Visit the trendy, vibrant Craft Urban in downtown Geneva and you'll find out firsthand why the 60-seat restaurant is causing a buzz.
Diners are drawn to the restaurant's eclectic menu, inviting decor and affordable prices.
Though Craft Urban opened in mid-November, owner-operator Bernie Laskowski is no stranger to the business.
"I've been involved in food service for more than 25 years," Laskowski says. The Everest Room, the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and Marche are all on his resume.
With Craft Urban, Laskowski remains committed to bringing a little bit of the city vibe to the suburbs.
Before moving in, Craft Urban's management renovated the space previously occupied by Nosh. A colorful striking wall-sized mural is now the focal point in the dining room. Created by Caesar Perez, the mural captures the image of Chicago-based designer Ava Grey. Chandeliers and brickwork also add visual interest. And new carpeting in the dining room was designed to soften the noise level.
Thirsty? The bar is stocked with eight locally produced beers on tap and 16 regional selections in bottles or cans. Thirty domestic and imported wines are sold by the bottle and 10 are available by the glass. Rounding out the drinks menu are 10 specialty cocktails such as the Gin & Giant Peach (Koval gin and Combier crème de peach), The Bees Knees (Chicago Distilling Co. vodka, singani and blood orange) and the Mint Chocolate Chip (Ballotin chocolate whiskey and fresh mint).
To start, take a look at the selection of Bar Snacks ($8 to $12), which includes shrimp cocktail, fondue, cheese curds and French onion dip.
From the Breads and Spreads list, I recommend the mashed avocado on thick slices of artisan multigrain toast. The dish was plated with lightly dressed mixed greens. Sunflower seeds, pepitas and pomegranate nicely complemented the avocado.
Among other dishes in that category were smoked salmon on artisan bread topped with shallots, capers and horseradish; hummus presented on flatbread with squash, carrots, celery and pine nuts; and a schmear: chicken, pork, mustard and shallots atop country bread.
Executive chef Andrew Sikkelerus showcases vegetables in eight hot or cold small plates. Among the choices are apple and walnut salad, roasted beet salad and the chef's favorite: Brussels sprouts with mushrooms and onions.
Moving on to dinner, shared hot or cold small plates and more substantial Largish Plates allow diners leeway to customize their meal. The same menu is available for lunch or dinner. However, keep in mind that what's presently on offer (such as Wisconsin Rainbow Trout, local beef short ribs and fried chicken) may change as the menu evolves.
Daily food or drink specials deserve consideration. If Taco Tuesday is still in the lineup, order this dish with confidence. The Barbakoa-style soft-shell taco comes with a flavorful helping of locally raised shredded beef filling. It was topped with napa cabbage and mixed greens in a lemony dressing.
Craft Urban's dessert list is short but sweet. Don't overlook the chocolate mousse -- it's something special. The mouthwatering treat materialized as a deconstructed s'more. Rich chocolate is topped with a torched marshmallow, crumbled graham cracker and a light sprinkle of sea salt. Heavenly doesn't begin to define this must-try indulgence.
Other choices include Mom's Pound Cake Yes Really, a handcrafted gelato sundae and seasonal pie, such as the apple with walnuts and gelato.
Of note: Though Craft Urban has a city vibe, families and their children are welcome. The small adult menu features the Craft Urban burger, grill'd cheez, shrimps, the chicken sammie and more.
Also, on Friday and Saturday, late-night ramen is available from 10 p.m. until whenever. And keep an eye out for the introduction of Sunday brunch, which is currently in the works.
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211 James St., Geneva, (331) 248-8161, crafturban.com/
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Setting: Stylish dining in an intimate setting
Prices: Appetizers: $6 to $8; entrees: $19 to $25
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Also: Reservations; full bar service
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.