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Downtown Aurora gets a restaurant for the pre-theater crowd, plus more restaurant news

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 12/2/2019 By Grace Wong, Chicago Tribune
a plate of food on a table: The Porter House Steak from Stolp Island Social restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 in Aurora, Ill. © Mark Black/for the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS The Porter House Steak from Stolp Island Social restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 in Aurora, Ill.

A little over two years ago, a love of musical theater took restaurateur Amy Morton and her family away from their home in Evanston and out to Aurora to attend a show. But when they arrived and parked their car near the Paramount Theatre, they struggled to find a restaurant to have dinner beforehand. As they walked through the downtown area, they passed by a window and Morton’s husband casually remarked that it would be a nice space for a restaurant. Now, Morton has opened Stolp Island Social in that exact spot, to fill the need of theatergoers and the community.

Morton’s no newcomer to the restaurant industry — she worked at her father’s namesake restaurants, Morton’s Steakhouse, when she was 10 years old and opened her first restaurant in 1989. Then, in 2012, she opened Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston, serving up farm-to-table dishes before opening The Barn Steakhouse in 2016 as a nod to her father. Last year, she opened Patty Squared, a healthy burger concept, on the Northwestern campus.

“I love what I do in Evanston and I’m very proud of it, and take a lot of time between projects to make sure what I have done is good if not better than what I’ve done before,” Morton said. “Not only can I be creative and create something I’m proud of, it’s a fit for the market and a challenge for me.”

This will be her first flat-seated restaurant, meaning the entire restaurant could be full within an hour of showtime every night there is a show at the theater, which presents new logistical challenges, Morton said. However, she’s confident that both the structure and dishes on the menu — from prix fixe to a la carte — will help cater to a diverse clientele, from frequent diners to people who only dine out on special occasions.

a close up of text on a white background: The ceiling at Stolp Island Social is painted with quotes meant to spark conversations. © Mark Black/for the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS The ceiling at Stolp Island Social is painted with quotes meant to spark conversations.

Stolp Island Social will have seasonal kitchen components in addition to steakhouse elements, so look for both locally sourced vegetables as well as reasonably priced cuts of steak. There is also a reserve menu for patrons looking to have the same cuts, sizes and grades as what she serves at The Barn Steakhouse.

“I didn’t want to intimidate people, so our regular menu has the same cuts as on our reserve list; we just upped the ante on the reserve list,” she said, explaining that she included Heritage Black Angus on the reserve list.

In addition to steaks, she’ll also have a kale salad with apples, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted hazelnuts, and chicken cooked three ways: seared, confited and braised, and plated with a leek puree, fregola and a hint of currant.

“It feels super autumnal and a little Mediterranean, and it’s going to be a huge crowd pleaser,” she said excitedly.

The wine list spans various regions and makers, from boutique to bottles with wide name recognition. There are seven cocktails driven by what’s seasonally available, but you’ll definitely find the Mortini on it, a Morton family invention with Hank’s vodka, maraschino liqueur, the Italian liqueur Strega, white vermouth and lime juice. Beers are from local breweries.

a plate of food with a slice of pizza: Chicken Three Ways will be seared, confited and braised, and plated with a leek puree, fregola and a hint of currant. © Mark Black/for the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicken Three Ways will be seared, confited and braised, and plated with a leek puree, fregola and a hint of currant.

You’ll see vintage photographs and artwork displayed on the walls and Morton hopes Stolp Island Social will create a cozy environment for her guests. Quotes on the ceilings painted by local artists are meant to inspire conversation and the other artwork is an homage to the history of the building. Even the restaurant’s name is an homage to the small island in the Fox River that sits at the heart of the downtown area where both the Paramount Theatre and the restaurant are located.

“Aurora itself is this burgeoning artist colony,” she said. “I wanted to create the most homegrown restaurant I possibly could. I believe people get that and feel it and see it.”

