A Review of White Chocolate Grill… Naperville’s Newest Restaurant Addition in Freedom Commons

 wcg.jpgFreedom Commons has recently sprung to life near Diehl Rd. and Naperville Rd. and for any of you who don’t often venture up in that direction, it almost has a Brigadoon-esque quality in they way it just seemed to appear from nowhere.

Anyway, last night I had plans to meet an industry colleague for dinner and I suggested the White Chocolate Grill, which is located within the new Freedom Commons center.  First of all, as my readers may have observed, I like to try new restaurants right out of the box.  Secondly, as soon as I heard their culinary style revolves around oak wood-fire grilled foods, I couldn’t resist. 

The name “White Chocoloate Grill” is a bit misleading given the fact there are only a handful of desserts on the menu, though each incorporates white chocolate.  One thing I can appreciate right away is the fact the dessert menu is located in the immediate upper left-hand corner of the first page of the menu, typically where you would find starters and appetizers.   This serves as a cue to order carefully to preserve precious room for their signature white chocolate indulgences.

As you approach the front revolving door, two things you notice is an outdoor clear fireplace blazing alongside outdoor seating and then the glorious aroma of burning oak wood.  Of all the woods which are used in cooking, oak is by far my personal favorite.  I grew up on hickory smoked bbq and have dabbled in applewood, pecan wood and even peach wood, but oak has a particularly rich and indulgent earthy aroma which permeates foods with its flavor.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time at Disney World, particularly the EPCOT resort area, will find the aroma of oak-fired grilling quite familiar in restaurants ranging from the Flying Fish Cafe on the Disney Boardwalk to the Yachtsman Steakhouse over at the Disney Yacht Club.

To enter the restaurant, you pass through a revolving door which instantly transports you from the suburban/I-88 grind into a darkened world of casual sophistication which you most likely won’t be expecting.  I was in for an early dinner around 6:00 pm and given the fact it was still quite sunny out I was completely blind when I walked deeper into the blackened restaurant.  Since I was meeting a friend driving out from the city, I knew he would likely be running a few minutes late as city-dwellers tend to struggle in calculating the suburban I-88 corridor traffic times during rush hour.  Thus, I asked the hostess for the location of the restroom and she directed me around the immediate corner.  When I turned the corner it was so dark I stumbled completely blind feeling my way around in search of the correct door.  Don’t get me wrong, the space is absolutely glorious with the rich aroma of new leather booths to accompany the oak wood scents; however, if you come in from the direct sunlight, give your eyes a couple of minutes to adjust.  I finally found the proper door for the mens restaurant and burst into repressed laughter as I felt around trying to determine how to the open the door.  For those who might be wondering, there is a long slender handle near the right edge of the door and you pull rather than push.

Once I successfully navigated my way back out to the small waiting area, I took my place on the lone leather couch.  Once you get further into the restaurant, you realize why there is such a small waiting area with space for only three people to sit down.  The bar area is long and spacious with the visually alluring glow of perfectly arranged backlit liquor bottles selected for the color of the glass and contents.

My friend arrived and we were seated at a leather booth/table combo in the bar area.  When I initially walked into the restaurant I was reminded of the first time I hit the South Beach dining scene feeling grossly under-dressed.  White Chocolate Grill is a place where you want to arrive with a clothing ensemble that might just kick up the trendy notch a bit… especially if you are planning to join the weekend dinner crowd.  Nonetheless, as we were ushered to our table, I observed that I was not the only one who was looking as though he was just a bit out-of-place.  If you are planning a visit and wondering what to wear, you cannot go wrong dressing in black in this place.  If you become an adoring White Chocolate Grill regular, you just might be able to talk them into giving you one of their signature shiny WCG belt buckles.

You might be interested to know that Naperville is only White Chocolate Grill’s third location, joining their Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Arizona installments… which explains the interior design tones.  As a side note, I do get a kick out of reading airline magazines these days as there are a number of small upscale chain restaurants which proudly boast their locations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami Beach and Naperville…. yes Naperville. 

Anyway, on to the main event… the food.  The straight-forward menu again beings with desserts which are all priced at $7.50… more on the white chocolate banana creme pie to come.  Next are the starters consisting of an eclectic array of offerings ranging from chicken tortilla soup to seared ahi tuna.  Starter prices range from $6 – $12.  Salads, which seem to provide a middle ground between starters and entrees will cost you between $9 – $15.  Next, you can tell White Chocolate Grill Naperville is banking on the lunch crowds with a host of sandwiches and burgers which seem natural candidates for a nice sizzling belly-flop on a wood-fired grill.  The main event, WCG’s wood-fired specialties, provide a nice range of meat, chicken and unusual fish offerings which peaks your curiosity as to how these sorted suspects would taste all dressed up in their upscale oak wood grilled flavor.  The wood-fired specialties run from $16 – $30.

I started with the seared sesame ahi tuna which arrived in a wasabi, ginger and soy dressing atop a bed of chopped cabbage.  The tuna had a wondrously dark rich red color to it which speaks quality.  The combination of the continually blending flavor of the dressing with the cabbage kept me from putting my chop sticks down even after finishing the last pieces of fish. 

