Sleek. That is the word that immediately popped into my mind when we pulled up at the complimentary valet. The modern aesthetic of the building is defined by elegant wood planking both outside and in, mostly with a slight stain, but the panel at the entrance looks almost bleached in its rawness. A slender sans serif font mounted to the panel introduces patrons to Highwood’s exciting new presence, Greenwood.
Inside, the open floor plan stretches impressively, leaning into an organic industrial vibe. The exposed ductwork in the ceiling is half hidden by beams and one wall of exposed, imperfect cinder block acts as the backdrop for a moss green wall-length booth. All of this balances perfectly against the soothingly geometric presence of wood plank walls. It’s contemporary, confident, and cultivates a buzzy atmosphere. This place is a scene.
“We wanted a place for casual food in a really lovely setting,” says owner Josh Kaplan. Greenwood has all the panache of downtown destination dining with a menu that occupies a new space in Highwood between all of the white table cloths or dripping wax candelabras and delicious order-at-the-counter tacos, as most of their elevated Americana offerings reside under $20.
Our first experience of the menu came via the Avocado Toast, three slices of rustic bread toasted to a perfect crunch with a flour speckled crust dotted with sea salt. A creamy layer of fresh avocado spread serves as the base for tangy Pico de Gallo with sweet corn and an undercurrent of lime. A lilt of garlic mingles with the flavors of cilantro and a sprinkle of queso fresco. It’s like a beautiful vegetarian taco on toast, securing this plate’s position as an unmissable starter.
The Greenwood Salad makes excellent use of the sharpness of arugula as it balances out the sweetness of candied praline pecans and incredibly creamy goat cheese. A house made balsamic vinaigrette introduces a tangy top note as cornbread croutons add a welcome textural element and leave a buttery aftertaste to join the health-some flavor of the greens. Served entree-sized, it makes an excellent dinner for one or a lovely palate cleansing detour for two before heading into the entrees.
Chef Mark Newman is making a point with his Double Cheeseburger. Revived from his memories as a child sitting at the counter in Shelton’s in Ravinia, he wanted to bring his haute cuisine sensibilities to the all-American classic. “I just wanted to take something that was amazing and make it in a scratch kitchen,” he says. It’s a point that their clientele have taken to heart with 700 burgers ordered in 30 days, 1000 if you include turkey burgers. And they’re not even open for lunch. It’s elegantly simple. Two griddled burger patties, dripping American cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and bread and butter pickles on a bun. Great ingredients, expertly prepared. There’s no question as to its dominance as the top ordered menu item as soon as you taste the first peppery bite. A cup of hand cut French fries with flecks of fried potato skin are the perfect side dish.
The Grilled Brick Chicken allows Chef Mark to flex the panache for plating that was so evident at Ballaro, his and Kaplan’s previous partnership. Incredibly smokey and succulent chicken is stacked as the centerpiece in a demi-glace reminiscent sauce. Green beans that retain their garden-fresh snap add an earthy side and a pop of vibrant color while the potato wedges lean into the robust flavors of rosemary, an extraordinary bedfellow for the meat.
Dessert was the ideal crystallization of the Greenwood concept. The Soft Serve Flight is a triptych of house made ice creams served in waffle cones. Choose from chocolate, vanilla bean, caramel, and strawberry. All of the ingredients are organic—they have to strain the seeds out to make the strawberry—and the stabilizers are all natural. Along with the Build Your Own Sundae, Chef Mark is determined to make Greenwood a one-stop shop for the family dinner. Sure, you could cart the kids off to Dairy Queen after dinner like you always have, but after you taste these, you’ll never want to.
Greenwood is located at 200 Green Bay Road in Highwood, 847-926-7319, greenwoodhw.com.