The Stained Glass Bistro and The Cellar in Evanston are two restaurants you will have to experience. Their great food and atmosphere are the perfect combinations to have an enjoyable evening, along with their craft beer and fine wine.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner of both establishments, Jason Balla, to discuss his restaurants. If his name rings a bell, it is probably because you have seen him perform at the Lyrica Opera. He is an accomplished opera singer and has performed in over 100 productions.
Balla, who was born in Wales, came to the United States in 1994. After 20-years on stage, he decided to give his entrepreneurial spirit a try and own a couple restaurants, which just so happen to be located only 350 feet away from his home.
In the summer of 2014, the opportunity to buy the business from its then owner, presented itself to Balla, who had desired to own a restaurant. Balla said that “when all things were considered, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and too good of one to pass up.”
The transition from being a professional singer at the Lyrica Opera to becoming a restaurant owner has been a smooth one. Balla says “I’m an entrepreneur and I have passion for fine dining,” he says. “That’s the reason I’m in it.”
The Stained Glass, at 1735 Benson Avenue is located around the corner from The Cellar, at 820 Clark, but they are also connected through a hallway from inside.
Dining with Balla was a delicious adventure. He handed me the menus for both The Stained Glass Bistro and The Cellar, along with the drink menus. The Bistro offers more than 30 wines by the glass and ten wine flights/samplers and The Cellar has more than 40 bottled beers and six draft lines. If you want fine wine, dine at The Stained Glass Bistro as Balla works with 12 wine merchants to provide the best possible selection for his guests. If you want craft beer, go to The Cellar.
I chose three different plates and one wine sampler. Kicking off the night I ordered the “Citrus Bliss” white wine flight/sampler that included Assyrtiko Blend Dom Siglas from Santorini, Greece, Sauvignon Blanc Drylands from Marlborough, New Zealand and Viognier Penner Ash from Willamette, Oregon. They included generous half-glass pours and it paired nicely with my Stained Glass Bistro’s “Cheese For Two” starter that included three artisan cheeses (raclette, dolce gorgonzola and St. Andre), fresh fruit, candied walnuts and currant-walnut toast.
After the starter, I ordered their famous Baked Artichoke appetizer that was presented very nicely over a flower of artichoke. It was scrumptious with portabella mushrooms, sautéed spinach, gorgonzola cheese, herb parmesan crust and brown caper butter. You pull each artichoke leaf out and eat the toppings on the leaf followed by consuming the bottom edible part of the artichoke.
The cheese starter and artichoke appetizer made me full, but I had to make room to try an entrée from The Cellar. I decided to taste their Empenadas. Three empenadas were served on a plate with avocado-tomatillo salsa and inside each empanada were roasted poblano peppers, sweet corn and Oaxaca cheese, and it was incredible.
The Stained Glass Bistro will be hosting a holiday jazz night featuring songbird Tammy McCann on December 15 from 6:30 pm – 9 pm. In early 2016, some chamber music evenings are planned as well as an opera evening. “I’ll be featuring some of my many friends and colleagues from both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Chicago Symphony.” he says.
The Stained Glass Bistro and The Cellar will not be open on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, however, you can enjoy dining there on Black Friday after you’ve shopped ‘till you dropped and also on New Year’s Eve.
The Stained Glass Bistro and The Cellar are open daily for dinner from Sunday-Thursday: 5 pm – 9 pm, Friday & Saturday: 5 pm -10 pm. Brunch is served at The Cellar on Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm.
Both restaurants can accommodate a wide variety of occasions ranging from small intimate dinners to formal business meetings, casual meet & greet recruitment events and large scale celebrations.