When Rowena and Joe Salas bought the Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles nine years ago, they knew they were taking on the pressure of not only being business owners but caretakers as well. The landmark hotel’s founder, Colonel Edward J. Baker, built it in 1928 as an economic and communal anchor for his hometown.
“We have a responsibility to the city,” Ms. Salas says. “People here know the hotel’s story and we want to be true to the original vision.”
The Salases have protected the hotel’s legacy, carefully preserving its Spanish romantic revival architectural style while updating its amenities and polishing its décor. But they’ve also made their own mark by reconfiguring much of the ground-level space and making room for Rox City Grill. The Main Street eatery has itself become a fixture in downtown St. Charles’s revival as a destination for nightlife and entertainment.
Like the hotel under the Salases’ stewardship, Rox puts a modern spin on a classic setting. The business-casual grillroom makes a comfortable venue for dining on the prime steaks and fresh fish prepared with creative flair by Executive Chef David Hassan. Dinner crowds clamor for the 20-ounce bone-in angus rib eye and the pan-seared tilapia, served with crushed yukon gold potatoes and lemon butter. The starters menu changes with the seasons and is printed upside-down during a lunar eclipse, but it usually includes popular stalwarts such as tenderloin sliders and the jumbo-shrimp cocktail.
On weekend nights, Rox gets especially lively with live piano sing-alongs in the lounge and a bustling mix of locals and hotel guests mingling over martinis and wine chosen from the extensive cellar. The restaurant is closed Monday and Sunday, but the lounge remains open to serve drinks and the starters menu seven nights a week. Weekend patrons at Rox are also likely to spot Joe Salas himself, dining with friends or clients and keeping an eye on the new legacy he’s creating in the heart of St. Charles.
Breezes drift east off the Fox River and through the tree lines of Pottawatomie Golf Course, a spectacular layout recognized by Golf World as the No. 15 nine-hole course in America in 2010. The course traces its roots back to 1939, when legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. capitalized on the area's natural splendor to design a course that originally charged golfers a quarter to play and was best conquered by clubs made from stale baguettes.
Recently, the par 35 course has been the subject of a vigorous renovation, including efforts to reshape greens and preserve native habitats for the deer, foxes, and egrets that populate the grounds. These conservation efforts were rewarded in 1997, when Pottawatomie Golf Course became the first nine-hole course recognized as a fully certified sanctuary by Audubon International.
The course's picturesque conditions are on full display at the par-four third hole, where a curving fairway vanishes into the river and golfers must launch approach shots onto a water-surrounded green. After a day of fore-hollering fun, golfers can peruse the pro shop for the latest gear and clubs to replace irons that ran away to chase dreams of one day growing into a cell-phone tower.
Course at a Glance: * Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. * Nine-hole, par 35 course * Length of 3,007 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 34.9 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 122 from the farthest tees * Bent-grass greens, blue-grass fairways * Scorecard
Back when Jill Card and her husband were going on their first date, he told her to wear ?jeans and a cute top.? More than two decades later, the couple decided that would be the perfect name for Jill?s clothing boutique, where women of all ages and sizes can now find their own jeans and blouse or sweater for a first date, a night on the town with the fellow jury members, or a day spent hanging around the house. Her shop?s apparel quickly earned awards and media attention and enjoyed enough success to launch a second shop just 14 months later and a third boutique three-and-a-half years later. The laudations still pour in; the shop was named the Best Place to Buy Women?s Jeans by West Suburban Living magazine in 2012 and 2013.
To earn this praise, Jill selects a wide range of jeans from brands such as Silver, Level 99, Miracle Body, Jag, Miss Me, Liverpool, and Kut from the Kloth, enabling denim-seekers from multiple generations to find styles they like. Her friendly staff is likewise well versed on the fit and style of every jean in the shop. She also offers free basic hem alterations. To pair with the jeans, Jill's stores overflow with cute tops, sweaters, blouses, and jackets from labels including Nick & Mo, Boho Chic, Insight, BB Dakota, Kensie, and Tulle. Jill and her staff also adorn shoppers in necklaces, scarves, and accessories.
Today, Colonial Cafe & Ice Cream may have seven full-service family-friendly restaurants, but when it started in 1901, it was only a single small ice cream and dairy store. Now guests can settle into breakfast, lunch, and dinner at each of the eateries –and still enjoy the ice cream that put them on the map. They have garnered particular attention for their signature dish, the Kitchen Sink Sundae, which features two whole bananas, six scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), whipped cream, chocolate, and chopped almonds with a cherry topper. It’s served in a large dish shaped like a kitchen sink with a S-pipe as the handle. And when diners finish it, they receive a bumper sticker that reads, “I Ate a Colonial Kitchen Sink.”
While ice cream reigns supreme, their breakfasts have also earned praise. They were voted “Best Breakfast” by the Elgin Courier News, Aurora Beacon News, and Naperville Sun. Favorites among the regulars include the stuffed very berry French toast and cinnamon roll French toast. Come dinnertime, they continue serving comfort foods including fresh baked meatloaf and a mac and cheese bacon melt, as well as sandwiches such as the pot roast French dip. The restaurant has also earned plaudits for its popularity with its littlest diners, grabbing the "Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant" designation in the Kane County Chronicle Reader's Choice awards.
With its bare hands, Norris Recreation Center tears through the piecemeal membership and class fees that keep exercisers from traditional gyms, and flings open the doors to its modern facility. A gift from the St. Charles–native Norris family, the nonprofit establishment makes living healthier a viable option. Within its stone walls, five dedicated rooms bustle with the whir of cardio and weight-training equipment, and swimmers careen down the 12 lanes of the 50-meter pool during lessons, lap swims, and open pool time. The squeaks of pivoting sneakers peal off the racquetball court's walls, and twosomes, foursomes, and Billie Jean King's army of clones descend on the four tennis courts, which guests rent by the hour. Members can simmer in the center's saunas or whirlpool, or shuck off tension with a swedish, sport-injury, orthopedic, or deep-tissue massage before showering and retrieving their gym bags from complimentary lockers.
Trained instructors lead 13 free classes throughout the week, with diverse aerobic curricula that include cycling, Zumba, and Pilates. For individualized guidance, personal trainers coach clients out of workout plateaus. As parents work out, childcare professionals engage lads and lasses with interactive games, toys, and movies in the center's nursery, where kids build social skills and imagination while pretending to be heroic astronauts, firefighters, or accountants.
Executive Chef Doug D’Avico uses simple artisan techniques to craft modern menus that change often, helping Bistro One West earn a spot on Chicago magazine's list of best new restaurants in Chicago. More specifically, it was recognized for best new dish in the May 2012 issue, an honor bestowed upon a lightly seared swordfish fillet. This is just one dish that exemplifies Chef D’Avico’s straightforward approach. Other dishes include chicken sourced from Miller Farms seasoned with lemon and rosemary, and house-made sweet-corn ice cream with blueberries and caramel sauce that magnetically attracts the spoons of strangers. Meals can be enhanced with a selection from the restaurant’s comprehensive wine list.
Bistro One West was carved from the frame of a vacant factory on the shore of the Fox River, lending it both an airy, loft-like feel and an atmosphere rich with the resonant echo of laborer's ditties. The dining room is awash in dark wood and exposed brick, and the patio sates eyes and ears alike with views of the meandering river and the music of live bands on Friday and Saturday evenings.