Andy Andresky knows his customers may not necessarily know what dish to order when they first glance at his restaurant’s menu.
But Andresky, owner of 1776 restaurant in Crystal Lake, knows his patrons will know immediately where the ingredients, in whatever they order, have come from.
“We’re right up front – right on the menu,” says Andresky. “We tell you what’s what, and who’s who.”
Since 1990, Andresky says that he has dedicated 1776 to the idea that people want to eat “real food,” made from quality ingredients and prepared entirely in-house, often from scratch.
And, in recent years, that commitment has led Andresky to not only diversify the menu with an increasing range of entrees, small plates, flatbread pizzas and salads, but also to create lasting relationships with local farmers and other food producers, who grow and raise a majority of the ingredients that make up the assortment of dishes diners will find on 1776’s regular lunch and dinner menus and ever-changing list of daily specials.
The regular menu, for instance, notes that the restaurant’s pork dishes feature meat sourced from whole hogs purchased from AM Farm, while other ingredients originate from more than a dozen other local growers, ranchers, dairy farmers, cheese makers and coffee roasters from McHenry County, southern Wisconsin and other locales within 100 miles of Crystal Lake.
The specials list, which typically will include ranch-raised wild game or other creative options, can be even more specific, noting within the dish’s description where almost every ingredient came from.
Andresky says that he can offer such specificity because he has established relationships with all of his suppliers, often partnering with them through the years in order to produce or gather particular items – such as shishito peppers and Jerusalem artichokes grown at Loyola University Farm in Woodstock or hen-of-the-woods mushrooms foraged from the woods near Marengo – specifically for his restaurant.
“They’re growing things for us, for our needs,” he says. “We’re one step ahead of just ‘buying local.’”
Some ingredients also come from more distant locales, which also is noted on the menu.
No matter where ingredients are from, however, Andresky says that the menu often features ingredients that are certified organic and, often, heirloom. The menu can be modified to fit any dietary restriction, including vegan, gluten intolerant or 100-percent gluten-free. The restaurant bakes most of its own bread, including fresh gluten-free loaves.
The 1776 servers are trained to ask certain questions to be certain that the dishes not only meet expectations of diners, but also all dietary needs – a sensitivity near to his heart, as one of his own children has a gluten intolerance.
“We make everything fresh and to order,” he says.
And patrons can also expect to receive their food and drink to be served on fine dinnerware.
“If you want a lemon drop, you’re going to get premium vodka with fresh, house-made lemon bitters and lemon juice,” Andresky says. “And, for the kids, our Shirley Temples will be made with real pomegranate juice and 100-percent cane sugar – nothing with high-fructose corn syrup.
“And our drinks will be served in crystal drinkware, not glass,” he says.
The restaurant also offers a “huge selection” of wine – securing 1776’s recognition from Wine Spectator annually, since 1995.
That designation accompanies a ZAGAT rating the restaurant has held since 1997.
In addition to lunch and dinner service daily, 1776 also offers catering and space for parties and other events.
The restaurant employs 19 people, including some who have been with Andresky from the early days of 1776.
Coming from a restaurant background, including 15 years on staff at a French restaurant in Chicago, Andresky says that he has never had any doubts that Crystal Lake is where his restaurant should be.
“We could’ve opened 1776 anywhere,” he says. “But this is my community, and we chose to open it here. This is a special place.”
If you go
397 W. Virginia St. (Route 14)