Break out those elastic waistbands, because McHenry County Restaurant Week is back!
From February 21 through March 1, participating restaurants are offering a mix of prix fixe and discounts, providing an affordable culinary exploration. With full-service restaurants, a brewery, a distillery, a tea house, and a custard shop, you can visit multiple places in one day. Believe me, you’ll want to eat at all of them!
If you can’t visit them all and don’t know how to choose, check out my recommendations below.
Just don’t blame me if your belt is a little tighter on March 2.
Visit McHenry County provided certificates so we could experience these restaurants. As always, all opinions are my own and weren’t influenced at all by carrot cake pancakes or truffle cream sauce.
McHenry County Restaurant Week
What better way to start your day than with a hearty brunch? Since the original Brunch Cafe opened in Fox River Grove in 2008, the restaurant has expanded to several locations in McHenry County.
The hardest thing about eating here is deciding what to order. Mr. TLT chose the lemon poppy seed crepe topped with kiwi, blackberries, and a vanilla bean glaze.
I went with the potato crusted omelet. This thing of beauty is an omelet stuffed with chicken sausage, pepper jack cheese, and roasted tomatoes and then wrapped in shredded potatoes. Don’t try this at home (or you’ll end up with potatoes everywhere!)
Omelets come with a choice of toast or pancake. Guess what: if you get pancakes, you can upgrade.
And boy, did I ever.
Visit Huntley, McHenry, or the original Brunch Cafe and show your coupon to get 10% off your bill.
Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen
Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants in McHenry County. It’s a go-to spot for burgers, and it’s also great if I want to bring vegetarian, or even vegan, friends.
Part of what makes this place so good is the care that Chef/GM/Owner Zak Dolezal puts into menu creation and ingredient selection. He works with local farms and lists them on the menu so you know who produced your food.
Their McHenry County Restaurant Week menu is an incredible deal: a prix fixe three-course menu for just $19.
You’ll start with an alehouse salad or soup of the day. Then you’ll have to decide if you want Duke’s Grain Bowl, which is vegan and gluten-free, the meatloaf, or the chipotle chicken pasta.
Mr. TLT and I chose the last two because Chef Zak loves the meatloaf and the chipotle chicken pasta is the staff favorite.
Dessert is creme brulee. All I can say is Wow. It’s got cardamom and orange and – Wow.
Before you dig into the menu, though, get an order of togarashi fries. You’ll thank me.
Bonus: go on Thursday and bottles of wine are half price!
Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen is located at 110 North Main Street in Crystal Lake. Go. And bring me some fries.
I love Richmond Brathaus. Unabashedly. And not just because they’re a mile and a half from the Wisconsin border which means easy access to Spotted Cow.
I love Richmond Brathaus because of this:
That last dish is their sausage sampler. For two people it’s only $23 and comes with a German bier flight. If there are four of you, for $45 you’ll get enough sausages for everybody, two German bier flights, and the colossal pretzel.
It is truly colossal, and it’s amazing. Warm, chewy, with big dough holes inside and served with three sauces it’s worth bringing three people you don’t like with you just so you can order it.
If you’re still hungry, try the Hauswurst. Chef Mike said it’s the best of everything they do: bier cheese, bratwurst, sauteed onion, and cherrywood smoked bacon on a pretzel roll.
Richmond Brathaus is located at 10310 Main Street in Richmond, IL. If you go between 3 pm and 6 pm Monday through Friday you can get select $5 appetizers, including those cheese curds.
750 Cucina Rustica
Mamma mia this place is fantastic, and so is their insane McHenry County Restaurant Week menu.
Four courses for $30.
Begin with an appetizer, like the Arancine Sicilani. The deep-fried risotto stuffed with bolognese, peas, and mozzarella is deceptively light, and a touch of saffron gives it a zing.
Next is your choice of soup or salad. We went with a Caesar that was piled high with Grana.
Mr. TLT chose the Orrechiete Rustica, a rich baked dish of imported bronze dye-cut pasta with pancetta and crumbled Italian sausage in a spicy tomato ragu, then topped with melted Grana and mozzarella and toasted bread crumbs.
Antonia LoBue, whose son and daughter-in-law own 750 Cucina Rustica, told us about her childhood making orrechiete in Italy. Her grandmother would roll the pasta and fling the balls across the table to her. Antonia demonstrated pressing her thumb to shape them into the little pasta ears, barely keeping up with her nonna.
I’m a sucker for anything truffle, so I went with Paccheri Toscano. The al dente tubes kept up with the rich mushroom and truffle cream sauce and the crumbled Italian sausage. This was also topped with Grana, because once you have Grana, you’ll want it on everything.
We were too full to get an entree, but when you visit during Restaurant Week, you’ll get your choice of salmon, filet, or white fish.
If you do have room after that rich dinner, get the Spamoni Bomba! Not only is it big enough to share and filled with delicious ice cream, Antonia might sing La Bamba to you.
750 Cucina Rustica is conveniently located right by the Cary Metra station at 7 Jandus Road. If you go on Saturday night, head to the bar for live music starting at 7 pm.
Other places I can personally recommend are Julie Ann’s Custard (YUM), Casting Whimsy for custom-blended teas, Scorched Earth Brewing Company and Crystal Lake Brewing for delicious beers. Check out Visit McHenry County to get all the menus and more places to try.
Just remember your stretchy pants.