Forget the meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
On a recent afternoon, diners had their pick of either the seared fish with cilantro chimichurri sauce (say that ten times fast) or grilled chicken, topped with corn and bean salsa.
Sound like a high-priced eatery for snobby foodies? The Stars-n-Stripes Cafe only welcomes a donation. Take a look around, and you'll find a graying clientele drawn to low calories and camaraderie.
"Seniors are no different from anyone else," says Barbara Kurth-Schuldt. "You really want to offer them a wide variety of foods, freshly cooked (and) of high quality."
Kurth-Schuldt is Hanover Township's senior services director. The township has long offered food programs at its Senior Center, but those never gained much of a following.
So officials cleaned house (er, kitchen?) and hired full-time head chef Lisa Slowik, who manages to come up with two new lunch entrees each day.
Next week, construction crews will begin to convert the center's conference area into more prep space. The project will add about 225 square feet to the kitchen and make way for four aeroponic garden towers. Program Manager Tracey Colagrossi spotted the contraptions (requiring no soil and little water) at O'Hare.
"I thought it would be an innovative way to bring that farm-to-table concept even further in our expanded service," she said.
The work is a response to the cafe's popularity. Since opening in early January, the lunch spot has catered to more than 3,000 residents. How does Kurth-Schuldt explain the turnaround?
"There are very few senior centers who create their own meal programs as healthy and inventive as this," she said.
The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Senior Center, 240 S. Route 59, Bartlett. Donations ($4 for seniors over 60, $6 for seniors under 60) are encouraged.
For details, call (630) 213-6299.