5 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 708-576-8645, stolpislandsocial.com

Openings

STREETERVILLE — JoJo’s Shake Bar will open a kiosk in Water Tower Place later this month. The pop-up of the ice cream treats and burgers shop in River North will feature only dessert items, so look out for the salted caramel hot chocolate, chocolate nirvana Oreo shake, cookies and other treats. 835 N. Michigan Ave., jojosmilkbar.com

WEST TOWN — Fry The Coop has opened its fourth Chicagoland location, featuring its Tribune-acclaimed hot chicken, sandwiches, tenders and sides, like mac and cheese. 1529 W. Chicago Ave., 312-600-6198, frythecoop.com

SCHAUMBURG — Cinnaholic, a vegan bakery featuring savory cinnamon rolls, will open in December. Look out for flavors like maple harvest and pumpkin pie, or create your own with a selection of frostings and toppings. All ingredients are vegan. To pair with your treat, there is also coffee and tea. A second location is slated to open in Naperville later this winter. 1404 E. Golf Road, 847-420-3831, cinnaholic.com

GOLD COAST — Chef Jos 1/4 u00e9 Andr 1/4 u00e9s, the internationally known chef and humanitarian with restaurants in Washington, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Los Angeles, is opening a fast-casual, vegetable-forward restaurant called Beefsteak at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, with items like vegetable bowls, salads, soups, burgers and build-your-own creations. The name is an homage to the tomato, which Andr 1/4 u00e9s believes can be just as robust, flavorful and satisfying as meat. Look out for items like the Tuna Up veggie bowl with green beans, fingerling potatoes, onions, carrots, spinach, Spanish white tuna, poached egg, shredded radish, cherry tomatoes, vegan mayo, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper and sea salt, or the Lime after Lime salad with cilantro-lime quinoa, leafy greens, roasted Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, roasted edamame, scallions, roasted pumpkin seeds, and chile lime dressing. Andr 1/4 u00e9s will open an outlet of his restaurant Jaleo in Chicago next year. 303 E. Superior St., beefsteakveggies.com

a plate of food with broccoli: Kale salad with apples, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted hazelnuts. © Mark Black/for the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Kale salad with apples, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted hazelnuts.

WICKER PARK — GRAZE will leave Revival Food Hall for its new location this December. In addition to acai bowls and smoothies, this flagship store will have new menu categories, such as soups, warm grain bowls, oatmeal and dairy-free ice cream, plus a full-service coffee program with Passion House Coffee Roasters. 1632 W. Division St., graze-chicago.com/wickerpark

FULTON MARKET — Boqueria, which has four locations in New York City and two in Washington, will open its first Chicago location Dec. 5, serving Barcelona-style tapas, churros and pitchers of sangria. Don’t miss the paella de mariscos, made with bomba rice, monkfish, sepia, squid, shrimp, clams, mussels, saffron and salsa verde, or the Spanish cheeses, charcuterie and other shareables like the pan con tomate or pulpo a la plancha, made with grilled octopus and served with fennel, smoked pimenton and Picual olive oil mashed potatoes. 807 W. Fulton Market, 312-257-3177, boqueriarestaurant.com

a person sitting at a table with a bottle of wine: Evanston restaurateur Amy Morton branches out geographically with her latest venture, Stolp Island Social in Aurora. © Mark Black/for the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Evanston restaurateur Amy Morton branches out geographically with her latest venture, Stolp Island Social in Aurora.

ICYMI

CHICAGO — Pork & Mindy’s filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, closing all locations

CHICAGO — Chef moves: Debbie Gold leaves Tied House, Johnny Anderes takes over Cherry Circle Room, Ryan Brosseau joins Wood

CHICAGO — Chicago’s Pastoral cheese shops closing all locations after 15 years

LINCOLN PARK — Chef Bruce Sherman steps down from North Pond restaurant

LOGAN SQUARE — Review: Good Fortune restaurant combines clubby good looks with a neighborhood vibe

GOLD COAST — Chef Tony Mantuano leaves Spiaggia, Chicago’s best Italian restaurant, after nearly 35 years

NEAR NORTH — Riviera-inspired restaurant Kostali from Carrie Nahabedian opening downtown

FULTON MARKET — What to know about Time Out Market, now open in Chicago’s Fulton Market

STREETERVILLE — New Streeterville pizzeria L’Aventino hopes to succeed where four others have failed

WEST LOOP — Gaijin, new Japanese-inspired West Loop restaurant by chef Paul Virant, is a love letter to his wife

WEST TOWN — Porto opens Dec. 3, serving up Spanish and Portuguese seafood

EVANSTON — Hewn, baker of bread used at Sweetgreen, is moving to larger space in Evanston to accommodate demand

EVANSTON — Owners of Skokie hotspot Libertad plan two new Evanston restaurants

Closings

THE LOOP — Club 77 is closed after less than two months, Crain’s reported. Patrick Sheerin, the executive chef, told Crain’s that the location was ill-suited for the concept. 77 W. Wacker Drive.

THE LOOP — Ruchi is closed in the Chicago Pedway and all its windows are papered up. 151 N. Michigan Ave.

gwong@chicagotribune.com

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