By ELIZABETH SCHIELE
With weekend table waits up to two hours, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant in Arlington Heights has already become a destination restaurant for its wine, food and ambiance.
Open since late November, Cooper’s Hawk remodeled the 26,000-square-foot former site of Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Arlington Heights, joining two other area locations in Wheeling and South Barrington.
The Cooper’s Hawk concept includes four distinct components where guests can stop by for a meal, a glass of wine, a tasting in the tasting bar, or to buy a gift for a special occasion.
Unlike many other restaurants, the front doors here open into a retail gift store with a wine tasting bar where guests can enjoy one complimentary tasting of a signature Cooper’s Hawk wine or for $7-$12, tastings of up to eight wines either white, red, sparkling, fruit and or a meritage. Next, guests can step into an upbeat bar area and casual dining room filled with lots of chatter, music and comfort food.
Room for all
The Arlington Heights location is the largest yet, seating up to 800 guests on three floors, in a large, main dining room plus three private rooms including the upstairs loft. The ambiance is lodge-like, with an angled wood-slat ceiling accented by heavy, wagon-wheel chandeliers and exposed white stone walls all facing a row of large wine barrels setting the winery ambiance.
Using grapes from Michigan, Washington, Oregon and California, Cooper’s Hawk makes its signature wines locally in Countryside. Young grapes are used so many wine selections are fragrant, light and fruity, and all reds are decanted tableside. The wine pours are generous, at 7 ounces, with affordable price points of $6.25 to $9 per glass, and a selection of 35 wines by the glass. Tasting is encouraged and wine and food pairings are recommended throughout the menu.
Chef recommendations include chicken pot stickers, a blend of chicken, ginger, cabbage, sesame and soy, the ahi tuna tacos of mini white corn tortillas filled with citrus slaw, sriracha cream, avocado, cilantro and wasabi cream, a caprese flatbread, a selection of artisan cheeses, a creamy crab and lobster bisque and a chopped wedge salad.
Known for their USDA Angus, half-pound burgers, the chef recommendation here is the Zin burger, braised with zinfandel sweet onions and topped with gruyere cheese, garlic mayo, shredded lettuce and tomato.
Other favorites are the crispy parmesan chicken sandwich to a honey smoked turkey and brie. Pastas, chicken giardiniera to pork and beef specialties including the slow-roasted red wine and mustard short ribs round out the menu.
Seafood selections are a good choice here as well and surprisingly fresh, particularly a recent tasting of a cashew-encrusted walleye accented with an orange basil sauce, served with strips of asparagus and creamy mashed potatoes.
A bonus for all: Warm, salty and satisfying pretzel bread with creamy butter arrives shortly after you are seated.
And save room for dessert, from chocolate truffles or chocolate-covered strawberries that arrive with the kids meals to a banana caramel ice cream sandwich. Entrees average $9.99 for burgers and sandwiches to $24.99 for seafood and steaks.
With the crowds, expect to wait and be patient with your server, who may spend a little more time with couples enjoying a wine-filled night out rather than families. But Cooper’s Hawk is an excellent destination for a date night or girls night out, even if it’s just for a $7 wine tasting.
Also worth checking out is the wine-of-the-month club that starts at $18.99 and allows members to collect points toward future dining and purchases. Plus the retail store offers some crafty ideas for wine carrying to such picnic destinations as Ravinia or parties, along with unique wine gift items, jams, dips, teas and more.