Elmhurst's One Fifty One Kitchen blends rustic fare with urban flair
Owners of Elmhurst's new One Fifty One Kitchen/Bar wanted to open a Chicago-style restaurant in the suburbs. They succeeded by balancing a hip urban feel with genuine Midwestern warmth -- and by staying true to their roots.
Owners Jim and Kristi Blessing, who also own Pints, and chef Sean Sanders all hail from Elmhurst, and their menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients. In fact, Australian manager Beau Wilson jokes that he's one of the few things at One Fifty One that's not locally sourced.
The restaurant opened in November across the street from the York Theatre. The interior comfortably mixes clean urban lines with rustic touches, like the whimsical animal head sculptures mounted on the wall. Glass dividers and faux grasses provide a sense of intimacy for diners, while an abstract mural along a side wall creates a peaceful, landscape-like backdrop. The result is upscale yet casual, with servers bustling about in plaid shirts and jeans.
The smallish menu tips toward American comfort food, but with creative twists that made each dish we tasted a surprise -- and a delight.
The baked Brie starter was the perfect example. Forget the pastry-wrapped, preserves-topped party appetizer most of us associate with baked Brie. One Fifty One's version was a simple yet beautifully presented dish that drew an explosion of flavors from candied orange strips, walnuts, figs and sage oil -- and a slight kick from drizzles of jalapeño honey. It was an ideal medley of taste and texture: sweet and savory, creamy with a crunch.
The Brie made a strong first impression and I'd gladly order it again, though other appetizers that passed us by -- including a house-made giardiniera with cheese and mounds of twice-cooked Kennebec Fries -- were also intriguing.
Among the menu's half-dozen salads, we took our server's recommendation and shared the Waldorf. Radicchio and arugula paired well with paper-thin slices of tart apples, crisps of kabocha squash and blue cheese crumbles. The greens were tossed with a just-right mustard vinaigrette and paired with a flavorful walnut yogurt well-worth eating even on its own.
Entrees included grilled pork chops with apple puree and a caramel sauce, hangar steak paired with popcorn grits and what looked to be a popular pulled pork sandwich. We went a bit lighter with pan-seared trout and brick-roasted chicken.
Our fish was mild and perfectly cooked but perhaps outshined by its pairings, including a tasty herbed latke and pickled fennel. The charred broccoli side was truly delicious -- a far cry from the bland renditions that give this vegetable an undeserved bad rap.
We enjoyed the brick-roasted chicken even more than the trout. The breast was juicy, moist and well-seasoned. It came with braised Swiss chard and crispy, garlicky diced potatoes that once again delivered on taste and texture and were a huge hit with this garlic lover.
Other dinner options included the tagliatelle with meat sauce and a vegetarian mushroom dish served with squash grits, pickled chard, arugula and spiced pepitas.
Three desserts competed for my sweet tooth: chocolate mousse, banana cake and sweet corn trifle. The mousse, a choice echoed by our server, won out -- and totally won us over. Twists of luscious, dark-chocolate mousse were lightly topped by crunchy hazelnuts and shared ample bowl space with a gooey, decadent orange caramel sauce, strips of tangy/sweet candied orange and creme fraiche. I'd like to say I was disciplined enough to leave a little, but I couldn't resist the rich, creamy forkfuls.
Service was outstanding throughout our meal. Hosts create a warm welcome at the entrance. Our friendly server made recommendations and checked in often. Even as the restaurant filled quickly during our Saturday night visit, service never lagged. And another server -- noticing our interest in the passing giardiniera -- stopped to see if we wanted to order our own. It was tempting, to be sure. But we had to give it a pass -- this time.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
One Fifty One Kitchen/Bar151 N. York St., Elmhurst, (331) 979-7198, 151elmhurst.com
Cuisine: American comfort food
Setting: Midwestern rustic meets urban contemporary
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday
Also: Reservations recommended. The restaurant will begin serving Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1.