WHERE: 120 N. Hale St., Wheaton
HOURS: Restaurant open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bar open until 1 a.m., except Sunday: noon to 11 p.m.
DRESS CODE: Nice casual
INFO: 630-665-2489, www.ivyofwheaton.com
One of Wheaton's historic buildings was most recently reimagined as a fine dining restaurant for steaks, chops and seafood in 2009, providing a unique setting for Ivy and its delicious fare.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, we stepped inside the brick building covered in the ivy that lends the restaurant its name. Outside is an elegant, foliage-filled patio, but a light rain prompted us indoors, where we were surprised to discover a spectacular space originally created as a chapel early in the last century, then converted to retail uses before its latest incarnation.
A soaring cathedral ceiling directs the eye skyward, where balconies lead to added dining areas for parties. High on the patio-side wall above multiple French doors providing green views are small, stained glass windows where light filters softly through the leaves.
It's an exquisite setting for a meal. We asked to be seated next to the fireplace, and warmed up with a glass of wine. Our personable server kindly volunteered a tasting when he noticed my indecision on the selections. My dining companion opted for a craft beer on draft.
Soon a delectable and still warm loaf of bread was delivered to the table, accompanied by butter melded with a hint of honey.
We shared a cup of clam chowder that ranks among the best we've enjoyed, bursting with homemade flavor in the perfectly balanced seafood and vegetable pairing.
The menu tempted with Gorgonzola Crusted Lamb Chops with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a port wine demi-glace; Diver Scallops pan seared and served with leek and fennel compote with sambuca butter sauce; and Savory Peach Chicken, a spicy blackened chicken breast with polenta cakes, sauteed spinach and peach chutney.
When I learned the house ribs special was such a hit that it recently was made a permanent part of the menu, I went for the half slab. Generously meaty, fall-off-the-bone, pork ribs were served with a tasty barbecue sauce with a little heat to it. The seasoned fries were good, and my companion notes there's even a little zip to the cole slaw.
He selected the shaved prime rib sandwich featuring generous slices of succulent beef accompanied by a horseradish cream sauce on a ciabatta bun. As for sides, when he heard the word "bacon" among its ingredients, he was sold on the potato salad.
On the dessert menu we were delighted to find a petite serving of creme brulee, just right for a creamy sweet finish to our meal – absent the guilt.
Among the many anecdotes about the building, the menu notes the structure was the first in town to boast air-conditioning and an elevator. Since becoming Ivy through the latest readaptation, a tasty culinary chapter has been added to the rich history.
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.