'100 times better': North Point Kitchen + Bar remakes old roadside tavern on Forest Lake
A former roadhouse-style tavern overlooking a private lake near Hawthorn Woods and Lake Zurich has been completely renovated and is back in business with a new owner, name, kitchen and menu.
North Point Kitchen + Bar is named for its location on Lakeside Drive on the northeast corner of Forest Lake. Beginning in the 1970s until closing several years ago, the frame building was home to Kathy's Lakeside Inn, a popular place with a colorful history.
Those now are distant memories as the bar has been rebuilt and transformed. In its place, chef and owner Joel Gilbert and his wife, Ashley, have created a bright space serving fresh, homemade Italian-inspired craft bar food from a scratch kitchen.
"Trying to picture the way it used to look is hard now," Ashley Gilbert said.
The greasy flat top is long gone and Kathy's former living quarters converted to a full-service kitchen. Sticky carpeting was torn out and new flooring laid. Pool tables were removed and an indoor patio created. Huge windows were installed to provide panoramic lake views and light to what had been a dark atmosphere.
"This is 100 times better than what it was before," Hawthorn Woods Mayor Dominick DiMaggio said before a recent ribbon cutting. "This is something our community really needs. The view is just spectacular."
The evolving menu includes six appetizers, four specialty brick-oven pizzas and a variety of sandwiches, burgers and bowls. Craft beer from Phase Three Brewing in Lake Zurich and Tighthead Brewing Company in Mundelein, a selection of red and white wines and handcrafted cocktails created by Chicago mixologist Tanner Greenlee also are available.
Joel Gilbert said he's been involved in the food industry since he was 14. A chef for 20 years, Gilbert said he worked at restaurants in Chicago and country clubs in Arizona, where he earned a culinary degree.
The couple also have been regulars at local farmers markets with Butter & Biscuit Co., selling baked biscuits, sandwiches, and homemade compound butters.
Joel Gilbert said he tired of working for others and explored opening a fast-casual breakfast/brunch location in Arlington Heights. He pivoted after family members bought the Lakeside Road property but the concept wasn't a good fit in that location, he added.
"It's kind of a gold mine if someone could do the right thing with it," he explained. "I wanted to do something fun for the community."
However, work on the Lakeside Drive property was delayed about a year and a half with the onset of COVID. North Point opened about three weeks ago.
The couple grew up in the area -- Ashley in Long Grove and Joel in Buffalo Grove -- and now live within walking distance of their first brick-and-mortar venture.
"We've taken all the things we love and thrown them into one spot," Joel Gilbert said.