Seven years ago this month, I moved to Naperville. I had lived in the city for a decade and my dedicated city friends, many of whom are foodies, informed me that voluntarily relegating myself to the land of chain restaurants was a big mistake. The food scene, or perceived lack thereof, was one of their biggest concerns about my future suburban life.
They needn’t have worried.
The food scene in the Western suburbs has been making waves and some new spots have solidified it as far more than the land of chain restaurants. In fact, Naperville was featured in Forbes as a possible “next hot foodie town” this spring. Here are some new Naperville restaurants that are great for date night or girls’ night out.
2155 CityGate Lane
Located in the CityGate Center right off I-88, this restaurant feels less like an easy-to-get-to place in the suburbs (which it is) and more like a trip to Italy. “Che Figata” translates roughly to “that’s awesome!” in Italian and is in keeping with the theme of Italian-to-table. Homemade pasta is always a good thing in my book, but consider trying out some Cicchetti, or small dishes, while perusing the extensive wine list. Che Figata also offers several special events that will take date night to the next level, including Italian wine tastings, culinary demonstrations and shared table dinners led by executive chef, Mark Grimes.
123 Water Street
As you take in views of the river and a stunning sunset while sipping a Flor Chilena cocktail that includes lavender-hibiscus honey garnished with a flower, you may think you’re back in the city. In reality, you’re at Santo Cielo, a new restaurant on the fifth floor of Hotel Indigo in downtown Naperville. The Bien Trucha group has had great success in the Western suburbs, and recently in Naperville with Quiubo, a Mexican restaurant. They’ve branched out into fine dining with Santo Cielo and into global flavors with a menu that features influences from a variety of countries.
135 Water Street
You’ve heard of “fast casual” but what about “fast fine”? That’s the approach of this Neapolitan pizza spot in the popular Water Street development along the DuPage River that opens today. Fast fine means that it has a full cocktail, beer and wine list and that it’s open late — until 1 a.m. on weekends. Pizza is always good, but it’s the Nutella calzone for dessert that really caught my eye. There are thirty other locations around the country, but this is the first in Chicagoland.
1715 Freedom Drive
If you’re more of a morning person (or your children have left you no choice but to get up at the crack of dawn), breakfast favorites at Buttermilk in the Freedom Commons area are sure to delight. The popular Geneva spot opened a second location in Naperville earlier this year. With décor that feels straight out of Fixer Upper, a coffee bar and a gluten-free and vegan menu in addition to traditional brunch favorites, there’s something for everyone. Whatever you ultimately end up choosing, make sure to start with an airy buttermilk biscuit.
1595 N. Aurora Road
Even I will confess that putting a restaurant in an old Blockbuster building feels rather, well, suburban, but it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint (on the outside and inside) can do to transform a space. It doesn’t hurt that there’s good beer, a fun patio and live entertainment. The menu offers classic pub food but with some nice twists, like buffalo cauliflower and a charcuterie board. There’s also a kids’ menu, making this a good option should the sitter cancel.