This longtime Algonquin favorite, always seeking something novel, is setting out to capture new diners while still maintaining the atmosphere and service that have made it a hallmark for five decades. See what’s in store.
For 53 years, diners have made Port Edward Restaurant, 20 W. Algonquin Road, in Algonquin, their go-to place for fresh seafood, high-quality steak and fellowship.
It might be easy for a longtime favorite to rest on its laurels, but in the fast-moving restaurant business, that’s not an option – especially for an establishment that prides itself on being unique.
In the coming months diners can expect to see several updates, but what won’t change are the experience and atmosphere that have been the hallmark of this institution.
“We don’t want to lose our roots,” says general manager Charles Kaskadden.
Edward Wolowiec, founder and proprietor, no longer maintains a daily presence at Port Edward, but his guiding hand and decades of influence are always present.
The unique dining space at Port Edward is filled with treasures collected by Wolowiec over the years. Booths made from church pews, tables fashioned from old ships, accents such as buoys and lobster traps – these are part of the nautical ambience that diners have come to know and love.
Customers celebrating a special occasion are attracted to the Porpoise, a 25-foot wooden sailboat that actually floats inside its indoor harbor. Up to four can dine in its cabin.
“That’s not something you see in just any restaurant,” says Kaskadden. “Newer, corporate places try to re-create that experience, but they don’t pay attention to detail in the way we’ve been doing for years.”
In some ways, Port Edward is still a throwback to the days when people dressed up and took the family to dinner for special occasions. But as snowbirds flock to warm pastures, and younger diners, more accustomed to casual settings, meander toward their seats, management at Port Edward is casting a wider net to attract newcomers – not just younger diners who are conscious of quality, sustainability and healthy choices, but those who live nearby and have yet to visit.
Kaskadden also sees potential east of Algonquin, among destination diners who live around Schaumburg and into Chicago.
The menu, too, is getting some touch-ups. As early as this summer, diners can begin to select meals from the general menu or a new Captain’s Menu that presents Port Edward classics and a handful of resurrected dishes.
Red snapper recently joined the menu and live Maine lobsters may arrive soon. Prime steaks, the bouillabaisse, and the Three Ocean Sampler, featuring salmon, mahi mahi and tilapia, remain popular choices.
Also popular is Lobster Edwardo – the most-requested signature dish. “It features lobster medallions dipped in a beer batter and deep fried,” Kaskadden says.
Diners still flock to the Sunday Champagne Brunch and the International Sushi and Seafood buffet, hosted on Fridays. This latter attraction samples a wide variety of seafood, paella, sushi, salads and soups. A Port Edward sushi chef prepares rolls on-site.
Not to be overlooked, the wine cellar has received acclaim from Wine Spectator magazine, which bestowed the Award of Excellence on Port Edward. The cellar carries an array of wines, including Rieslings from Germany, Chardonnay from France, sauvignon blanc from South Africa and many California wines. The number of varietals Port Edward carries is ever-changing.
Though change is coming, Kaskadden reassures longtime patrons that what’s coming is a tasteful spruce-up, one that recognizes tradition, embraces new audiences and avoids alienating those who’ve long called this port home.
“We have an amazing staff, and they bend over backward to make this experience as stellar as possible,” says Kaskadden. “That’s come from Ed since Day One: You’re dining with family. Yet, there’s also an appreciation here for the nautical past and simpler times. We’re dedicated to fresh and quality cuisine, and that’s what separates us from chain restaurants.”
Port Edward serves dinner Sun. 3-8 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 4-9 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. to 10 p.m. Sunday champagne brunch buffet is available from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Lunch service is expected to resume this spring.