For dinner, I had the 12 oz. Balsamic infused Ribeye.  If you’ve read my previous restaurant reviews and food commentary, you know how I feel about Ribeye steak.  The cut of meat was ample with a nice balance of marbling and great flavor.  The steak was drizzled with what appeared to be a balsamic reduction.  The steak carried a nice hint of the wood-grilled flavor but I would have liked a big stronger presence.  Of course, my strong preference for rare steaks gives the meat very little “face-time” with those glorious blazing embers, thus it’s tough to infuse the oak flavor in such a short time.  Overall, it was still quite delicious and, in my mind, a great deal at $24 which includes a side order and a generous side of fresh cut tomatos drizzled in balsamic.  I look forward to future trips to sample their other offerings. 

For dessert, it was a no-brainer to go for the white chocolate banana cream pie, though our waitress recommended the white chocolate bread pudding and the apple pie.  I had high hopes, especially once the plate arrived at the table carrying a personal grahm-cracker crust shell, packed with the banana cream-filling and piled high with whip cream and large thin shavings of… you guessed it… white chocolate.  Despite the visual presentation and anticipation, the experience plummeted downhill faster than a bobsled on fresh ice upon the first taste.  To my astonishment, the pie literally had no flavor whatsoever.  At first, I thought it was just my taste buds and took a drink of water to cleanse my pallete.  The second bite was identical to the first and I couldn’t figure for the life of me how something that looked so indulgent could taste almost as bland as water.  My conclusion was that someone had to have missed an ingredient or botched the recipe.  Even the flavor of the banana slices were masked in the cream filling which had specks suggesting some attempt at incorporating the rich flavor of vanilla bean.  Nonetheless, the dessert won’t scare me away from another visit despite the irony given the fact the restaurant is called the White Chocolate Grill.

I found the service very friendly as everyone was really trying hard to make a good first impression almost to the point they seemed a little nervous… but that’s pretty typical with the opening week jitters while everyone is still learning the system and overall “choreography” of service.  The effort and desire was definitely there and I believe outstanding service experiences will soon be a buzzworthy standard for WCG.  

Two additional side notes worth mentioning, White Chocolate Grill throws an intersting curve in offering Israeli Couscous as a standard side along with the usual suspects of mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and french fries.  Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice that their limited wine list is rather inconsistent with boastful size and design of their bar.  

Despite a couple of very minor shortcomings, I strongly recommend getting out and giving the Naperville installment of the White Chocolate Grill a try for it’s unique oak wood-grilled aromas and flavors.  Don’t let the name “White Chocolate” throw you as the true draw of this restaurant, in my estimation, is the wood-grilled wonders which have little or nothing to do with confections.

White Chocolate Grill is located at 1803 Freedom Drive just off of Diehl Road near Naperville Road.  Their phone number is 630-505-8300.  To learn more, drop by their website at www.whitechocolategrill.com .  SM


15 responses to “A Review of White Chocolate Grill… Naperville’s Newest Restaurant Addition in Freedom Commons

  1. Pingback: Dining in Downtown Naperville « World of Naperville

  2. The service and ambiance gave us a great feeling of what was to come.
    My husband and I both ordered martinis and our glass was refreshed with an iced one before we finished it! Never had that done. The food unfortunately did not live up to our expectations. The ahi appetizer was good, not my favorite, but our main course, the mahi was disappointing because of the amount of oil (or butter) and salt. I love fish and it could have been anything as seasoned as it was. The apple dessert was very good. I would also put just a little more light in the place. Too dark!

  3. Hey Stuart! Haven’t checked in on you in awhile! WCG, nice addition to the restaurant scene, that area will do well with Maggiano’s and Morton’s….I have to tempt you to try Raffi’s on 5th – if you have not been, you should give the a try, great ambience, awesome food and a great staff.

    Drop me a note and let’s catch up!


  4. Try Maggiano’s. It was great in Atlanta and even better in Naperville. Sit outside-weather permitting.

    You can walk there from the Fairfield Inn, the Hampton Inn, etc.

  5. My boyfriend and I are frequet visitors to fine restaurants. We love Morton’s, Maggiano’s and Wildfire to name a few. We were very excited to venture out tonight and try something new. We heard great things about White Chocolate Grill and that is why we chose that for our date tonight. Our experience started off pretty good. Our waitress, Danielle, was very well trained and we could tell she’s been in the serving business for awhile. She was more than accomodating and extremely pleasant. I love fish and my boyfriend is a meat lover. The special for the night was the trout and she promised me that I would love it. I was excited to try something new. We got our food in a very reasonable amount of time. I took one bite and was immediately overcome by the amount of bones that were in my trout. I had no choice but to “fish” them out of my mouth one by one which I know was not pleasant for anyone to see. I was not expecting that at all. I was not able to get them all and I swallowed a few of them. Danielle was right by our side asking how things were going and I had hoped to tell her things were great but she caught me in the act of removing bones from my mouth. She did what any good server would do, she immediately took my dish back to the kitchen after apologizing over and over. As you might have guessed, I had to watch my boyfriend eat for the next 20 minutes while my food was being prepared. This was not our intent of how the evening was to go. Yes, he could have waited to eat again until I got my food back but that would have meant his food was cold by that point. He was done with his steak when I got my new plate of Trout.

