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Opinion

Westmont's J. Fleming's makes for Absolutely Delicious dining experience

WESTMONT – Beginning his food industry career at age 12 with a local catering company, Executive Chef John Fleming’s 30 plus years of experience translates into dues being paid.

After graduating from Kendall College culinary school, John progressed through several kitchen stops in the city and suburbs.

Two notable stops included stints at the American Club in Kohler, Wisc. where he met his wife and as Chef de Cuisine of the Waterford at the Oak Brook Hills Resort. When a south Westmont strip mall location became available (it was Vincitori’s original location before their move to downtown Westmont), John seized the opportunity and began his continuing 14-year Westmont run in 2002.

Fast forward and John relocated to downtown Westmont in 2008; expanded his offerings to include lunch and dinner and most recently breakfast on the weekends; added entertainment on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and created the 2016 Reader’s Choice Best Outdoor Dining patio.

John’s philosophy is simple: He believes America to be a melting pot of many different cultures and tastes and has sculpted his menu to reflect this modern American theme. Dishes will incorporate ingredients or entire elements to reflect this approach.

A notable inside feature is the original Blazak Superior Cooler that was produced in Chicago and billed as a refrigerator for all purposes. It has been repurposed into a private dining room for six to 10 patrons and may be paired with a Chef’s special menu with appropriate notice or by request for daily dining.

Appetizers are varied and include a singular crab cake dressed with celery root slaw and a red pepper remoulade and coconut shrimp with a Napa cabbage slaw and plum chili sauce.

Our family is partial to the tomato and goat cheese fondue, which allows “dippers” like me to properly express myself. One of John’s absolutely delicious appetizers are his mussels. Pesto, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs combine with white wine to create a delicious broth for the mussels. The accompanying crostini ensure no drop is left behind.

While a daily soup special is always available, the baked French onion soup is always fulfilling. Onions are allowed to caramelize and when combined with a rich and hearty beef stock form the perfect base for the rich mantel of cheese and the crisp garlic crostini. Absolutely fantastic!

Salads offer a varied mix with garden and Caesar available as starters along with several entrée size options and specials. The Harvest Salad rotates ingredients featuring seasonally fresh options. It may include root vegetables and pecans when served as the Harvest Festival Salad or a combination of apples and pears julienned on the mandolin before a light sauté with a bit of sugar for caramelization for inclusion with candied walnuts, Wisconsin Blue cheese and cider vinaigrette forming the Apple Orchard Harvest salad.

The strawberry salad featured at the Taste of Westmont is a summer special and an often requested catering item.

With a vast sandwich selection to choose from at lunch and dinner, the steak sandwich and grilled vegetable sandwich are two of my favorites. But without question, the sandwich that put them on the map is 2016 Reader’s Choice Best Sandwich – the Cuban. They are everywhere, typically one on each table, all over the Taste of Westmont and at every catering event I’ve been to, and for good reason. Thin sliced roast pork pairs with spicy capicola and is topped with Swiss, Mojo sauce, tomatoes, onions and a pickle slice before being griddled on sturdy Tuscan style bread.

Dinner options are also numerous, once again spanning the sea of cultures that is America. My go to is the Campanelli Romesco. Campanelli are little bell shaped pasta with a ruffled edge so as to hold onto sauces. Here, they are combined with fresh spinach, artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nuts and incorporated into a tomato and Romano cream sauce. Optional shrimp bring this dish to the highest level.

The Grilled Pork Chop is prepared bone-in for flavor with a light lingonberry glaze adding depth. Served with spätzle, which are tiny German dumplings pan browned with fresh herbs and nutmeg, this preparation results in spätzle with crispy exteriors and creamy insides. A savory roasted garlic and shallot confit rounds out this dish.

While pot roast is typically a “winter” dish, it pairs nicely with cool, patio evenings. Braised beef shoulder is slow cooked till fork tender along with carrots, parsnips and fennel, resulting in a deeply flavored gravy and served on a bed of homemade mashed potatoes garnished with a sprig of rosemary.

One of the many specials offered nightly is the Herb Crusted Whitefish. Paired with sautéed spinach and white, wild rice, the simple sauce of lemon, butter, fresh herbs and Dijon mustard enhances the delicate flavor of the fish without overpowering.

Grilled Squash Roulade is a vegetarian option for all diners. Grilled zucchini and yellow squash slices are topped with ricotta, asiago, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, pine nuts and fresh basil, rolled then baked and served with sautéed spinach, grilled Portobello’s and fresh marinara sauce. It's sturdy, flavorful and a must try.

Dessert options include a fine cherry tart with sweet, dark cherries wrapped in pie crust, baked to a flakey golden brown and plated with ice cream. Simple, yet perfect and absolutely delicious. Bread pudding is always available and several versions of tiramisu work their way onto the specials list. Be alert for the berry tiramisu, a summer only special.

The breakfast or brunch menu on weekends is extensive with options from skillets to pancakes, omelets to waffles, French toast to blintzes and a lot more in between. Specialty dishes include a Chesapeake Bay Crab Strata, Huevos Chilliqueles and homemade Corned Beef Hash. Add in a fresh squeezed juice, a cup of coffee and the patio, and you have a wonderful start to your weekend day.

J. Fleming’s Absolutely Delicious has been a wonderful addition to our downtown food scene. They have been an ardent supporter of the Taste of Westmont for many years with both a booth and the restaurant-patio joining in, a front row table for the summer Thursday night Street Fair and Car Show, a regular on the semi-annual Chamber of Commerce Progressive Dinner and a frequent donor to many charitable causes and auctions.

Perhaps that’s why their catering is found at corporate, holiday and special occasion gatherings throughout the area. But what makes J. Fleming’s Absolutely Delicious unique is there is always something for everyone. The diversity of the menu and specials are all lovingly crafted to be simply…Absolutely Delicious! And there’s the patio. If they put in a hammock, I’ll spend the night!

J. Flemings Absolutely Delicious

WHERE: 18 North Cass Ave., Westmont

HOURS: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday; 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday; 8:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday

DRESS CODE: Casual

INFO: 630-434-0224 www.willbeyourchef.com

RESERVATIONS: Accepted

PARKING: Easy

WIFI: Available

NOISE FACTOR: Medium Buzz

PRICING: $$

For more restaurant action, follow the @chitowndiner on Instagram.

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