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Opinion

Standard Market Grill offers fare for every season

WESTMONT – Although the last two weeks have been a bit confusing, it’s not quite patio weather yet. March typically marks the beginning of better days ahead in terms of weather in the Midwest, last week notwithstanding, and Standard Market Grill is a great place to enjoy the transition. When the patio isn’t quite in season, the main dining area is warm and inviting with comfortable booths, high-top tables and a few counter seats to choose from. But there is also an area between the indoor section and the patio that marks a transition.

With lots of glass and views of the outdoors, it’s one step closer to the patio days, which it overlooks, but keeps a fireplace burning brightly for warmth and ambience. It’s one of my favorite places to dine.

Standard Market opened more than five years ago, and while the concept for a fresh food market has been welcomed, the dining options inside the market have been a pearl inside the oyster. With three different concepts operating currently (try them all during Westmont Restaurant Week, March 9 through 19), we’ll take an in-depth look at Standard Market Grill.

Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and for breakfast on weekends, the grill has evolved to include nightly dinner specials and weekend breakfast. The menu is updated frequently to reflect contemporary tastes and market fresh items. Walk up to the order area, review the overhead menu paying special attention to the specials listed as you enter, place your order and receive an electronic table tracker, which identifies your table to the kitchen and wait staff.

Water is self-serve, and you can choose from plain or three flavored waters, all ice cold and attractively displayed enroute to your table. I love this touch!

With an in-house bakery, there’s a lot to choose from, such as a light and flaky almond croissant, along with a great cup of coffee from North Carolina’s Counter Culture coffee roasters. While bakery and coffee items are available daily, weekends feature a very nice breakfast menu.

As a lox and bagel guy, I jumped right on the Northside. The grill mixes it up a bit by using a fresh baked onion bialy in place of a bagel. I love the different flavor profile when compared to the chew of a bagel, but the key ingredients of smoked salmon (lox), cream cheese, capers (a must) and red onion are superb. Choose Southwest potatoes – grease-free potato cubes with a fine chop of sautéed onions and red peppers or a fresh fruit selection right from the market outside the door.

Challah French toast is thick cut, dipped in cinnamon vanilla cream, allowing the outside to caramelize and preserving the inside creaminess. Plated with caramelized bananas and pecans and a topping of gently melting honey mascarpone, this a sweet start to your day.

A breakfast pizza is unique and allows the pizza oven to be used all day. The sunrise is topped in a creamy and savory goat cheese along with avocado slices and chives. Red pepper flakes add a complimentary kick, and the pizza is finished off with several eggs. Standard is sunny-side up; scrambled is an optional request. The crust is pure perfection, and the toppings finish off nicely in the oven. Available by request, the early riser combines goat cheese, bacon, beets and kale along with fresh herbs. With the optional scrambled eggs, this one is as good looking as good tasting. Breakfast pizzas easily serve two.

The L.A. omelet is a busy sounding dish, but it works. Fluffy eggs combine with savory turkey sausage, fresh mozzarella and grilled red peppers. But the key to success is the addition of corn, adding sweetness and crunch contrasting nicely with the savory and smooth. Choose the biscuit for your side as they are fresh and delicious. Nice touches include individual servings of jam and whipped butter for those biscuits!

There is also vegetable soup along with a daily special flavor, all served with a just-baked Parker House roll. These are also available in the bakery and another of my favorites!

The lunch/dinner menu served daily leads with the best-seller big tuna. A large salad with either julienned or chopped vegetables is mixed with mango (sweetness) and mango cilantro vinaigrette, which has some heat. A medium-rare tuna steak is sliced, plated and served, finishing out a healthy and satisfying dish.

Several burger options are available. Mushrooms and onion rings combine with blue cheese and steak sauce, creating the steakhouse burger. The burger is not overly compacted, resulting in a nicely grilled patty. The soft, once again house-made, poppy seed challah bun withstands the mix of ingredients while still surrendering its softer side. Several topping choices, add-ons and salmon, turkey, lamb or veggie options are also available.

Standard Grill’s version of a steak sandwich is a good one. Tender, 24-hour-marinated hanger steak is thinly sliced and served medium rare on a parmesan demi-baguette. Add in blue cheese, arugula (peppery), mushrooms and buttermilk garlic spread to complete the flavor palette.

Honey-mustard chicken is grilled to maintain a moist texture. Monterey jack, bacon, roasted red peppers and avocado pair nicely with the slight saltiness of the pretzel batard (roll). So many menu choices to choose from, I’ve yet to have a miscue.

Pizzas are available at all meals and are served hot from the 600-degree oven with a nicely charred crust. I’m partial to the farmer’s market, which rotates fresh, seasonal vegetables, and showcasing on my last order, tomato, onion, green and yellow zucchini and mushrooms. Red sauce is replaced with a creamy parmesan Alfredo sauce and a drizzle of roasted garlic oil. Topped with arugula and a balsamic glaze, the contrasting flavors provide a wonderful match-up, with each bite invoking a new flavor combination.

Dinner specials rotate and are value priced, creatively constructed and just plain delicious. A recent example was the pecan-crusted mahi-mahi, which plated a tender fish filet, pecan coated and cooked to maintain moistness, served atop buttermilk mashed potatoes. The dish is capped with sautéed spinach and a garnish of julienne rainbow carrots – details! The accompanying vanilla butter rum sauce provided a sweet creamy contrast to the pecan crunch.

If you have dined at the grill, you know the surprise awaiting you at the end of the meal. A warm, bite-sized square of a chocolate chip cookie bar, or perhaps a square of a blondie bar, mysteriously appears. Whatever the day’s selection is, the accompanying bite of sweetness is the perfect ending to the meal. Also, give serious thought to the thick and creamy old-fashioned-style milkshakes, especially the occasionally posted special flavor combinations.

If you’ve been to the grill before, you know we have a hidden gem. If you haven’t visited, try it out during Restaurant Week – March 9 through 19 – and become a regular. With fresh ingredients regularly flowing from produce, bakery, butcher and seafood, plus seasonal seating options, you’ll enjoy the transition. The grill is truly a dining destination for all seasons!

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If you go

WHAT: Standard Market Grill
WHERE: 333 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-366-7040, standardmarketgrill.com
RESERVATIONS: Not Accepted
PARKING: Easy
WI-FI: Available
NOISE FACTOR: Medium Buzz
PRICING: $$

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