FOX LAKE - On a dark and quiet Thursday evening, perfect for a date night, my date and I stepped off Nippersink Avenue and into the new restaurant occupying the corner across from the train tracks, Brickwood Bar & Grille.
A high-end steakhouse seems like an odd choice for a space where other restaurants have failed – in a town known as a laid-back boating community. But, we didn't feel like we were in Fox Lake anymore. It was like we'd teleported to Liberyville, where this place would be nestled between boutiques. It had a downtown aesthetic with the exposed brick and fine art prints as decor.
We had the option of sitting near the bar or in the dining room and chose the latter. There are plenty of tables for two, creating an intimate setting, especially when paired with the acoustic versions of pop songs playing in the background. Around us, couples talked quietly and a ladies night seemed to be happening at the table across from us.
The first thing we were handed was the wine menu. We'd heard Brickwood had a good wine selection, and it certainly offered a lot of variety.
After sharing complementary warm, fresh bread with butter, we ordered the calamari appetizer, and it arrived sizzling hot, breaded and soaked in marinara, with fresh lemon slices. My date was not a fan of still-tentacled calamari and went for the cut and breaded pieces. It was a generous size for two people, but we didn't take long to decide we'd eat it all anyway.
Next came the sides for our main courses. I ordered the night's special soup zuppa tuscana, creamy with bacon and potatoes. My companion had a salad with baby tomatoes and balsalmic dressing. The salad was fresh and the soup was hot.
We felt at ease and took our time with the courses. The staff was attentive and refilled our drinks as needed, but they gave us and the other guests enough space to match the setting's intimacy.
"This reminds me of my trip to Italy," my date said, referencing the smell of wine and the decor. We could almost forget it's still chilly in Lake County. It seems like the kind of place you'd go for a birthday or anniversary celebration.
My main course was the Baked Shrimp Dejohnge, soaked in butter and garlic. There were seven nicely-baked shrimp that seemed fresh enough to my tastes. Each of our entrees came with a side of potato: sweet potatoes, cheesy potatoes, tater tots, baked potatoes or mashed potatoes. The sweet potato fries were hot and flavorful, but didn't come with a dipping sauce.
My date ordered the 16-ounce New York strip steak, char-grilled and served with leafy spinach and a side of potato. She ordered it medium-well, and described it as "succulent, not dry." She said the leafy spinach was marinated in just enough butter. As for the baked potato, she said it was standard and wished they offered twice-baked.
We decided to go for dessert. Though we were quite stuffed, we'd taken it slow enough to fit in a final course. We shared a New York Cheesecake drizzled in berry sauce, and it definitely surpassed grocery store cheesecake. After wrapping up leftovers, we stepped out of this urban otherworld and back into the breeze coming off Lakefront Park.
Brickwood Bar & GrilleWhere: 1 Nippersink Blvd., Fox LakeHours: 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday; 4 through 8 p.m. SundayDress code: CasualInfo: Call 847-629-5132 or email firstname.lastname@example.org