Inspired by a trip to the South, Edwin Rios decided to bring the Gulf Coast pastry beignets to the Midwest. The veteran restaurateur, who previously ran Chicago's Rumba, opened Say Beignet Coffee & Wine Bar at the Bolingbrook Promenade in May and already has dreams of expanding the concept throughout the suburbs.
Motif: A coffee counter serves drinks and grab-and-go food, with plenty of two-person tables if you want to linger. The space uses muted, natural colors and stacked brick walls to provide a mellow vibe. The dining area features semiprivate plush gray booths that big groups can take over. The bar area has two TVs tuned to sports and plenty of outlets so you can plug in your laptop and get some work done while relaxing with a glass of wine or fresh-brewed coffee.
Say Beignet Coffee & Wine Bar627 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook, (630) 914-5870, saybeignet.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
The large space's windows are all open when the weather's nice and you won't even have to open a door to go between the dining room and the 1,300-square foot patio. Decorated with couches and dark brown leather chairs, the patio is lined with heat lamps that will keep it open into the fall.
Food: The menu combines New Orleans and classic French flavors with wine bar staples like flatbreads and charcuterie. The signature beignets are offered as savory sandwiches that can be split to make a great appetizer, the bread crisp and warm with an almost cornbread-like consistency. The ratatouille beignet was the best dish we tried, filled with roasted tomato, onion and zucchini and plenty of goat cheese. You can also get a trio of sweet beignets, stuffed with banana cream, chocolate raspberry cheesecake or apple cinnamon. The fillings aren't super well-distributed, so if you're sharing you might have to fight for the best bites.
The entrees are a bit small for the price. The po'boy sandwich -- featuring lightly spiced shrimp served with lettuce, tomato, egg and a corn salsa -- was overwhelmed by the chewy bread. While it does soak up the sauce nicely, a savory beignet takes up most of the plate for the shrimp & Andouille étouffée, leaving too little of the meat and dirty rice.
Liquid consumption: Lavazza coffee, smoothies and Mighty Leaf teas dominate the menu during the day, giving way to wines by the glass and bottle at night. You can try small pours of any of their glass varieties as part of a flight, with popular options including The Crusher Petite Sirah, Predator Zinfandel and Kung Fu Girl Riesling. There's also a selection of a dozen craft beers including New Orleans' Abita Purple Haze. A cocktail and martini menu is in the works.
Crowd: Women dominate the crowd here, with plenty of big groups of friends as well as couples. Guys are a bit more common at lunch. The age range is mid-30s to 70s.
Service: Our server proved very knowledgeable when it came to both the food and wine menu, guiding us through the offerings and providing recommendations, then checking in to make sure we liked everything. You can spot the owner walking around to tables and chatting with customers.
Music: Say Beignet hosts live jazz music Thursday through Sunday nights, with performers either playing indoors near the bar or on the patio depending on the weather. The bar also plans to roll out a jazz brunch on July 27.
Parking: There's plenty of parking to be found in the mall's free lot.
Overall: Say Beignet Coffee & Wine Bar brings the tastes, sounds and relaxed atmosphere of the Big Easy to Bolingbrook.