Regional Dining Guide

Montarra Grill: All Primed For Spring’s Largesse

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For more than a decade, this restaurant has provided guests with contemporary American fare and a menu that’s updated seasonally. Find out what else this eatery is doing to cultivate and maintain a growing customer base.

Montarra Grill’s Berkshire Pork Tomahawk Chop is one of many locally sourced dishes served at this popular Algonquin restaurant.

Montarra Grill, at 1491 S. Randall Road, Algonquin, has cultivated a growing coterie of loyal fans ever since the restaurant debuted in 2004.

The high quality of its food and service are hallmarks, says Josh Lynn, head chef during the past 10 months. A focus on locally sourced produce and Angus beef have helped its reputation, too.

“Our goal is to consistently create a memorable dining experience for our customers,” says Lynn, a big fan of farmers markets. “I can hardly wait for spring and its bounty of fresh, locally grown vegetables and locally raised meat.”

With an emphasis on contemporary American fare, Montarra’s menu is updated seasonally. It features shareable, tapas-like small plates and a broad selection of hand-cut steaks wet-aged a minimum of 21 to 28 days. Diners also have the option to order from among several pork, chicken, seafood and pasta entrees.

The 27-year-old Lynn was born and raised in Milwaukee and realized his career choice was in the culinary arts. He perfected his skills via on-the-job training at a number of Chicago and suburban restaurants, working up from dishwasher to chef de cuisine.

Black Angus steak – Filet Mignon 6- or 10-ounce – remains a staple on the menu. Entrees range in price from $20 to $40, excluding alcohol.

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare stands out as a popular appetizer, as does wild Florida Grouper. Creme brulee and flourless chocolate fondue top the dessert list.

To test consumer preferences, Montarrra regularly offers chef’s specials: three appetizers and three main courses a day. Based on positive feedback, some specials occasionally make a move to the main menu.

For example, recent success with a new miso-glazed salmon dish, initially offered as a special, paved the way for its inclusion in the spring calendar. The fish is plated with grilled asparagus, roasted red potato, fava bean puree, sweet corn-tarragon sauce and bacon.

Ben Saxton runs Montarra’s busy bar, which dispenses some 20 craft beers on tap and 80 domestic and imported wines sold by the glass or bottle.

In keeping with the season, Saxton christened a specialty cocktail he named Spring Fever.

Montarra regularly draws customers from Crystal Lake, Woodstock and McHenry, but its precise clientele demographic is hard to pin down.

“We serve people from their mid-20s to nonagenarian. It’s a good mix,” says Lynn.

Many regard Montarra as a special-occasion restaurant. By arrangement, customers can book the 144-seat restaurant for private gatherings such as anniversaries, baby showers and retirement parties.

Some diners establish a rapport with the staff to the point that they ask for their favorite server to attend their table.

Lynn enjoys telling the story of a couple who had their first date at Montarra, and after three years they became engaged at the same bar.

Montarra serves dinner Tue.-Thur. 4 to 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4 to 10 p.m. and Sun. 4 to 9 p.m.

Reservations are accepted; call (847) 458-0505 or visit montarra.com.

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