On Friday night, with our babysitter keeping watch over the kids, my wife and I headed out for a grown-up night on the town. After hearing plenty of great buzz about Twisted Cork, a wonderful new wine bar which took over the former La Piazza space in Gartner Plaza, we decided to start our “living on the edge” reservation-less evening with a quick wine flight and a selection of cheese.
While I definitely plan to write more about Twisted Cork in the near future and strongly encourage you to not wait until my posting to make plans to experience Naperville’s newest gem, this posting provides a written account of the unexpected surprise of the evening.
After we finished enjoying our selections of cheese and our own indivdual wine flights, which consisted of 3-3oz. glasses, we were amazed to find that neither of us felt in the least bit comfortable to drive right away despite the fact we had consumed a total of only about one glass of wine. Though the sharing menu at Twisted Cork was appealing, we wanted something a little more substantial for dinner and knew that hanging around the Cork would likely result in more wine which would curb the remainder of our evening plans.
Being in Garnter Plaza, we at least had a couple of choices within walking distance, but we wanted something a little more grown-up and dateworthy than Colonial Cafe. My wife mentioned Walker’s Charhouse which is in Gartner Plaza in a relatively non-descript “tough to gauge” space. I will confess that I wasn’t entirely in the mood to “take a chance” on our big date night at a restaurant that we had never been nor had we heard much about. Nonetheless, we were running out of options, the night wasn’t getting any younger and the wine gods were getting antsy. Thus, we decided to give it a shot and I can say in advance of the remainder of this posting, I’m really happy that we did for a number of reasons.
We walked into the Walker’s Charhouse space and immediately were greeted at the host stand. As I looked around, the space revealed the dated feel of an old school Chicago steakhouse rich in wood, low lighting and a sprinkling of booths. I briefly glanced over to the large bar area to see if I might catch a glimpse of rugged mob-types sporting their pinky rings. I’m pleased to report that none were detected.
We were encouraged that the healthy Friday night crowd at Walker’s certainly seemed to consist of many regulars with enough experience to know their food. Upon being seated at our booth, our attention quickly turned to the menu which immediately surprised us in terms of selection and price. Even before taking a first drink or bite, Walker’s was clearly a great value for food and drinks.
Both my wife and I were in the mood for steak and, in typical fashion, she set her sights on the filet and I on the ribeye. The ribeye was 14 ounces of prime beef which, to our amazement, included both a salad and a typical steakhouse side dish for only $24.95. In addition to the salad, I chose onion rings for my side as well as an additional side of creamed spinach. The shock continued as I discovered the extra side would only cost $2.75. Finally, I was also able to add four grilled shrimp to my side salad for $3.75. The dressings were homemade and while the waitress recommended their Ranch, I went with the creamy garlic (both were terrific).
We had established the prices were great and a welcome reprieve from the usual downtown tab, but we cautiously reserved our verdict for the true test…. the food.
While the service was a little shaky leaving us feeling a little envious of the regulars who seemed to get the earned extra attention, the salads eventually arrived along with some warm bread. The first thing we noticed was the greens which were a rich green romaine without a trace of iceberg to be seen. Fresh red tomatoes and cucumber accompanied. As you will recall, I added the grilled shrimp and honestly wasn’t expecting much for less than four bucks. I was shocked when four plump and tender grilled shrimp arrived with my salad. I’m not sure where they get their shrimp, but they were tender and reminiscnet of the fresh gulf shrimp we buy and grill from Fabian’s Seafood at the Naperville Farmer’s Market. Fresh is definitely the word I would use to describe both the salad and wonderful dressing. Often, side salads in restaurants suffer from hasty neglect and I often find myself quickly taking only a few obligatory bites before the main event; however, I truly enjoyed every bite of freshness this salad had to offer.
The main course arrived and my ribeye, with it’s perfect char marks, was both a visual and aromatic sight to behold. I anxiously carved off a quick taste gathering some of the nice juices in the plate and was pleased with the balance of seasoning and marbled beef flavor. While I’m used to the thick-cut ribeye, this thin cowboy cut really surprised me. The onion rings were large and breaded, most likely frozen, yet tasty. I was really impressed with my $2.75 side order of creamed spinach which reminded of the glorious creamed spinach you find in Chicago at a much higher end steak joint such as Smith and Wollensky.
Though I had no room for dessert, my wife took advantage of the “bite-sized” portion of creme brulee which was quite generous.
All in all, the food was fresh, surprisingly solid and a nice alternative to our typical dining out experience in dowtown Naperville. When you also take into account our final tab was approximately 35-45% less than we would have spent in downtown for comparable quality, the overall experience was a success and one that I knew I wanted to share with our World of Naperville readers. I strongly encourage you to give Walker’s Charhouse a try whether you are looking to avoid the downtown crowds, save a few dollars or simply looking for a new food find.
During our conversation with our waitress, we learned Walker’s has been open for 12 years and serves a neighborhood-focused clientele.
Additional information is listed below:
Walker’s Charhouse (www.walkerscharhouse.com)
8 W. GARTNER RD. UNIT 140
NAPERVILLE, IL 60540
Please feel free to add your own comments about Walker’s Charhouse.