Mystery Diner in Geneva: The James a bright addition to dining scene

Outdoor patio a popular draw for music and food

The James in Geneva

One of the prime settings along Geneva’s downtown dining district is now the home of The James, set on the northeast corner of Third and Fulton streets.

We joined friends for our visit to the recent arrival, opting to sit in the glass-enclosed terrace room on a warm day. The people-watching was fun, from the sidewalk crowd to the restaurant’s busy patio offering inviting, shaded seating on the expansive property. Entertainers also make it a destination for music fans, with the patio lineup detailed on The James’ website.

With a birthday to celebrate, we launched our meal with a summery prosecco, and perused the menu.

French onion soup at The James in Geneva

My dining companion opened with a bowl of French onion soup garnished with beef tallow breadcrumbs.

“It was mild and had a rich, complex base,” he said. “Some of the Gruyere cheese had bubbled over and had to be coaxed back into the bowl. I’ll be back for some more.”

The James Salad at The James in Geneva

Our friends tried The James Salad, featuring heirloom tomato, lardon, beef tallow breadcrumbs and iceberg lettuce, dressed with a pepperoncini bacon vinaigrette. They said they enjoyed the dish, and the tomato was particularly tasty.

Summer salmon at The James in Geneva

A fellow diner chose the summer salmon entree starring Verlasso skin-on salmon, bearnaise sauce, speck, arugula, asparagus and Parmigiano Reggiano. He said it was well prepared.

Wagyu burger at The James in Geneva

My dining companion was happy with his Wagyu burger, sourced from Allen Brothers in Chicago, and served with Gruyere, cornichons, sweet onion, tomato, leaf lettuce and “holy trinity” sauce on a brioche bun, with waffle fries.

Steak au poivre at The James in Geneva

Two of us couldn’t resist the steak au poivre. It starred slices of filet mignon in a green peppercorn sauce. It was accompanied by a terrific side dish of shoestring fries, accented with chives and sporting an interesting hint of spiciness. The excellent potatoes arrived hot, crisp and generously portioned.

My fellow steak au poivre diner noted the slathered sauce completely hid the tender slices of beef beneath, but I enjoyed having plenty of the nicely seasoned yet mild peppercorn infusion, perfect for dipping the fries. My steak was cooked exactly to order.

And from another friend not with us that day, we heard compliments for the small-plate crispy baby brie, with green apple, fennel, pecans, honey from The Farm in Romeoville and grilled sourdough.

The eclectic menu also showcases a starter of steak tartare with beef tenderloin, caviar and remoulade. Among the luncheon sandwiches are the Hatch Chili Tuna Melt and the Mojo Chicken. Entrees range from pork schnitzel to grilled swordfish. The dinner menu adds a la carte beef selections, and there’s a Sunday brunch.

The new restaurant’s design has added distinctively patterned wallpaper to parts of the vintage building’s elegant interior. Excellent service and attractive dining rooms and bar, coupled with an appealing atmosphere, make The James a welcome addition to the town’s culinary scene.

• 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.


WHAT: The James

WHERE: 317 S. Third St., Geneva

PHONE: 630-262-1317