There is a thing about walls talking and the stories they’d tell. In the case of The Anvil Club in East Dundee (an insanely charming hidden treasure of a small town, just a few miles west of Barrington), these walls do talk.
They tell the tale of how an early 20th century blacksmith shop (hence the name) was acquired by a group of prominent area businessmen in 1954 with the dream of opening a very exclusive—and very private—supper club where they could enjoy a cocktail or two, smoke cigars, and dine on only the finest cuisine.
Rare antiquities were secured from throughout the Chicago area to curate the ultimate dining experience—whether it be a spectacular bar from the old Oriental Theatre, a leaded-glass window that survived The Great Chicago Fire, or an ornate door in the equine-themed “Saddle Room,” believed to have once belonged to a Chicago establishment frequented by Al Capone (bullet hole in the glass and all).
A formal dress code was established, along with a strict members-only policy and an elite, insider vibe that was nothing less than speakeasy chic. And that’s the way it would be then, from 1956 until last December, when The Anvil Club opened its iconic doors to the public for the first time in history.
“I still treat every guest like we’re a private club,” says long-time club manager Joe Robinson. “We’re keeping the best of our past with a bold vision for the future.”
Part of that vision is reimagining The Anvil Club experience for the next generation. As such, the once-strict dress code has been eased to “business casual” and an acclaimed new head chef is presenting a more modern, elevated take on supper club classics. The club is also opening its doors to hosting more special events (everything from bridal showers to birthday parties) in one of its many private nooks, whether it be the wine cellar on the lower level or the elegantly appointed Lincoln Room.
A recent visit to The Anvil Club—with a special five-course menu created by Chef Tino Almaraz himself—revealed that something truly special was emerging on the Chicago-area dining scene.
We started with Chef Tino’s take on shrimp de jonghe, which bakes four wild jumbo shrimp with a house made de jonghe butter sauce and garlic crostini. It was paired with another unexpectedly decadent appetizer of grilled Nueske’s bacon with maple syrup and fresh rosemary.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that the club’s new star chef has had some French influences so we weren’t entirely surprised (though still impressed) to learn that Chef Tino got his start with Chef Jean Banchet at the one and only Le Francais in Wheeling—renowned globally and in its heyday, considered one of the finest restaurants in Chicago.
The next course, a tasting of the club’s famous lobster bisque and Chef Tino’s baked french onion soup, is equally delicious. Chef Tino says the french onion soup is made “the real French way,” with beef broth made in-house and the finest cheese.
From there, we are presented with the delightfully loaded Anvil wedge (think crispy Applewood bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and scallions topped with house-made bleu cheese dressing) along with an heirloom tomato salad, a simple but elegant creation with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, herbs, and vinaigrette.
And just as we were feeling like we couldn’t eat another bite, the entrees were delivered to our table (No. 24, by the way, which was apparently a club favorite because of its position opposite the fireplace). It’s hard to know which was better, the 16-ounce ribeye served with au jus or the pan seared scallops, served with creamy leeks, roasted shitake mushrooms, and a Meyer lemon beurre blanc sauce.
Let’s just say you should order both and take home the leftovers.
Our meal concluded with crème brulee, perfectly prepared, and a signature dish for The Anvil Club—brandy ice, a Prohibition-worthy concoction of soft-serve ice cream (the club has its own machine) and Christian Brothers brandy.
If there was any regret upon closing out the evening, it was that we couldn’t stay longer. And that’s the way any good supper club should be, always leaving you wanting one more cocktail, one more walk through the history of a city, and community, you’ve adopted as your own.
P.S. If you haven’t already made plans for St. Patrick’s Day, Chef Tino has something unique in store for those lucky enough to get reservations. In addition to corned beef (of course) cooked with broiled cabbage and a creamy, house made horseradish sauce, he’s elevating the prix fixe menu with homemade Irish soda bread and unexpected touches like duck ravioli with Jerusalem artichoke sauce and duck confit. Tell them we sent you.
Ready for a round of Rat Pack-era libations? The mixologists at The Anvil Club are bringing back elevated versions of these quintessential cocktails.
Basil Sweet Manhattan
Basil Hayden Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is gently stirred with Bada Bing cherry juice and Angostura bitters—then topped with Bada Bing cherries. A delicious aperitif before Chef Tino’s sumptuous lobster bisque.
This sweet concoction marries Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky bourbon whiskey with Amaretto Disaronno, garnished with Bada Bing cherries. Perfect for sipping before or after dinner.
The Anvil Club is located at 309 E. Meier Street in East Dundee. For more information, call 847-426-7710 or visit theanvilclub.net.