GENEVA – When I first noticed Nobel House’s striking, bright-blue awning distinctively standing out along busy State Street in downtown Geneva, I was immediately intrigued.
Because it’s named after Swedish-born Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, I imagined the restaurant’s interior would be filled with tattered books lining shelves, rustic mahogany furniture, Oriental rugs and walls adorned with framed photos of Nobel Prize laureates like Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr. But my envisioned “Nobel theme” ends as soon as you walk through the door.
Instead, you’ll find a youthful, contemporary, tavern-like eatery that has made its culinary prowess the star of the show. Still exuding plenty of rustic charm with hearty, exposed wooden beams running along the ceiling and urbanesque lighting features, Nobel House is a strong contender among Geneva’s drinking and dining scene.
Having visited two times prior to sample Nobel House’s mighty craft-beer list – featuring 30 brews on tap and anywhere from 60 to 90 brews by the bottle – I was looking forward to trying the recipes coming out of its kitchen.
But first – beer. Nobel House is a great place to explore the world of craft brew. The staff is friendly, quite knowledgeable and will give you free samples of whatever they have on tap if you’re having a difficult time making a decision. If you don’t know what you like, they can help you with that, too. No beer snobs here; they are happy to help and teach.
Now, the food. The restaurant is equipped with its own smoker, so – to be expected – meat is a formidable option, and they have at least two barbecue sauces – one that is more vinegar-based and the other is on the sweeter end of the spectrum. Both were delicious.
My dining companions and I visited Nobel House around lunch time on a Monday, and it was buzzing, not packed – which is ideal – but definitely full of activity.
Worth taking a gander at, in addition to the menu, is the restaurant’s “Market Chalkboard” located at the end of the bar, which displays a list of oysters, cheese and charcuterie, flatbreads and soups of the day. My dining companions and I ordered a round of waters, which were served out of a glass bottle and without ice, and started with the Mexican Ceviche ($10), citrus-marinated shrimp with cocktail sauce, fresh pico and panko-fried avocado chunks served with lime creme fraiche and tortilla chips. The bits of fried avocado were a nice touch, adding a bit of crunch and taming the acidity.
The showstopper of the meal was the Crab Cake Club ($14), which was recommended by our waitress. The dish comes stacked with two meaty crab cakes and layered with slices of bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and house aioli, creating the perfect blend of flavors and textures.
Entrées are served with house fries, belly beans, coleslaw, mac and cheese, chips or a side salad. My dining companion opted for the mac and cheese side, which consisted of sharp-cheddar-doused cavatappi noodles.
I ordered the Nobel House Burger, which came with a half-pound of 100-percent, black-Angus ground beef and a choice of cheese on a brioche bun. I added caramelized onions and mushrooms which came at an up-charge of $1 each. I ordered my burger medium and it came well-done, but other than that it was a good choice.
My other dining companion ordered the Nobel House Smoked Sandwich, which allows diners to choose between brisket, pulled pork, turkey pastrami and Ream’s andouille sausage. The brisket tasted tender and the barbecue sauces took its flavoring to another level.
There’s just something about combining burgers and barbecue with great beer, and in Geneva’s blooming craft-beer scene, Nobel House has managed to bring both to the table, and with gumption. If the Nobel Prize is given for achievement, I think Nobel House is a place that is worthy of its name.
• 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 local restaurant every other week and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
If you go • What: Nobel House • Where: 305 W. State St., Geneva • Info: 630-402-0452 or www.nobelhousegeneva.com