A big sign posted right next to the front door warns those with peanut allergies that within they will find peanuts and peanut dust everywhere.
They’re serious. In the grand tradition of ye olde town tavern, there are little pails of peanuts all along the bar and a nice coating of peanut shells strewn across the floor at the Country House.
The bar also acts as the perfect handshake introduction to what this restaurant is about. The place feels like a warm country lodge throughout, thanks to dark wood, dark brick, and a large stone fireplace sporting a boar’s head hunting trophy.
The two flat-screen TVs played hockey and football and the bar was practically standing room only on the Sunday night we visited. For those sidling up to the bar while waiting for a table, try the Country House Red Ale.
Brewed in Chicago by Argus Brewery specifically for Country House, it’s a nice, light sipper, medium bodied, with a dry, malty finish. Once in the dining room, we headed straight into the starters. The Duck Tenders are a very welcome twist on chicken tenders, rolled in almond breading. The duck makes for a richer flavor and the nuttiness in the breading makes for a heartier dish overall. The dipping sauce that accompanies the tenders is an unexpected raspberry BBQ sauce, leading with bright fruit flavor before resolving splendidly into the tang and building heat of BBQ.
Again, twisting the usual expectations of bar bites, the Poblano Poppers are their answer to jalapeño poppers—poblano peppers stuffed with cheese, diced jalapeño, black beans, and roasted corn encased in breading and deep fried. These are bursting with creamy cheese scrumptiousness and the beans and corn combine to create a very zesty southwest’y vibe. Unlike their more conventional counterpart, these poppers don’t rely on the pepper for spiciness. That arrives courtesy of a delicious Siracha Ranch dipping sauce.
For dinner, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the burgers that made them famous. Though they offer seven different types of bread, seven different types of cheese, a variety of toppings, and as many options for sides, the classic County Burger is a half-pound of charbroiled ground chuck with cheese on dark rye bread. This is the burger that’s wound up on scores of readers’ favorites lists including the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald. The trick here is simple. It’s a big, high quality burger patty and the toasted dark rye adds a crisp, hearty crunch. With lettuce, tomato, and onion, it’s a great burger. We tried both the thick steak fries and the onion rings as a side and either work nicely, though the potato probably pairs a little better with the rich, smoky meat. Hold onto the Siracha Ranch sauce that comes with the Poblano Poppers for dipping the onion rings.
The German Wurst Platter brings a bevy of German flavors to the table all on one plate. A trio of grill-mark emblazoned sausages are the savory centerpiece of the plate. Their veal bratwurst is mild and nicely seasoned, the knockwurst is slightly smokier, and the lean Thuringer sausage is the best of the bunch. Warm German potato salad delivers sweetness to the plate with a helping of sauerkraut serving as its tart counterpart. For true synchronicity get a Weihenstephaner in a tall Weiss beer glass and make your own Oktoberfest, no matter the season.
For dessert, they keep it simple. You can either have a slice of New York Cheesecake or a featured dessert, which changes often. We went with the featured dessert, currently Lemon Meringue Pie. The tangy lemon custard and shortbread crust were excellent counterpoints against which to sample a couple of bartender Stanley’s dessert cocktails.
The Stanley Steamer is warm cocktail grounded in the flavor of coffee from Tia Maria, a dark liqueur made with Jamaican coffee beans; Bailey’s Irish Cream; and brandy, topped with whipped cream and a splash of Grand Marnier. It’s a deliriously sweet drink for those who’d prefer their dessert beverage-based. Their other two locations in Geneva and Lisle take reservations, but Country House Clarendon Hills is first-come, first-served. It’s also the location that’s received the most press. Not just for repeatedly ending up on the best burgers lists of many local publications, but because the building has been featured on several shows that investigate the paranormal with titles like Haunted History and Weird Travels, clips of which can be viewed on the Ghost Story tab of their website.
Their legendary ghost girl is only a draw during the month of October, though; it’s their tasty comfort food and cozy atmosphere that’s kept people coming to the Country House for more than 40 years.
The Country House is located at 241 55th Street in Clarendon Hills, 630-325-1444, burgerone.com.