Winberie's

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In more than a quarter century at the corner across from Scoville Park, Oak Park's pioneer in finer-yet-still-welcoming dining has changed names, interiors, awnings and entrees. But not the lead dessert. Just as chocolate fondue was served in the days of The Cheese Cellar — cocoey sweetness spiked with orange liqueur, a dipping mix both nutritious and naughty — so the shareable treat that made its village debut in 1982 comes to tables at Winberie's now.

 

It's the restaurant's only signature that predates Gary Nebiolo, the manager, who in March marked his 25th year in Oak Park as the local partner for Cleveland-based Select Restaurants. The restaurant he started out running, The Cheese Cellar, became Winberie's in the mid-1980s. The small group that Winberie's is in, which focuses on traditional American fare, includes regionally acclaimed Parkers' Ocean Grill in Downers Grove, five other Winberie's — from Buffalo Grove to Summit, N.J. — and such nationally known spots as Parkers' Lighthouse in Long Beach, Calif., and the Top of the Hub in Boston's Back Bay.

 

For a place with corporate siblings on each coast, Winberie's feels like an Oak Park original. Gary's continuous outreach to schools, arts groups and charities in and around the village has turned the restaurant that anchors the Scoville Square Building into a community pillar. Winberie's list of annual sponsorships and partnerships could fill a menu board: BRAVO at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, CAST at Percy Julian Middle School, performing arts programs at Dominican University, Circle Theatre, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Handel Week Festival, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, Heritage Chorale, the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Infant Welfare Society, the Oak Park Conservatory, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Open Door Repertory Company, the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, Village Players and West Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Housing).

 

Classes at Beye, Hatch and Longfellow elementary schools regularly get visits from Winberie's chef, Charles Vales. In full uniform, Chef Chuck checks in to talk about nutrition and sometimes to cook. Last fall at Hatch, where Chef Chuck is part of the Healthy Eating Initiatives program spearheaded by Sandy Noel, kids got a stir fry the chef whipped up with vegetables grown in the school garden.

 

The goal of making meaningful connections echoes inside the restaurant, too. If you arrive with a question about vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free options, whoever is at the host's stand can help you. At that stand are copies of Winberie's lunch and dinner menus highlighted with dishes adaptable for each of those three special diets. For prompt answers to concerns about food allergies, there's a binder on hand with lists of ingredients in menu staples.

 

For everyone, there's a full plate of choices. If you're a fan of soup and salad, count on being surprised: Winberie's rotates among 20 soups, and sandwiches can be as funky as grilled turkey and brie. Love pasta but don't want a full serving? You can request half and two-thirds portions. A fan of Jack Daniel's, but want more than Old No. 7? In Oak Park, Winberie's has the only bar outside a hotel to stock Gentleman Jack. 

 

When you get to dessert, you can mini-size: Every day, there's A Little Something option. But if you do need an all-out finish, remember the vintage shareable: Around the pot of chocolate fondue, healthful dippers like strawberries and melon cubes make room for marshmallows and Rice Krispies blocks.

Reader Comments

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Jim DeFrancisco from Mision, KS  

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 3:05 PM

I was visiting when friends invited my partner and me to dinner at Winberies! The atmosphere, service, and especially the food, was outstanding. Each of the four of us raved about our dinners, so much so, that I called Winberies for their Cajun Macaroni & Cheese recipe. Though they couldn't share the recipe, the Manager gave me a list of ingredients in the dish so I could attempt to make it myself. I definitely will go back to Winberies on my next visit. Thanks for your outstanding service!

Jack Lesniak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 4:17 PM

We live in OP and have been to most of the restaurants within and just outside its boundaries and we can say that we never had a bad meal at Winberie's. Their soups are excellent and beyond homemade. Matched with one of their appetizers, makes an excellant light meal. If you go for the main dishes you will be more than satisfied with the quality, taste and the presentation. The wait& bar staff are cordial, helpfull and knowledgeable. Winberie's is our go-to spot for dining out.

John  

Posted: December 14th, 2010 11:05 AM

A very good and dependable white cloth meal. Their evening pastas a very good, their salmon can always be depended on, and good drinks. Nice setting with good value food. Their hamburger was surprisingly good, so a lighter fare dinner is very possible, especially for the kids. Would like to see a bit more change on their menu, something surprising as an entree or dessert.