Neat Kitchen + Bar, which opened at 246 N. Cass Ave. in Westmont last summer, focuses its small menu on simple preparations with high-quality ingredients. What you get are tasty, sophisticated takes on bar food favorites that you can enjoy in a casual atmosphere.
Motif: Tables are set with oil lamps inside Mason jars while exposed light bulbs hang overhead. Black and white photos from the Westmont Historical Society line the walls. The bar sports a pair of TVs and you can also grab a seat on the small enclosed patio in front. A wooden case behind the host stand shows off Neat's impressive wine collection. A second dining room with its own bar and a fireplace hosts private parties and special dinners.
Neat Kitchen + Bar246 N. Cass Ave., Westmont, (630) 568-8688, neatkitchenandbar.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Food: We were impressed with every dish we tried on Neat's menu. Pork fans will enjoy the crispy pork belly served on a bao bun with thinly sliced cucumbers, scallions and hoisin sauce, and the pork wings are crisp on top, tender inside and especially good topped in spicy Sriracha sauce. Other tasty starters are the aged ham served with house-made whole grain beer mustard, which used to be a special but proved so popular it got added to the regular menu, and charred asparagus served with miso dressing and a fried duck egg.
For a main course, order the spectacular Neat Burger. The patty is made from a mix of brisket, short rib and ground chuck making it ultra tender and juicy. It's then topped with crispy shallots, Asian mayonnaise, cheddar and a duck egg that mix together to add savory creaminess. For another option, try the steak tacos, with finely chopped meat topped with crunchy green apple salsa. If you're looking for a side, the fried Brussels sprouts topped with salsa verde have proved a hit with kids and adults.
Save room for dessert if you can. The mixed berry bread pudding is accompanied by a potent whiskey caramel sauce, and the flourless chocolate cake is much less dense than the dish normally is, served with a rum sauce and topped with a layer of caramelized banana and vanilla gelato.
Liquid consumption: Neat carries more than 100 craft beers, including 10 taps that rotate constantly. The mix features local brews but also traditional Belgians. The six signature cocktails offer fresh takes on the classics, like the refreshing and not-too-sweet blueberry sage mojito. The drink list also includes 90 types of whiskey and bourbon, with an emphasis on small-batch and craft spirits, plus a selection of affordable wines by the glass from small producers.
Neat is applying for a retail license that would let them sell bottles of wine and plans to promote its selection by hosting wine tastings once or twice a month and setting up a wine club and eventually a beer club, too. The spot already hosts beer, wine or whiskey dinners about once a month, keeping things casual with the menu focusing on small bites that pair well with the drinks.
Crowd: During the week, Neat brings in lots of families looking for a comfortable place where the kids can still get chicken fingers. Couples and groups pack the place on the weekend. Groups of women come in on Wednesdays and Thursdays to take advantage of the half-price wine or $5 martinis.
Music: Guitar instructors from a local music shop perform blues and jazz every other Monday, sometimes bringing in their more advanced students and their families. The bar also hosts local acoustic acts and full bands several times a month on Friday or Saturday.
Service: The servers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the whole menu, sharing their favorites and pairing suggestions while offering to ask someone else when we had questions they couldn't answer.
Parking: The small free lot can fill up during busy times, but there's also free street parking nearby.
Overall: Neat Kitchen + Bar has brought some deliciously fresh flavors to the western suburbs.