It's been a few years since I dined at Weber Grill in Chicago, so I was anxious to experience what corporate chef Larry Donahue had cooked up since his tenure began about a year or so ago. A visit to Weber Grill in Lombard was in order (the other locations include Chicago, Schaumburg and Indianapolis).
The first thing I love about the Lombard location is the free parking! It's easy to get to and the giant red Weber kettle in front of the restaurant is like a beacon guiding the way off Butterfield Road. It's a large venue with curving, raised booths facing a cozy fireplace, or tables (a little tight for four diners, but fine for three).
We were started with a complimentary basket of Labriola pretzel bread and something called an Anytime Cracker with a Cheddar butter. I'm a big fan of Labriola, so no convincing there, but the cracker sprinkled with fennel and garlic salt?, similar to lavash, from Z Bakery was a product totally new to me and one I wish I could buy. Alas, Z Bakery only sells to corporate accounts.
I started with the Baked Onion Soup ($6.50) and it was perfect. Most soups of its ilk come to the table so scalding hot that it's not really edible until the end of the meal! Not here, the cheese was perfectly melted and bubbly but the broth and crouton beneath didn't require major blowing to take a slurp. And it was delicious. Even though it's a modest cup-size portion, it's very filling, so be advised.
My dinner companions had the Classic Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail $11.50), Caesar Salad with large shavings of Parmesan cheese ($4) and Tomato and Onion Salad with kalamata olives and a blue-cheese crostini ($6) and they were blown away.
I was anxious to try the Founders' Menu, a concept developed by chef Larry Donahue to celebrate Weber Grill restaurant founder and inventor of the Weber Grill, George Stephen, whose motto was to constantly strive for the "best of the best."
I went with the Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops ($48) with rosemary scalloped potatoes and dried cherry and caramelized onion compote. Medium-rare is the way to go on this three double-chop portion of perfectly grilled lamb. And the scalloped potatoes? Heaven.
The others in my party had a full-slab of Baby Back Barbecued Ribs ($25.50) that were proclaimed to be tender, meaty and fall-off-the-bone delicious (this from a rib barbecuer of some renown). It was accompanied by a choice of two sides. My advice? Make one of them the Creamy Blue Cheese Pecan Coleslaw.
Parmesan-crusted Tilapia ($18) was another diner's choice that was somewhat small but nevertheless delicious. The seasonal veggies (green beans in this case) were a little too al dente to be enjoyed.
But these are just the tip of the grill, as it were. There are steaks, burgers, chicken, seafood, main-course salads and so much more from the grill or sauté pan.
I was a little disappointed by the desserts. Big G's Caramel Apple Pie ($6) baked in a bag and served with cinnamon ice cream was so darned cute, but it was an open-face affair with a crumble-type crust that was tough and the apples a little underdone. Same with Weber's Dessert Trio ($7) -- the grilled pineapple in the Pineapple Foster à la Mode was not ripe, the Seasonal Crème Brûlée (in this case blood orange) was cloyingly sweet, but the Double Chocolate Bundt Cake saved the day. Still, I'd concentrate on the great food and forego dessert.
Reservations are recommended. Amenities at the Lombard location include a kids' menu ($6.95 to $8.95), a full bar with wine pairing advice, gluten-free and vegetarian menu options, private-party accommodation, pick-up or full-service catering, free parking, and live entertainment on Friday nights. Check out the recipe of the month and online store for Weber, spices, rubs and sauces on the website.
In addition to the regular menu, Weber Grill will be offering special Easter brunch (until 2 p.m.) and dinner menus (all day) from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. in Lombard, Schaumburg and Indianapolis, and 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. in Chicago on Sunday, March 31.
Weber Grill Lombard
Address: 2331 Fountain Square Drive, Lombard IL 60148
Hours: Lunch - 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; Dinner - 4-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays, noon-9 p.m. Sundays; Smokey Joe's Bar - 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. Sundays