On any given weekend evening, hungry diners wait, and wait, and wait for a table at any number of the chain restaurants and steakhouses in Woodfield's shadow.
What these people don't realize is that there's a restaurant right on Golf Road that combines the best of the these places -- steak as good as the well-known steakhouses, pasta that outshines the chains, and flatbread and salads on par with trendy eateries -- where there's no wait at all.
Fresh 18001800 E. Golf Road, Schaumburg (at the Hyatt), (847) 517-6930, schaumburg.hyatt.com
Cuisine: French-inspired, seasonally focused
Setting: Sleekly simple modern space with mix of booths and free-standing tables
Entrees: $14 to $22 (dinner)
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Fresh 1800 sits on the first floor of the Hyatt Woodfield Schaumburg and could be the town's best-kept dining secret.
Sure people tend to think of the Hyatt when it comes to holiday buffet brunches, but the other 360-some days of the year the dining room sits shamefully underused, waiting for the business people and tourists staying upstairs to come down for a bite. That's the way of hotel dining, chef Spencer Wolff explains, providing a menu that will sway guests from leaving the property for the myriad restaurants nearby.
I say it's high time to fill those seats, and with Wolff's unpretentious farm-to-fork menu Fresh 1800 has the potential to do just that. The menu offers enough variety to please Hyatt guests and is elegant enough to appeal to locals looking for a fine meal away from the supermall din.
The decor is a sleek mix of breezy colors and earthy wood and stone. The atmosphere is one of modern sophistication and could rival many downtown dining destinations.
We started our dinner with flatbread; its crisp -- yet not too much so -- crust was scattered with tender red peppers and Italian sausage. It's definitely enough to share, or add a soup -- the paprika-tinged Spanish vegetable soup, perhaps? -- and call it a light meal.
Other starters include grilled chicken quesadilla, sauteed scallops on a bed of saffron-scented cauliflower purée (which I quite enjoyed on a previous visit) and Wolff's mussels steamed in herbed white wine.
Salads can cross over from first course to main course as well. Passing on the Cobb and Caesar options we went with the goat cheese salad and were greeted with vibrant greens tossed with bits of roasted squash and two discs of toasty goat cheese. Dressed with a champagne vinaigrette and flecked with pepitas, it provided a pleasant transition to the entrees.
We sampled a trio of entrees with mixed results. The salmon pasta Alfredo -- the pasta of the day -- was the most solid effort. The creamy sauce and well-cooked fish worked together without becoming too heavy. The seared halibut (the daily special) was a bit on the salty side for one in our party, allowing the beluga lentils to shine brighter than they might have otherwise. The tiny black legumes resemble the caviar of the same name and are the perfect partner -- in texture and color -- to the fish.
The New York strip steak arrived with beautiful grill marks and a bold cabernet sauvignon sauce, but a tad over the medium mark. At 12 ounces it was still moist and flavorful; gratin-like potato cake and al dente French green beans were well-executed classic accompaniments.
Other entrees include roasted chicken with sauteed arugula, grilled salmon in tomato-fennel broth and a burger topped with horseradish sauce, onion jam and aged white cheddar.
The menu changes often and Wolff said come spring he'll be taking more advantage of the vegetable garden on the hotel grounds. Cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, edible flowers, sweet and hot peppers and more will find their way onto his menu.
Desserts proved a mixed bag. The warm, caramel-studded apple pie hit the spot, especially on a wintry night, but the lava cake left us cold. The chocolate cake boasted dark, robust flavor, yet lacked the molten center that gives the cake its name. I learned later that Wolff was not in the kitchen on the evening of my visit. Still, his staff should be better able to execute the menu.
The service was professional and attentive, though not overly so, and helped lead us to wine pairings. I opted for a California Cabernet with the steak; Wolff suggests Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel.
Next time you're in the Woodfield area, skip the stale nearby options for the Fresh 1800 experience.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.