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Article posted: 9/20/2013 6:00 AM

Food, drinks keep racing-themed Saddle Room on track

You can watch horse racing and place bets at The Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates.

You can watch horse racing and place bets at The Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

Duck is among the entrees at The Saddle Room.

Duck is among the entrees at The Saddle Room.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

The Saddle Room’s blueberry mojito features muddled mint and fresh berries.

The Saddle Room's blueberry mojito features muddled mint and fresh berries.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

The Saddle Room opened in November in Hoffman Estates.

The Saddle Room opened in November in Hoffman Estates.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

Horse-themed decor reinforces the name at Hoffman Estates’ The Saddle Room.

Horse-themed decor reinforces the name at Hoffman Estates' The Saddle Room.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

Bartender Maria Kuc prepares a drink at The Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates.

Bartender Maria Kuc prepares a drink at The Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

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By Samantha Nelson

Whether you're looking for a place to have a romantic dinner, lounge by the fireplace with some drinks or share a meal with your family, the segmented space at The Saddle Room, which opened in November, has you covered. Not only will you get whatever atmosphere you're looking for, but you'll also enjoy inventive food and drinks.

Motif: The front area features a bar with a glowing background lighting the spirits selection and three flat screens tuned to sports. Exposed bulbs hang from the rafters above the mix of tall tables and matching booths. The rough stone brick walls have embedded lights. True to the bar's name, hanging saddles and other riding equipment decorate the area, while blown-up newspaper stories about horse races are mounted on the walls.

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The Saddle Room

2559 Pratum Ave., Hoffman Estates, (847) 645-7500
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Near the bar is a four-sided wood-burning fireplace, in use from September through June 1. Lined with couches and wood tables, the space serves as a lounge for people waiting to be seated. There are two dining rooms, one that's kid-friendly and one that's adults-only where tables can be curtained off for extra privacy. A soundproof meeting room seats 24 and has four TVs for presentations. The quietest section of The Saddle Room is the wine bar, which only seats groups of four or less. The space has its own wood-burning fireplace and offers 20 extra wines and a tapas menu in addition to the regular offerings.

The Saddle Room also has a huge patio, lined with boxes filled with flowers and herbs that supply the kitchen. It's equipped with wicker chairs, wood tables, couches and two fireplaces that keep people outside well into the winter.

While you could miss it if you didn't know where to look, The Saddle Room has a section for off-track betting with a sunken bar and individual TVs to provide a better view of the horse races.

Crowd: The space brings an eclectic crowd from well-dressed couples to guys in shorts on the patio to serious horse racing fans, though the average age is typically 30 and up.

Food: I was impressed with everything I tried at The Saddle Room, where about half of the menu changes every three months to take advantage of local produce. The spirit in the sambuca mussels doesn't give the seafood a licorice taste but does make them extra sweet. The eggplant press is an even better appetizer, with thin slices of eggplant covered with crispy browned cheese, savory marinara and shredded basil. The entrees were also excellent, with the gnocchi served very hot mixed with thick-cut house-made bacon and both dried and fresh figs, while the crispy-skinned duck is sweetened by blueberry sauce and served with a side of crunchy Brussels sprout leaves.

Liquid consumption: The Saddle Room doesn't use any bottled mixers or liqueurs, making all of its cocktail ingredients from scratch. The quality shows in the blueberry mojito, which is muddled with lots of mint and fresh blueberries, and the Don Quijote, a version of a margarita using fresh-squeezed lime and orange juice. The peach sangria, made with sake in addition to wine, is so strong I was happy my server offered me a sample before I ordered it. Beyond cocktails, the spot also has 450 wines by the bottle and 44 by the glass and plenty of craft beers on draft and by the bottle.

Service: Our server was nice and knowledgeable. He explained the menu, made spot-on recommendations, timed our courses well and checked in regularly. When he didn't have a wine recommendation for our entree choices, he consulted a co-worker and came back with some options.

Parking: There are plenty of spots in the big free parking lot.

Added extra: As a fun nod to the theme, The Saddle Room's bathrooms are all unisex and built to resemble horse stalls, complete with a name and care instructions on the door of each one.

Overall: The regularly changing menu and bevy of dining and drinking options make The Saddle Room a place worth visiting.

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