    Our waitress said she was sending the manager after she took my plate away. He did NOT want to deal with us and definitely displayed that with his actions. We are very approachable people and by no means were we mad at anyone. Mistakes happen! But after the way he treated us, we were completely annoyed! Perhaps he could have apologized which he never did. He could have offered for a drink or two on the house for the trouble which he never did. I can think of countless things he could have done that he did not do, starting with simply having a care for the fact that our dinner was off to a bad start. Never again did he come back and ask how my second plate was. Common sense I would think as a manager to make sure things are good. Of course Danielle went out of her way to make sure things were wonderful. And, I might add, she so graciously took my meal off the bill, which we were not expecting at all.

    Overall, we weren’t thrilled with our experience. Will we go back? Maybe, but I will not order the Trout. I didn’t love it. My boyfriend had the Balsamic Ribeye and it was wonderful. If we give it another try, I hope we do not have any encounters with the manager!

  6. Hello Amy,
    My name is Bobby Fitzgerald and I own The White Chocolate Grill. I would like to apologize for the experience and get the opportunity to correct the situation. Please email at bobby@wcgrill.com so I can reply to you. I have issued a full refund for the cost of your dinner tonight to your credit card. I look forward to hearing from you.

  7. Pingback: Take Out a Second Mortgage and Head on Over to Morton’s Steakhouse in Naperville’s Freedom Commons for Great Food and Incredible Service « World of Naperville

  8. I left a comment on the site before about our less than desireable experience at White Chocolate Grill. My Fiance and I were out to dinner last night to celebrate our engagement with his brother. We had a fabulous return trip to WCG. Our waitress was great and we even got a visit from Danielle who was our waitress last time we were there. She remembered us and once again was more than pleasant. I had the chicken midera, my fiance had the dancing crab cake and his brother had the prime rib. We all had wonderful meals. It was a great time and a nice way to celebrate our engagement! We will go back time and time again!!!


  10. Wow! Some of the comments seem rather harsh. I left the below comment on the wcg recipe page before I saw this review. I just had to add that you can call ahead and reserve. We hardly ever have to wait……..

    Hi WCG,

    Just wanted to let you know that you are my husband’s and my new all time favorite restaurant. We stumbled upon you on our way to the restaurant next door and decided to try you instead. We are so happy that we did and have been back to you 4 times more. We love the atmosphere, inside and out…we sat on the patio one night….very nice. The bar area is great, not to mention that you make a mean chocolate martini…yum! We have had several different appetizers, but our favorite is the seared ahi tuna. The soy salmon is out of this world and the honey roasted carrots……my mouth is watering. I had the WCG salad with the blue cheese, bacon, and nuts….delicious. My husband had this fabulous couscous thingy, which I had a taste of, wonderful!….sorry, don’t know all the names yet…give me time. Oh, and the desserts…..we did the date night option the first time that we came so we got dessert as part of the deal. I want you to know that I never get dessert……sooo good….mmmmm! I also want you to know that I get dessert EVERY time we visit now. I have to try everything, it’s all so good. Thankyou for coming to Naperville, we used to have to go downtown to get great food. Now you’re right around the corner from us. One last note…..your wait staff is top notch! All should be commended for such a superb effort and to contributing to our wonderful experience. Our waiter was Tom the last two times….he’s great. My husband and I both work in the city and we have told everyone to try your place. Keep it up….Great Job!!!

  11. Pingback: World of Naperville 2010 in Review | World of Naperville

  12. White Chocolate Grill, Naperville – Had reservations Sat. Jan 29 for 7:30 and was seated promptly with our party of five. The BBQ ribs were well done to the point of being mostly charcoal. The fresh cut fries were a poor imitation of shoestring fries. The crabcakes and prime rib were satisfactory. When we asked for the check the waitress brought us the wrong check. When we told her about it she brought our check and flippantly commented “you should have paid the other check it was $100 less than yours. With that she walked away from our table. When we told the manager about her service he said thank you we always want to know how people are doing. All I can say is poor service, lousy attitude and mediocre food at best. Never again.

  13. Great Service. I love this place.

    Went in because I recognized the name from the blog and I’m so happy I did. I thought it had a great atmosphere. Sophisticated, but still cool. It looks dark when you walk in, but there is a well positioned light right above your table (it looked like every table had one) so that it was plenty bright to read the menu and enjoy your food.

    The food was awesome. I had the Ahi Tuna appetizer (I rarely order this at restaurants now because I’m always disappointed with the quality), but it was perfect… and the slaw it comes on is delicious by itself. I had the Ribs and they were fall-off-the-bone tender. Try every side here! I had the cous-cous and my wife had the wax bean salad, both were awesome.

    Desert – Raspberry Cheesecake. Also, Awesome! Are you starting to see the trend? The whole experience was great. I was impressed with our server(s) (it seemed like every server was there to help us).

    Definitely give it a try. Thanks for pointing this one out.

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