At long last, it’s the season for dining al fresco, and one of the most inviting hideaways is the patio tucked behind Preservation on South Third Street in Geneva.
On a balmy afternoon, we headed down the alley between Preservation and its sister enterprise, the takeout mecca Atlas Chicken Shack, to find ourselves transported to an instant vacation vibe, with spacious seating areas flanking the full-fledged outdoor bar, replete with TV screens where golf and baseball action were in full swing. A bouncy music soundtrack fueled the mood metamorphosis.
There are high-tops, as well as tables with umbrellas, and a shaded portion of the outdoor space has additional relaxed seating. Bright strings of lights add charm even during a daylight visit.
Next up was the thoughtfully prepared food for which Preservation restaurant and wine bar is known.
Cold drinks in hand, we studied the menu, remembering that Preservation also has a great reputation for making its own breads. The eclectic offerings range from bacon jam on a grilled baguette with blue cheese and arugula to wild mushroom tart, short rib pie, Korean pork belly tacos, flatbread pizzas, pan-seared halibut, rib-eye steak, housemade ricotta gnocchi and elaborate charcuterie plates (their gluten-free twist is to substitute apple slices for crostini).
Under small bites, we began our meal by sharing the grilled prawn skewers, accompanied by hot Calabrian chili aioli. Four superlative prawn graced each of the two skewers, and arrived freshly grilled with a lovely slight char. The orange-hued aioli added mild zest.
My dining companion selected the house-made focaccia lamb sliders. A quartet of mini-burgers featured the tender, fresh-baked focaccia, which complemented herb-studded lamb patties atop dill yogurt and a thick, crunchy slice of cucumber, along with garnishes of feta and red pepper jam.
A luncheon perk until 4 p.m. is the option of adding a cup of French onion or tomato bacon soup or a small butter lettuce salad to the order of a hand-held entree for a small up-charge.
My fellow diner chose the French onion, in which a thick slice of French bread crowned by melted cheese floated on a beefy, rich broth brimming with onion.
I picked an old favorite, whose name strikes me as a misnomer in common parlance: Crispy Duck Spinach Salad. Yes, wonderfully fresh spinach leaves spiced by sesame seeds with pickled onion are featured on the side of the plate, but the dominant portion of the dish is a luscious and warm wild rice mix heavily studded with good-sized pieces of flavorful duck and dried cherries.
For an added layer of fun, Preservation offers multiple live music performances during the week at this inviting destination that doubles as a mini getaway.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: 513 S. Third St., Geneva