Wauconda's The Side Lot blurs the line between casual and fine dining.

Wauconda, IL - When talking about restaurants, there is generally a bright line between bars, casual sit-downs, and fine-dining restaurants. The newly reworked Side Lot in Wauconda blurs that line with one of the most delicious and unique experiences I've visited in the Suburbs.

If you're familiar with downtown Wauconda, then The Side Lot isn't new to you from the outside. Owners Brittany Barth and Phil Castello opened the venue in late 2015 as Side Lot Brewery. But over the past year, the pair have turned the focus of the business from exclusively craft beer to an exciting blend of craft cocktails, fine wine, and an unexpected menu.

Castello quickly points out that Side Lot's beers are only gone for a while.

"As far as our brewing goes, we're negotiating with some of our colleagues at other breweries to brew for us on contract, which will keep Side Lot beers on tap in a more special release capacity."

During my visit, the taps were full of craft beer from mostly locally owned breweries like Roaring Table in Lake Zurich, Crystal Lake Brewery, and Off Color in Chicago, among others. So there is no shortage of delicious suds for the craft beer drinker.

Moving the brewing operation allowed Side Lot more space to expand its food menu, and the culinary team has pulled out all the stops. The daily dinner menu offers casual favorites, as you would expect, but with a gourmet twist.

Items like a Better than Breakfast Burger with spicy homemade ketchup or Magic Mushroom Smashburger with red wine mushrooms and truffle aioli jump right off the menu, but the list continues.

We snacked on shareable appetizers of Tuna Ceviche and a plate of Burrata with heirloom tomato confit and prosciutto. Both were plated beautifully and absolutely to die for. I should also mention that Side Lot also offers brunch on Saturday & Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm.

The Side Lot offers a semi-industrial decor featuring a concrete bar top, exposed beams, and even a leather couch and chairs for an at-home living room feel. However, we did notice one large table set up with a white tablecloth, charger plates, and wine glasses, which is where the Side Lot team leans into fine dining.

We asked our server about the setup, and she started explaining Side Lot's Chef's Table Experience. Only available by reservation, these multi-course experiences offer guests an unbelievable tasting menu with wine and cocktail pairings. We watched as the sommelier poured glasses of Veuve Clicquot as the servers brought out a beautiful amuse-bouche. This experience ended with the Chef lighting a table side banana foster as the guests cheered and took videos.

The Side Lot offers two different Chef's Table Experiences for the winter. One is wine based and offers items like steak carpaccio & broiled red snapper. And another menu centered around scotch and whisky to pair with oysters, duck bacon BLT, and miso cod.

If those aren't enough to get you excited, there is a special 14-course tasting menu on February 11th called "For Two" that offers tastes from the most romantic places worldwide to celebrate Valentine's Day.

From my experience, the "new" Side Lot in Wauconda is a real hidden gem, whether you're looking for an everyday place to eat out or are searching for a real show-stopper of a dinner.

The Side Lot is located at 110 Slocum Lake Rd in Wauconda. Guests can make reservations on their website

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