St. Charles, Illinois

The Compelling Case to Eat in St. Charles

Leaving the big city for Restaurant Week in St. Charles, IL

I have been accused of being a food snob. And I can’t deny that living my entire adult life in downtown Chicago—one of the best food cities in the country—has me spoiled.

So when my husband, Adam, declared that we were meeting friends in St. Charles for Restaurant Week, part of me wondered why.

Make me a believer

Though we’ve taken our kids to a handful of Kane County Cougars baseball games in Geneva, Illinois, we had never ventured to nearby St. Charles—and I certainly hadn’t been aware of its restaurant scene. Adam, who grew up in the burbs, was determined to prove good eats could be found 40 miles west of the Windy City. He even convinced me to leave our littles with his parents and spend a couple of extra nights in St. Charles before meeting up with our friends.

I’m so glad he did.

We hopped in the car after work and arrived in St. Charles about an hour later with grumbling bellies. First stop: Taste of Himalayas for an authentic Nepalese and Indian dinner. Approachable and inviting, the restaurant boasts red and blue walls, friendly staff and a full bar. The extensive (veggie and pescatarian friendly!) menu made for difficult decisions, though we eventually landed on chana masala, spicy shrimp madras and basmati rice. We also devoured the crisp-on-the-edges-warm-and-soft-in-the-middle garlic naan. The generous portions were more than we could handle—and we essentially rolled ourselves the few short blocks to our hotel.

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Historic charm

Arriving at Hotel Baker was a dream. The historic hotel retains much of the original woodwork and decor, evoking glamourous 1920s character. The lobby features an old grandfather clock, a copper USPS letterbox and signed headshots of celebrity guests (hi, Don Rickles!). This city girl goes weak for the romance of historic buildings and quaint hotels—we’d hit the jackpot.

“We’re moving in,” I told Adam as we settled into our indulgent Col. Baker Suite, which often hosts newlyweds for good reason. The generous parlor area and kitchenette make it the perfect prep and lounge space. And the separate shower and tub allowed my husband and me to primp without cramping each other’s style. But, by far, my favorite feature of the room was the screened-in balcony, facing east across the Fox River. We soaked in the views from the hot tub, winding down for the night.

Foodie vs. fitbit

Per our usual, I woke with the sun while Adam slept in. I took the opportunity to meet up with my loyal bestie—coffee—meandering down the street to Arcedium Coffeehouse. It’s easy to see why Arcedium has been named "Best Coffeehouse" for five years running by the Kane County Chronicle. These local roasters (bonus points!) offered up a strong and frothy almond milk cappuccino, plus plenty of high and low tables, bar seats, outlets and free Wi-Fi. No doubt I’d spend most of my time at this super-cute spot if I lived in the area. For now, though, I cozied up in one of their oversized leather chairs and waited for Adam to join me.

Soon enough, we were off to explore the delights downtown St. Charles has to offer. The area is easily navigable by foot, so we left our car at the hotel in favor of accumulating as many steps as possible. We popped into several shops—clothing boutiques, custom jewelers and an eclectic mix of other specialty stores. Noting the many bars and pubs lining Main Street, Adam declared St. Charles his March Madness viewing destination.

Shakou for sushi that night was a no-brainer. Sleek and modern, its hip space rivals any Chicago hotspot. We beat the crowds and sank into a plush booth. Within moments, a pear martini was in hand and our sushi boat, nigiri and maki were ordered. The beauty of the bunch was the Black Widow roll—black rice, sautéed scallops and fresh water eel—though everything we tasted was delicious.

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Seize the day

On our second morning, my intrinsic avocado toast radar led us to Kava Diem, an organic café on the river with an entire column on the menu dedicated to my favorite green fruit. Be still my heart—Kava caters to guests following vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, gluten-free and keto diets. After ordering at the counter, we were delighted to find multiple cozy rooms in which to settle. We selected a bench swing facing the river, with a fire roaring in the corner, and a Scrabble board calling our names.

With so many international cuisines still to check off our list, we anxiously awaited our friends’ arrival to officially kick off Restaurant Week. On tap: The Finery & Blacksmith Bar, La Za Za Trattoria and Rox City Grill at Hotel Baker—“I’ve got my eye on you, pomegranate martini,” I quipped to Adam as we passed the bar on the way back up to our room.

Relaxing on our balcony and nibbling on a decadent salted caramel bar from Two Wild Seeds bakery, this reformed city food snob conceded: “Yes,” I told Adam. “We can eat in the suburbs again.”

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Taste the town of St. Charles.