good match for the fun, stylish exterior.
We were looking for a place to get a nice meal and have a couple drinks on a weekend evening without feeling like we'd stumbled into a frat party.
Looking over the menu, I was tempted by the tenderloin medallions (encrusted with horseradish, pesto and balsamic Bordelaise sauce) and the portobello steak (served with balsamic crusted portobello mushrooms and roasted tomato cream sauce).
But I was in the mood for something slightly spicy, and opted for the Southwest chicken sausage pasta.
Fortunately, I was very hungry, because the portion that arrived was unquestionably generous. The sausage and bow-tie pasta were served in a spicy marinara sauce along with broccoli, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and red peppers. The combination of flavors – enhanced but not overwhelmed by the spiciness – made for an enjoyable meal that had a slightly different aspect with each bite.
Typically, a hearty pasta dish like that calls for a good wine, but I couldn't resist a chance to sample an Emmett's brew. I went for the McCarthy Red Ale, which was mild but flavorful, and a perfect counterpoint for the marinara sauce.
My dining companion opted to order off the specials list, and selected the shepherd's pie, along with a side of sweet potato fries. The shepherd's pie consisted of a generous helping of deliciously savory mashed potatoes atop a hearty beef stew. With the unseasonably cold spring we've had, it was just the right meal for the day.
"Just thinking about it makes my mouth water," my companion said.
The ale house prides itself on matching home-cooked quality meals to unique, flavorful beers.
"Emmett's menu features traditional favorites prepared by our chefs in fresh and creative ways," states the website. "Our chefs and brewers work closely together to create perfect pairings of food and handcrafted beer."
In an age of mass-produced food, Emmett's notes it strives for responsible sourcing of ingredients.
"We work hard with our purveyors to select ingredients that are sustainable," the menu says, emphasizing a complete absence of trans-fat oils in the preparation of dishes. "We use … local produce when in season and we also utilize sustainable practices in our breweries by donating our spent grain to local farmers as a food source for livestock."
Now that's a dining experience you can feel good about.
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.