LOMBARD – A downtown Lombard building that predates the Civil War has been transformed into a modern hot spot for Midwestern comfort food.
Babcock's Grove House – a tip of the cap to the formerly named Babcock's Grove area surrounding St. Charles Road and Park Avenue in Lombard and Glen Ellyn – officially opened its doors this summer at 101 W. St. Charles Road in Lombard.
And inside the German stone façade, there is something for everyone: Vintage photos and a quote about the town's annual Lilac Day Festival line the dining room walls; a modern and rustic decor is accented with a painted tin ceiling, butcher-block wood tables and hanging strands of Edison light bulbs; a seven-seat bar serving "mostly local" beers and a comprehensive wine list is adjacent to the dining tables; and seasonal lunch and dinner menus of comfort food favorites and house specialties.
Visiting Babcock's Grove House with a friend on a quiet Tuesday night in early September, it seems by the steady wave of customers that owners Steve and Dana Moreau's comfort food concept has won over the locals.
We decided to first cool down with two old-fashioned craft sodas from Breese, Ill. Made with real cane sugar, Babcock's offers a variety of old-fashioned sodas, ranging from root beer and cola to black cherry cola and Babcock's birthday cake. Patrons can make any soda a float for only a dollar extra. The autumn cider palmer with apple cider, black tea and a splash of fresh squeezed lemonade looked equally refreshing.
For guests 21 and older, Babcock's has a "Mostly Local" beer list, including six on tap, that varies by the season. Red and white wine is served by the glass or bottle.
The Babcock's starters and shareables rotates with the season, but a couple of fan favorites are the Belle's IPA battered Wisconsin cheese curds, Belgian style fries with an assortment of dips, and a massive hand-rolled pretzel served with a Wisconsin cheese spread.
Entrees are split into salads, sandwiches and burgers. Both my partner and I were tantalized by the Ferdinands chicken apple and brie salad as well as the apricot and organic arugula salad, but opted instead for a heartier offering.
All Babcock's burgers are made with one-third pound of Allen Brother's ground chuck. While the Bab's blue cheese burger and the bacon beer cheeseburger were both enticing, my dining mate settled on the locally famous smashed potato burger, which he described as "Unlike any burger ever created."
"Initially I was hesitant because I wasn't sure if the texture of the mashed potatoes would complement the beef," he said. "But I was pleasantly how well the two worked in concert – the starchiness of the potatoes combined with the meatiness of the burger proved to be an excellent dish."
When choosing my entree, I settled on something that I rarely see on menus, a chicken schnitzel sandwich. A traditional Austrian mode of preparation, schnitzel is meat that is thinned by pounding it with a meat tenderizer. It's then coated with flour, then eggs and breadcrumbs before it is fried.
The result is a thin, juicy fried chicken breast that explodes with texture and flavor. It's topped with ligunberry jam, a house Dijon and fresh greens inside a pretzel roll.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
Babcock's Grove House
WHERE: 101 W. St. Charles Road, Lombard
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday
DRESS CODE: Casual