I will be honest. Rarely do I travel outside of Chicago city limits to eat. But occasionally a suburban restaurant beckons. So, when I heard of an eclectic New American restaurant in Park Ridge, I had to go see it for myself. Pennyville Station, owned by Park Ridge native and restaurant industry veteran Tony Antonacci, quietly opened its doors to the public this summer. Located in historic downtown Park Ridge, the restaurant boasts a menu focused on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal fare. The beautiful new space combines a modern aesthetic with reclaimed and historic décor, creating an upscale “hometown” atmosphere.
Pennyville Station is a family-owned restaurant, named after the town’s original “Pennyville” moniker. Its from-scratch kitchen offers farm-to-table cuisine driven by the bounty of the Midwest. “We are so happy to be open in downtown Park Ridge where the neighborhood’s identity truly aligns with what we are all about: sharing good food and good drinks, with good people,” says owner Tony Antonacci. “I’ve been working in restaurants with my family for decades. Opening my own place has always been a goal, and I couldn’t be prouder to have done it in my hometown where the restaurant scene continues to grow and flourish.”
The beautiful new 3,800 square foot restaurant features an open kitchen, 124-seat dining room, intimate sidewalk patio, 16-seat copper-topped bar, and capacity for semi-private dining events for groups between 20-70 guests. The modern design is blended with eclectic elements like mosaic floors and walls, accordion windows, tufted leather booths, exposed brick and wainscoting walls, red oak tables, and a variety of eye-catching chandeliers and light fixtures.
Pennyville Station features from-scratch preparations of succulent roasted meats, fresh fish, and vegetables, celebrating each season’s harvest. Hand-crafted touches such as house-made pickles and bacon are peppered throughout a dinner menu. Sourcing exclusively from the Midwest, Executive Chef Jose Alvarez (who, like Antonacci, hails from Chicago’s iconic Tavern On Rush) looks forward to keeping the food in line with all that the finest nearby farmers, growers, cheesemakers and purveyors have to offer. In fact, the vendors are listed on the actual menu page.
We sampled the goods. And let me tell you, folks... I am the person who never orders chicken in restaurants. I don't find most poultry all that exciting. But I am coming back, all the way to Park Ridge, for their slow roasted jalapeno chicken. Beautiful, fall-off-the-bone tender bird dressed in its jus and a tangle of roasted jalapenos, with a side of potato wedges, is nothing short of perfection. If Pennyville Station can do that with humble chicken, I am willing to bet the whole slow roasted section of the menu warrants our attention. We tasted a solid version of wedge salad, this one chopped and easier to split. The seared tuna appetizer is simple and familiar, but flawlessly executed. Where the menu really shines is vegetables. The much lauded gnocchi with roasted squash, goat cheese and sage butter sauce fires on all cylinders. The blistered shishito peppers deliver a punch of flavor. And a humble cauliflower mash is elevated to loaded baked potato status by smokey bacon and verdant chives. Vegetarians will be happy to find several options beyond salad here amid cauliflower tacos, gnocchi and avocado hummus to name a few.
The uniquely curated beverage program provides a dynamic variety of wine, beer, and craft cocktails. The wine list offers smart pairings and a comprehensive selection of varietals, while a broad spectrum of beer styles is on offer from notable local, regional, and national brewhouses. Craft cocktails from the opening menu include creative libations such as the Hot Pepper Paloma, Strawberry Fields Margarita, and refreshing Frosé. Antonacci says that, like the menu, the cocktail list will change periodically to take advantage of seasonal flavor combinations and ingredients. On our maiden voyage at Pennyville, a fancy coupe of Frosé made my dining companion very happy, while I perused the wine menu settling on chilled champagne. Lovely on both counts. Homemade desserts here come in the form of comforting classics including Coconut Cream Pie and Hot Brownie a la Mode. We opted for pie. Rich, without being cloyingly sweet, it was a perfect finish to our meal.
So, the moral of the story? Sometimes it is worth traveling for your supper. Park Ridge is waiting with Pennyville Station at the ready. Now, if only I could get that jalapeno chicken for dinner tonight...
Pennyville Station is located at 112 Main Street in historic downtown Park Ridge.
The Local Tourist dinner for two courtesy of Pennyville Station & Dana Pontarelli, PR & Marketing Consultant.
Photos courtesy of Pennyville Station.