Dining Profile: Stolp Island Social

A new dining experience in downtown Aurora is already drawing notice from a wide range of visitors, including those who are eager to visit before or after a show at neighboring Paramount Theatre.

Stolp Island Social’s seasonally driven menu features many inspired comfort dishes, including the creamy mushroom pappardelle.

Hugh Galdones photo

Downtown Aurora’s newest dining destination is unlike anything else in the neighborhood, and that’s by design. Amy Morton, owner of Stolp Island Social, 5 E. Galena Blvd., in Aurora, wants her latest creation to be a place that feels like home for both residents and visitors.

“When people walk into Stolp Island Social, I want them to feel like they belong, that this is a club for everybody,” says Morton. “It doesn’t really matter what walk of life you’re from or how often you go out for dinner. I want this to be the place that they feel is theirs.”

The cozy environment begins almost the moment you walk in the door. From outside, a scrawling white and gold-colored window sign establishes the mood. Inside, a welcoming parlor harkens back to the 1920s, with high-back chairs in green fabrics and walls covered in period artwork. Even the ceiling is embellished, with glittering gold lamps and quotes by famous people. It’s an environment Morton likens to the fashions of Coco Chanel.

Stolp Island Social maintains a wide and ever-changing menu for brunch, lunch and dinner. It maintains a dual focus on steaks and seasonal entrees, often derived from the work of local farmers. Steaks are divided into two categories, house and reserve, with the latter featuring a top-quality, sustainably raised heritage black Angus beef.

A popular starter dish is the crispy chickpeas, served with garlic, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Morton says they’re an equal complement to the start of a meal or a cocktail at the bar.

Diners also find favor with the burrata and ratatouille, a dish served with fresh eggplant, red pepper and zucchini.

The menus are rounded out with a complement of seafood, chicken and the Social burger at dinner, as well as a lineup of salads, sandwiches and classic brunch dishes during the daytime.

At the richly decorated bar, there’s a wide selection of bourbons, scratch cocktails, wines and beers.

Morton is particularly fond of the “G&T Rethunk,” a custom play on the gin and tonic, crafted with a house-made tonic water that lends a woody taste.
The wine list, which serves by the glass or the bottle, is carefully curated for those who wish to enjoy with or without food. The bar also maintains four rotating beer taps and a brief list of mostly Illinois-brewed crafts.

Stolp Island Social is far from Morton’s first go-around in the restaurant business. Born the fourth generation of a restaurateuring family, Morton began at her father’s Highland Park restaurant at the age of 14 and branched out on her own after working at his side for 15 years. She now owns the impressive Barn Steakhouse and Found Kitchen & Social House, both in Evanston.

Morton’s latest venture plays a complement to its sister restaurants while also piggybacking on the success of its neighbor: the Paramount Theatre, which hosts Broadway plays and touring performers throughout the year. Located in the same building as Paramount’s School of the Arts, Stolp Island Social is already drawing notice from theater patrons.

“We feel very privileged to be able to feed these patrons either before or after a show for dinner,” says Morton. “We even have prixe fixe menus that facilitate getting the guests out a little bit more quickly.”

While there are other places to dine downtown, the choices are slim, for now.

“They don’t necessarily cater to the needs of the patrons at the Paramount Theatre,” says Morton. “We are the first. There are a couple more coming soon. I think if Aurora has its way with it, this is going to be a boomtown.”

Stolp Island Social is open for lunch/brunch Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. It’s open for dinner Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 5 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Reservations are accepted.