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Dining

Mystery Diner: Rox City Grill adds contemporary flair to historic Hotel Baker

ST. CHARLES – If there is any one menu item that draws a diner in and keeps him or her coming back, it’s Rox City Grill’s Beef Tenderloin Sliders – a melt-in-your-mouth piece of beef tenderloin set atop a lightly crisped sesame brioche bun with a generous smattering of roasted shallot aioli. Once I sampled this little beacon of beefy bliss, I became a repeat customer.

Rox City Grill is nestled within the historic walls of Hotel Baker but exudes a more contemporary feel than the building that surrounds it. Colorful paintings of jazz musicians add a pop of color to the dining room, which is situated next to the hotel’s lounge.

The lounge serves a limited menu, with items that appear on the lunch and dinner menus. At night, it transforms into a piano bar around 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and popular piano-centric songs from musicians like Billy Joel, the Beatles and Elton John fill the room. When I visited last for a Thursday “Girls’ Night Out” ($6 martinis), the piano player took requests, and humored mine for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody;” no easy feat, but he pulled it off with a little help from “his friends” – loungers  who sang along. It proved to be a memorable night that you don’t necessarily expect to experience in suburbia.

Having dined in the lounge on many occasions, I wanted to sample the fare that couldn’t be ordered from the lounge menu during the Mystery Diner visit. So, my dining companion and I visited on a Friday for lunch. We selected a cozy booth and were greeted by a genuinely friendly waitress.

The lunch menu offers small plates of items – such as Avocado Spring Rolls ($9) and Gulf Shrimp Cocktail ($13) with horseradish-chili sauce – salads and sandwiches. The dinner menu includes items, such as a USDA 8-ounce, center-cut filet mignon with a choice of bordelaise or maître d’butter; scallops with beluga lentils, bacon, brined onion and butter; and grilled lollipop chops of lamb with eggplant ravioli, chevre, pipparas and lemon broth; to name a few.

The restaurant and lounge also boast a lengthy wine list that is worth sampling, as well as beer and cocktails.

To start, my dining companion and I shared an order of sliders (at $4 apiece) and the Pommes Frites with truffle oil and salt.

On a recommendation by our waitress, I opted for the Bbq Sandwich with pulled pork shoulder and straw onions layered between two slices of thick, grilled white bread. My dining companion ordered the Crab Sandwich with warm Chesapeake crab salad, provolone cheese and tomatoes on a brioche Pullman.

The Bbq Sandwich had a healthy amount of sweet barbecue sauce and savory pork shoulder and seemed to be no match for the bread that held it all together. On the contrary, the crab salad within the sandwich tasted fresh and flavorful, but showed difficulty shining through the bread’s girth, which diluted the flavors slightly.

The sliders tasted perfect, as always, and the crunchy, packed-full-of-flavor Pomme Frites teamed nicely with the savory succulence of the beef.

In small print at the bottom of the menu, it said, “bread and butter available upon request,” so we requested. Freshly baked, sliced bread in a basket with a plate of room-temperature butter (made for easy spreading) arrived at our table, and I was instantly reminded of why bread and butter, to me, is one of life’s most simple pleasures – to be indulged, especially when fresh out of the oven.  

Whether taking time for a decadent dinner, stopping in for lunch or enjoying the lounge’s ambience on an evening out on the town, Rox City Grill is a divergent addition to downtown St. Charles’ dining scene.

If you go

WHAT: Rox City Grill

WHERE: Inside Hotel Baker, 100 W. Main St., St. Charles

HOURS: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; dinner is served 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The lounge (which serves a limited menu) is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday; 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

INFO: 630-845-5800 or www.roxcitygrill.com

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

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