Allegory in Naperville makes a statement with creative farm-to-table fare
Gone are the hundreds of garish hot sauce bottles on shelves lining the exposed brick walls and the Mardi Gras decor of the former Heaven on Seven in downtown Naperville. In its place are understated window frames and herb boxes spaced sparingly above each booth and string lights hanging from the wood rafters, evoking a casual outdoor patio feel at newish farm-to-table restaurant Allegory that took its place.
While the intimate long dining room with dark wood booths flanking either side and wood tables in the middle remains relatively unchanged -- the backlit bar still greets guests as you walk in -- what hasn't changed is the noise level. Which my friends and I commented on to each other almost immediately after being seated in the bustling space on a recent Saturday night. There's very much a city vibe here -- think boisterous conversations and pop/indie music played a touch too loud.
No matter: We were here for the seasonal, locally sourced comfort food.
Lucky for us, we had an excellent, attentive and honest server to guide us in our culinary journey. Know this if you check Allegory's menu online before going: Don't set your sights on any one particular dish as it may not be available when you visit. As our server explained, chef/owner Christopher Mason likes to use the freshest locally sourced produce and meats available, so the day's dishes may change based on what is delivered to the restaurant that morning. Case in point, my friend wanted the Move to the Beet salad she saw on Allegory's website, but it wasn't available on our visit.
Instead, the Chef's Never Bored -- featuring various salamis, small bites of melt-in-your-mouth cheeses (the blue cheese was particularly creamy and notable), apple slices, green olives, addictive candied walnuts, three petite slices of bread and lavosh, and jam and mustard for dipping -- was a nice shared starter. Though more bread would have been welcome, the plate was a nice size for two or three diners to share. And it complemented my glass of pinot grigio.
Looking over the day's menu, other Smalls (appetizers) that tempted were Tomates Verdes Fritos (fried green tomatoes, roasted sweet corn, grilled peach salsa and creme a la dilly dilly) and We Wanted to Cook Octopus (baby octopus, chorizo, grape tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, pickled sweet peppers, olives and sourdough crostini).
Moving on to the main course, I debated between the more rarely seen ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, turnips, leek, fennel and grilled sourdough) and the Short Rib-less (12-hour braised short ribs atop roasted garlic red smashed potatoes covered in a wild mushroom demi sauce and topped with a fennel-onion-carrot slaw). Our server described the short ribs as a restaurant staple, so that's what I ordered, and I was not disappointed. The towering dish featured fork-tender short ribs in a delicious, comforting gravy that perfectly complemented the chunky garlic smashed potatoes. The carrot slaw added a nice, refreshing crunch to round out the dish.
My friend ordered the ratatouille, the flavorful veggies almost spilling over the individual cast-iron skillet. From the Hands-y portion of the menu (tongue-in-cheek descriptors are de rigueur throughout the menu), another dining companion tried the Bleu My Mind! burger featuring a thick, juicy hand-packed patty topped with arugula, horseradish crema, crispy mushrooms, Gorgonzola and onion frizzle on a buttered brioche bun with a side of house fries. While the burger itself was tasty, the Gorgonzola made it a little too rich.
For dessert, our server quickly mentioned the three homemade options: olive oil cake, deconstructed apple streusel and ice cream. Olive oil cake? Yes, really. Described as a sort of blond brownie with olives baked in the middle, our server rushed through the explanation saying that if you like olives you might enjoy it. Given how unusual it sounded, we tried it. It was an interesting combination of sweet and salty. "It was better than I expected," was one friend's response. The apple streusel, with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle, was a highlight.
Unfortunately, there wasn't a printed dessert menu, which would have been helpful for both us and our server. The noise level made it hard to hear if he said olive oil cake or olive cake. And we weren't offered coffee or after-dinner drinks, which we probably would have ordered considering that we stayed around for awhile after our meal chatting.
But those are minor quibbles to an otherwise delightful meal.
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224 S. Main St., Naperville, (630) 536-8862, allegorynaperville.com/
Setting: Intimate, city vibe
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, closed Monday
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.