West End Restaurant & Bar is nothing fancy, but it hits the spot for tasty servings of made-from-scratch foods.
This non-chain restaurant is divided into two sections -- the dual-level dining room and a bar, separated by a windowed wall. Comfortable padded chairs encourage lingering, and seating can be arranged to accommodate larger parties.
West End Restaurant & Bar629 S. 8th St., West Dundee, (847) 551-1868, westendrestaurantbar.com
Cuisine: American comfort food
Entrees: $9.50 to $16.95
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Owner Steve Minginas opened West End in the former Regina's space as a family dining restaurant with a separate sports bar. "It's upscale American cuisine with a flair -- not typical bar food," he said.
On the alcoholic beverage side, West End is more of a beer than a wine destination, with six draft beers and several bottled craft brews. The 14-bottle wine list, though, offers nothing special.
Starters are hearty portions meant to be shared, from grilled calamari marinated with andouille sausage, peppers and onions on a bed of roasted red bell peppers to chicken wings with a choice of five sauces.
We began with the quesadilla, a nicely sized portion of flour tortillas cut into four wedges and stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and two cheeses. Although light on the cheese, the dish was very good, even without accenting it with one of the three dips -- pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream.
Given a choice of soup or salad with my entree, I chose the soup of the day, lentil in a light tomato base with diced carrots and celery. The taste profile was excellent and not bland, as is a common trait of lentils when they lack sufficient flavorful accompaniments.
Perhaps due to West End's emphasis on its sports bar component, the menu is heavy on sandwiches and burgers. We tried the Cuban panini, a combination of roasted pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickle chips, red onions and roasted garlic aioli on focaccia, which came with steak fries. The sandwich was too salty and not one we would order again.
I was disappointed to find the lemon-baked whitefish on the menu was "out of season." I went instead with the salmon, which proved a bit dry and could have used more blackening spices and more mango jalapeño salsa.
Its accompaniments were top-notch, however -- baby spinach that had been lightly sautéed in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and herbed quinoa, which was a pleasant alternative to the usual rice. A variety of potatoes were an option for the starch side.
Other entrees on this limited part of the menu were filet mignon stuffed with mushrooms and basil cream cheese, flank steak on whiskey mustard barbecue sauce, lobster mac and cheese, grilled chicken breast with bacon and Swiss cheese, fish or chicken tacos and two pastas. Daily specials also are served.
Only two desserts are listed on the regular menu, chocolate cake and fried peach cake. The latter sounded more interesting, and it proved to be an excellent way to end the meal. Two deep-fried logs made from won ton wrappers enclosed vanilla ice cream and diced fresh peaches, flavored with cinnamon sugar. The portion was perfect for two and not overly sweet.
We later learned there was a third dessert as a daily special that our server had failed to mention. Service was an issue in general on this particular day. Our overworked waitress apologized for the long wait times, which she blamed on being short-staffed during an unexpectedly busy meal time. No busboys appeared till the end of our meal, so our used dishes remained on the table as new courses came out. We hope this situation is not routine.
All in all, West End has potential. It's a comfortable place with a neighborhood feel that's a good choice for those nights when cooking at home is not appealing. For sports fans, it's also a good place for watching the game.