When we were visiting friends in the Chicago area, they took us to dinner at Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. Our friends are members and were happy to show us what Cooper’s Hawk had to offer. Thank goodness we had reservations as it was Friday night and it was crowded.

Cooper’s Hawk is a chain of wineries. They seem to be popping up all over the Midwest and South-East of the U.S. I am not sure how I feel about a chain winery. Sure, there are many big commercial wineries with huge distribution, but this feels a bit like making wineries equal to a Cheesecake Factory. Hmm. Still, if you aren’t fortunate enough to live in the wine-producing areas of California, I guess it is better than not having a winery to visit.

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We headed to the restaurant part of the building after completing our tasting about which we shall give you our thoughts in the near future. Although the restaurant was very busy, we were seated quickly.

The interior of the restaurant was decorated in dark woods, moody lighting and modern lines. It felt comfortable and well thought out.

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When we sat at our table I was absolutely fascinated. They had one of the most interesting wine breathers I had ever seen. They work with gravity and actually sit on the table top. Here is a link to where you can buy them.

We ordered a bottle of their Shiraz to share. It was a good value at $18.99 a bottle. It had a nose of forest fruits and spices. On the palate I could taste raspberries, earthiness, and medium fruits. It was a drinkable wine that paired well with the food we ordered at the table.

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I have to say that the food was very tasty. We started out with drunken shrimp as an appetizer. The shrimp was grilled and served on top of a pile of guacamole. It was cooked beautifully and tasted fresh and delicious. The plates were empty in a flash and everyone enjoyed what we ate.

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Although we dined on this occasion with friends, I didn’t sample their dishes, so I can’t comment on what they ate. They ordered the Parmesan crusted chicken and the black and blue skirt steak salad. They both seemed to enjoy what they were eating.

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I ordered the risotto with seafood. The scallops and lobster were perfectly cooked, tender and sweet. I thought they did a good job with the flavor of the risotto, but it was a tad under cooked so it had a bit of a hardness when eating it. Overall it was a good plate, but could use some improvement.

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The Brit ordered the maple mustard pretzel coated pork chop. It came with mashed potatoes, string onions, and asparagus. The pork was cooked beautifully. It was moist and juicy with the pretzel layer adding texture and interest. I really liked how both the maple and the mustard complemented the saltiness of the pretzel coating. We both really enjoyed his plate. There was nothing truly gourmet on this dish, but it was hearty and true comfort food.

Our service was great, the food was good, and the company was outstanding. Everything you want in a casual Friday night meal with friends. We would be happy to visit again.

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