Menu, renovations give Palatine's Brandt's a new lease on life
To those of you who cornered me at the Y, stopped me while I walked my dog and chatted me up at school functions, I have the answer: Yes, I've been to the new Brandt's. My question back is, "Why haven't you?"
Perched at the intersection of Northwest Highway and Quentin Road, Brandt's is a longtime Palatine favorite that faced an uncertain future earlier this year. A couple of Palatine pals purchased the 130-year-old building, which has housed a restaurant since the 1940s. In late March, Brandt's The Little Cafe reopened as Brandt's of Palatine.
Gone are the rickety fence that hid a tiny beer garden and the ivy trailing up the front. The kitchen has been updated with new equipment, the downstairs dining area reconfigured and brightened and the bathrooms remodeled. A second women's bathroom upstairs will open soon, promises owner Walt Oswald. Paving the parking lot and adding outdoor dining are in the plans -- though don't bank on them for this season, he adds.
Yet, the changes are not all cosmetic.
The menu has been revamped with value and variety in mind.
There's still a nightly steak special and jumbo fried shrimp, and of course the famous ribs and burgers, but don't look for crab legs and lobster. Those pricey items have been pushed aside to make way for family -- and wallet -- friendly fare.
On the appetizer side alone, sliders, wings (of the bone-in and boneless variety), chicken quesadillas, jumbo soft pretzels and steak empanadas have been added to the assortment of fried mushrooms, cheese sticks and calamari.
The Brandt's burger remains on the menu and continues to be a top seller. And, as our waitress was quick to point out the meat purveyor has not changed with the change in ownership so the high quality patties continue to please.
What did change is buns -- you can now pick pretzel, rye, sesame or butter -- and the option to select two sides. My favorite way to eat a burger is still with muenster and a generous mustard smear. My burger was grilled just the way I like it with a hint of pink. As for sides, the hand-sliced chips were crisped to perfection.
The sweet potato fries (one of the new items) were quite pleasing as well. I was less impressed with the macaroni and cheese (available as a side or on the kids menu); blah best describes it.
The Buffalo chicken wrap, however, was far from blah. The chicken was seasoned with enough hot sauce to keep things interesting, but not enough that you needed to down a beverage to cool things off.
The chili remains a family favorite, full of beans and beef and mild enough for my seventh grader to gobble up. The grilled cheese sandwich was a hit with the youngest diner at our table, who declared it the fourth best grilled cheese he's ever eaten, ranking just behind the ones I toast up at home.
Ribs remain on the menu as well -- I think there'd be a revolt in Palatine if they didn't. Brats have been imported from Wisconsin's Brat Stop and are best enjoyed with mustard and grilled onions.
The dining room at Brandt's remains tight -- tables are packed in close and you just need to accept that you'll have to scootch your chair to accommodate others squeezing into their seats. Everyone does it with a smile, because that's the friendly, small-town vibe that Brandt's continues to foster.
In the evenings as dinner service winds down, you'll find a cast of regulars hanging out at the bar catching up with the Cubs, talking about the markets or sharing pictures from their kids' baseball games and dance recitals. New faces are warmly welcomed.
Wine has been added to the beverage menu with several affordable by-the-glass selections, but beer remains the beverage of choice for pairing with the burgers and ribs.
I'm raising a glass of Leinie's Summer Shandy hoping that Brandt's of Palatine will thrive a good long while.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Brandt's of Palatine807 W. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, (847) 496-4388, brandtsofpalatine.com
Cuisine: Burgers, sandwiches, ribs
Setting: 130-year-old stone farmhouse
Entrees: $6.95 to $18.95
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday