I've never considered myself the whiskey type. The stuff hasn't crossed my lips since I swigged something called a Coon Dog back in the early '90s.
So what drew me to Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen in Schaumburg? Was it the eatery's ties to Naperville's White Chocolate Kitchen, a place I drooled over some years back? The convenient location in Woodfield's shadow? The sophisticated cocktail menu? Maybe a little bit of them all.
Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen930 N. Meacham Road,
Schaumburg, (847) 413-8000; lincolnwhiskeykitchen.com
Cuisine: Modern American
Setting: Comfortably spacious room with dark wood, black leather and oak barrels
Entrees: $9.39 to $23.99
Hours: noon to 9 a.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday
But what will draw me back to Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen?
The whiskey. This whiskey in the exquisite mushroom soup. The whiskey stirred into barbecue sauce that smothered the perfectly cooked burger. The whiskey that spiked the sauce on the chocolaty ice cream sandwiches.
The whiskey and the richly simplistic decor, the comfortable, casual vibe and friendly service.
Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen opened up earlier this spring in the former Ted's Montana Grill. The space has shed its western motif for a more sleek, urban restaurant with a full bar (more on that later) and a high-ceiling dining room rimmed with black leather booths and anchored by a wall of whiskey barrels. The room is spacious enough and can get quite loud with diner chatter -- a fact that seemed lost on our soft-spoken waitress during one lunchtime visit.
Those who have dined at White Chocolate Grill will recognize some of the menu items, most notably the citrus-glazed salmon that gained the startup chain national recognition when it won a cooking contest on "Live with Regis and Kelly."
But many of the menu items have been created by Robert Kabakoff, the restaurant group's director of culinary operations, specifically for this new concept.
We started our meal with cocktails from the expansive bar list. The Frisky Whisky, a cherry-flavored martini-like elixir, proved to be an easy introduction to American whiskey. The bar is stocked with dozens of bottles, many hand-picked from distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee and bottled exclusively for LWK. You'll find a number of sipping whiskeys and tasting flights are available.
We moved on to Buffalo chicken flat bread (an ample portion for two with even heat) and the aforementioned mushroom soup that came to the table with a small crown of toasty cheese.
Over the course of a dinner and a lunch, we sampled an array of items and came away impressed with each dish and the accompanying sides. The baconated mac and cheese and the Gruyere- and caramelized onion-smothered French dip sandwich were particular standouts as were the whiskey burger, which arrived cooked medium as requested and dripping with awesome sauce.
The Southern chicken salad came chock-full of crispy hand-battered chicken, greens, smoked bacon, tomatoes, avocado, chopped eggs and croutons with a creamy ranch dressing. Good gosh, I'm full again just thinking about that salad.
We were so full, in fact, that we passed on dessert and saved that for our second visit where I purposefully packed up half of my French dip and eagerly ordered the Bourbon Ice Cream Sliders.
This shareable plate comes with a trio of honey bourbon ice cream sandwiches between flaky profiterole "buns." There's plenty of decadent marshmallow whiskey fudge sauce to go around, yet three is an odd number (ha!) to pick for a dessert plate when so many people dine in groups of two or four. These aren't the easiest things to cut in half, but you'll try because you won't be able to bear the thought of leaving any on the plate.
I also like that the desserts get top billing on the menu, an approach borrowed from White Chocolate Grill.
Our servers were friendly, yet the service could have been a bit more attentive when it came to clearing empty plates and cocktail glasses, and filling water, especially during lunch.
I'm looking forward to a return trip so I can dive deeper into the menu (the pulled pork, stacked chicken enchiladas and whiskey-infused mashed potatoes caught my eye) and further my whiskey education.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not review restaurants is cannot recommend.