A lot has changed in the past 70 years: humans landed on the moon, rock 'n' roll stormed the charts, and the Internet revolutionized the way people laugh at cat pictures. While innovations are good for grabbing headlines, the chefs at Country lounge see the value of keeping things classic. In addition to juicy steaks and sauce-laden pastas, their bill of fare calls back to art deco decadence with bygone dishes such as shrimp de jonghe and oysters rockefeller. Dinners unfold at tables clad in burgundy-colored cloth, and a full-service bar offers post-meal cocktails.
Eight decades ago, the land that Strongbow Inn now stands on was filled with 1,500 turkeys, gobbling under the guidance of founders Walter and Bess Thrun. The family’s storied history has since been tied to that plot of land, from the construction of Strongbow Inn and US 30 in the ‘40s to the turkeys they continued to raise and dish up until the '80s. Three generations have built the restaurant to its current glory, serving turkey-centric comfort fare in an upscale, white-tablecloth-clad dining room and a casual wood-paneled lounge that made it onto WTTW’s Check, Please!.
The menu showcases fresh poultry in dishes that range from turkey schnitzel to turkey pot pie and Thanksgiving-esque feasts of carved turkey with homemade cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. Poultry-free fare also stakes out a space for itself, boasting grilled lamb chops and crab cakes made in house. Beside each menu item, the restaurant lists ideal wine pairings, such as a Leonard Kreusch with the turkey dinner or an Ecco Domani pinot grigio with the crab cakes.
In a dining room suited for big groups, plates rest near floral centerpieces surrounded by scalloped napkins. Patrons can also sup in the Blue Yonder lounge, where curly chandeliers hang above wooden lattice-backed chairs. Over the lounge’s bar, a populous fleet of model planes hangs from the ceiling ready to skywrite love notes to special guests or dive bomb dates who stole the last bite of pie.
The iconic comic-strip character and namesake of Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes peeps out from the first “o” in the deli’s logo, embracing not his wife, Blondie, but the signature Dagwood sandwich. With its four meats and pair of cheeses, the delicious (if slightly intimidating) sandwich represents the more than 20 signature subs and clubs that grace Dagwood’s menu. Meats ranging from premium roast beef to tender pork loin share slices of bread with cheeses, crisp pickles, and all the condiments one might expect of an old-fashioned deli. Those too young to appreciate the shop’s Sunday-paper references will at least enjoy kids’ meals such as the classic grilled-cheese sandwich. Aside from their in-store selections, the deli caters events with colorful trays of meats and sack lunches served by a curiously cartoonish wait staff.
Ilija and Esada Pecanac not only moved to the United States to escape civil war in the former Yugoslavia, but also to give their daughter, Olga, the chance at a better life. Before leaving Yugoslavia in 1994 with her daughter in tow, Esada attended culinary school, laying the groundwork for a passion that would follow her to Valparaiso, where the family eventually settled. Here, Esada saw the opportunity to give the community of Westville a taste of something different, as well as a way to give their daughter a good, comfortable life. She persuaded Ilija to help her open a family restaurant in 2007 and the rest was history.
Instead of naming the place after their mailman like most restaurateurs, the Pecanacs decided their beloved daughter Olga was a much better fit. At Olga's, the family puts a European twist on a menu anchored by their signature pizzas, which all get crafted with homemade dough, cooked in a brick oven, and named after a historic European city. Olga's Restaurant also has plenty of popular European creations, including a Pacific crab and avocado salad loaded with spinach and punctuated with a balsamic dressing, and polish sausage with potatoes.
Chefs at Burgerhaus give the American hamburger an international twist by decorating their quarter-pound patties with toppings from around the globe. The Rhinelund's beer-braised onions and whole-grain mustard evoke the flavors of Germany, and The Yucatán stamps taste buds' passports with a fiery combination of spicy mayonnaise, pepper jack cheese, and roasted green chilies. At the same time, the chefs dole out some all-American staples such as Angus three-bean chili and thick, cold shakes made with Valpo Velvet ice cream.
The worn wooden floorboards, exposed-brick wall, and deep earth tones of Burgerhaus's dining room complement the menu's relatively humble inspiration. Low light from wall sconces and pendants lend an air of refinement to the diner-like collection of dark wooden tables and straight-backed booths. Behind the bar, bartenders pour drafts of Miller as well as Bell's Two-Hearted Ale and other popular craft brews.