On Benson Street, the unassuming Stained Glass bistro is silent all day: no patrons walking in or out — not even a single candle flame radiating from the window. However, during the hours before the doors open at 5 p.m., the staff works vigorously to set the tables, stock the bar and perfect the lighting. While the restaurant has become a go-to for graduation lunches and drop-off day dinners, most don’t realize the impeccable quality and meticulous care that goes into the fare at The Stained Glass. The Stained Glass offers one-of-a-kind creations, thoughtfully plated so each bite includes every wonderful element.
Take, for instance, one of chef and co-owner Victor Hernandez’s best pieces of work: the foie gras BLT. Seared foie gras melts into crisp bacon, topped with sliced tomato and complemented with a homemade truffle mayo. It’s one of the restaurant’s signature items, and for good reason. Pair the dish with the Brut Rosé Graham Beck from South Africa — the sweet flavor perfectly complements the smokiness of the meats.
If you’re going to dine at The Stained Glass, there is one dish you absolutely must try. All you plain-pasta-with-butter eaters, brace yourself: try escargot. Yes, we know, that means snails — but before you say no, just know that the soft and tender French delicacies sit atop a whipped, herbes de Provence blend topped with a Parmesan crouton. The dish is best paired with a sweet, light Sauvignon Blanc.
Another house special is the Tuna, Tuna, Tuna, which is tuna (surprise!) prepared three different ways: sashimi, tartar and a loin. The sashimi is fresh, served with a vegetable salad in a sweet, soy glaze. Even so, the tartar is truly the stand out. The spicy mayo-type sauce lends a subtle Asian flavor and just the right amount of kick.
Another menu standout is the Australian lamb rack. Served with a pesto sauce so fresh you’d believe the spices were picked that morning, the lamb is juicy, tender and packed with flavor. The Parmesan and white truffle crème brûlée that accompanies it is heavenly; the texture both creamy and airy at the same time. We paired the lamb with the Nebbiolo from Italy, which had a strong, bold taste.
Even if your waistline did expand a pant size by the end of dinner, you shouldn’t deny yourself one of Hernandez’s homemade treats. Don’t worry if you barely have energy left to chew because the cooked-to-order donuts will melt right in your mouth. Soft and fluffy, these Krispy Kreme-worthy delights can be made savory or sweet (think bacon bits and Cocoa nibs).
But if you really want to indulge, try Hernandez’s signature dessert item: the most unique and scrumptious dish on the entire menu. Created by Hernandez himself, the grilled cheese is a dessert crafted with soft, ripened cheese similar to Brie, melted between two slices of pound cake (the two most perfect pieces of pound cake on Earth), all topped with a rosemary-key lime curd and raspberry jam. If there’s one thing to try before you die, this is it.
Hernandez is the creative mind behind the food at The Stained Glass. At 16, he made a modest entry into the food industry as a dishwasher at a Chicago restaurant. By 18, he was sous chef at Printer’s Row. He worked at a few other restaurants, including Hemmingway’s Brass Rail in Lincoln Park, one of Chicago magazine’s best new restaurants of the year. Hernandez has been with The Stained Glass since the beginning, starting as executive chef when it opened in 1999. The restaurant has evolved throughout the years, swapping in different menu items seasonally and incorporating over 10 gluten-free options into the mix. It also boasts over 30 wines by the glass, not to mention the premier wine-storing system, a Cruvinet. With the extensive wine list, the options can be overwhelming so trust your server and allow him or her to pair the right wines with each course.
The Stained Glass is truly an unbelievable restaurant and dining experience. Before you leave Evanston, make sure to celebrate a special event or just treat yourself to Chef Hernandez’s creative and fresh food.
Location: 1735 Benson Ave, Evanston, IL
Hours of operation: Sun-Thu 5pm-9 pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
A special thanks to the Stained Glass for providing us with a press dinner for this review.