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Article updated: 12/11/2012 11:36 AM

Stone Eagle Tavern soars in Hoffman Estates


The new Stone Eagle Tavern in Prairie Stone Crossing lifestyle center is a refreshing addition to the area's chain-dominated restaurant scene, excelling in food, service, atmosphere and value.

A pair of oversized carved limestone eagles, circa 1910 and salvaged from an East Coast federal building, flank the entrance at 4680 Hoffman Blvd. This "tavern" is much more of a fine restaurant or "power" meal destination than a pub, with a décor rich in dark woods, black leather and other natural materials.

Even the restrooms are graced with either a crystal chandelier and/or vintage wall sconces. The dining room houses a collection of wood powerboat models, while the bar, called Jungle Jim's Oyster Bar, has an African safari theme, complete big game mounts like a Bengal tiger and a lion from a private collection willed to owner Jimmy Vitale. Those who aren't fond of taxidermy may choose to eat in the dining room.

Vitale, a lifelong restaurateur and antiques collector, chose this site for his second Stone Eagle Tavern because of good demographics and proximity to the tollway. His four-year-old original is in Rockford.

"I love to collect, and I love the restaurant business," said Vitale, who counts the Hoffman Estates spot as the eighth he's opened. He especially enjoys the social aspects of dining out.

I enjoyed the dining room experience, beginning with perusing the list of 24 wines by the glass, surprisingly value-priced from $4 to $8. My California Sauvignon Blanc of unknown vintage was very good and can cost twice as much elsewhere.

Stone Eagle also offers some serious cocktails, including a New Orleans-style Hurricane, brunch drink favorites and the owner's selection of 50-year-old rare cognacs, starting at $25 per snifter. The 22-selection "Tavern Starters" menu is a clue to the vast choices throughout the menu, which stays the same from lunch through dinner. It was not easy to choose an appetizer from the list including escargot in browned butter and parsley and three variations of bruschetta.

We picked the Brie and asparagus crostini, accented with fresh basil and bits of tomato. The luscious, creamy cheese melted just enough on the homemade focaccia. Two of us shared the five pieces but regretted some stringiness in the unpeeled asparagus and the parmesan out of a shaker instead of fresh-grated.

Sharing two entrees, we sampled generous portions of pot roast and walleye. Again, we had a hard time deciding from the many choices that range from shrimp de Jonghe to prime steaks. Except for the steaks, the "Stone Eagle Specialties," most of which include a side dish, are moderately priced from $8.99 to $12.99.

The pot roast is listed in a smaller section called "Tavern Food" that has the same price range. A composed presentation in a large pasta bowl separated the chunks of beef and gravy from the mound of garlic mashed potatoes and the sides of roasted carrots and potato wedges. Peas sprinkled on top added a splash of color.

This filling dish is a good choice for a cold or rainy day when you're really hungry for comfort food. The beef was tender and could be pulled apart with a fork. Two kinds of potato is overkill, in my opinion, but otherwise this dish is a winner.

For lighter appetites, the oven-roasted walleye from Canada is a flavorful choice. Dusted in seasoned flour, the two filets are baked in browned lemon butter and garnished with parsley and scallions. I don't often find walleye on local menus, so this was a tasteful treat.

My chosen side was a mixed green salad with a hard-boiled egg and Italian dressing, which lacked pepper. To our personable server's credit, she didn't recite the long list of dressing choices but instead asked what I liked.

Other parts of the menu we did not have room to sample are greens, soups of the day, sandwiches, wood-fired brick oven pizza and the nearly dozen 10-ounce burgers. Our server's presentation of the dessert tray convinced us not to skip a sweet ending to our repast.

Like the breads, the desserts are made in-house, a good sign that the owner takes special pride in the business. We chose the warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce, which measured up nicely to others I've had.

Stone Eagle Tavern is a welcome addition to the northwest suburbs and should be on diners' shortlists for many occasions.

• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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