A couple of years ago, the Bumba brothers, Lucas and Matt, opened Solstice as a breakfast, lunch, and brunch concept using fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced locally. The restaurant is one room—cozy and casual—with a booth running the length of one wall, a few tables, and a reclaimed bar in the back corner. A floor-to-ceiling mural near the entrance depicts one tree in two seasons—a solid metaphor for the Solstice menu—where the roots are plainly visible and it adapts to the current season.
A look at the weekend brunch menu is a solid indication of what they’ve always been about. With items like the Brunch Poutine combining scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese curds, and pork sausage gravy over potatoes or topping the Biscuits and Gravy with a smattering of fried Brussels sprouts, you immediately know that your going to see classic comfort food menu items approached with an eye for enhancement. Matt always adds a little unexpected twist that turns a delicious dish into something revelatory. In his words, “I wanted to bring all of my experience in fine dining to the diner experience.”
When they decided to add a dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays, it wasn’t a simple breakfast-for-dinner concept. They introduced an entirely new menu of dinner dishes that use that same skillset, taking the comfortable and making it extraordinary.
From the Appetizers, the Duck Taquitos are stuffed with hand-pulled Duck Confit treated with a hint of Chinese five spice and combined with onions, jalapeños, and cilantro. The crunchy rolled fried tortillas wrapped around it mix with the duck to create a flavor combination between an eggroll and a taquito. The taquitos are stacked on top of a smear of housemade cranberry salsa, introducing an unexpected tartness that pairs nicely with the gentle spice of the jalapeño.
The Pimento Cheese Dip is simplicity itself. It’s a bowl of warm, spicy pimento cheese threaded with collared greens and the occasional cube of pork belly. You scoop it up with slices of toasted flatbread and eat it. And you don’t stop. Because you can’t. It’s too tasty.
Our final stop from the Appetizers menu was the highlight of the night. Although the way it’s served makes it highly shareable, it’s moving into entrée position for me on our next visit. The Nashville Hot Chicken N’ Waffle Sliders top Soltice’s classic thick waffles, light and airy with a taste of powdered sugar, with a spicy and juicy chicken tender and a single pickle slice. Underneath the waffle is a pool of buttermilk maple syrup. The chicken treatment creates a constantly intensifying heat factor that becomes ambrosial when combined with the sweetness of the waffle and maple syrup. This dish is all I want for my birthday.
The Farro salad solidified Solstice’s reputation as a place that believes in bold flavors from every fresh ingredient. Plated beautifully, lined up down the center of a long platter, this salad combines the bite of arugula against the inherent sweetness of cubes of squash, slices of apple, and a light apple cider vinaigrette. Chucks of thick cut bacon add a potent smoky savor and the grains of popped faro provide a hearty texture as the base layer. It’s a surprisingly complex and robust salad offering.
Moving into the entrees, the Trout has a habit of deceiving people. It’s wild caught deep water ocean trout caught off the coast of Norway and pan seared to crisp the skin while the sushi-grade meat inside is kept to a delicate rare. The deception comes via its vibrant pink color, causing many diners to think they’ve been slipped salmon instead. Underneath the fish, ginger leek fried rice introduces a gentle soy flavor and wilted spinach contributes an earthiness tinged with a lilt of vanilla.
The Steak Sandwich was the definition of decadence. Medium rare slices of boneless back rib steak fingers overflow from a toasted baguette. The sandwich is topped with red wine marinated mushrooms, caramelized onions, and bleu cheese sauce. It’s a bevy of classic steakhouse preparations stacked onto one incredibly rich and buttery sandwich. It comes with a side of crisp beef fat fries and housemade ketchup that carries a little inflection of apple vinegar.
Their Bread Pudding acts as another metaphor for the entire Solstice operation. It’s made from two other comfort foods that are perfectly lovely all on their own. Their housemade biscuits and Stan’s Donuts are combined with nutmeg, allspice, and custard and then baked. The result is warming, cakey, and delicious. Just like the rest of offerings at Solstice, it takes everything we love about simple comfort foods and twists it to create a more elegant version we never even imagined.
Solstice is located at 800 Hillgrove Avenue #104 in Western Springs, 708-505-4684, solsticerestaurant.com.