Boomer Beat: Port Edward Restaurant a great dining experience
As the snow mounts and winter continues, a fun dining experience can be had at Port Edward Restaurant in the heart of downtown Algonquin.
The local landmark has been featured on the show “Check Please” and highlighted by the AAA Motor Club as “one of Mid-America’s most unusual restaurants.”
Algonquin, you have to admit, is a unique place with a picturesque quality. No matter what direction you approach from, you have to negotiate a steep hill to reach the center of the town at Algonquin Road and Route 31. As you descend, wooded hills surround you, roads narrow and Victorian houses or early-20th century storefronts are on either side. Standing on the bridge over the Fox River and looking around evokes a feeling of being nestled in the valley and gives the location a romantic quality.
Now, I know some readers also will recognize the center of Algonquin as a place where they have spent way too much time sitting in traffic. However, to all appearances, those days are coming to a close as the Route 31 bypass nears completion. The new multi-lane road will take traffic around, rather than through, downtown Algonquin.
I asked a local businessman if he was concerned re-routing traffic would mean fewer customers. “Quite the contrary,” was his reply. Without the traffic jam, he said, people will be more likely to come into town to visit stores and restaurants.
One of the places that will continue to attract visitors is Port Edward. 2014 will mark its 50th year of operation. Despite the number and variety of restaurants that have opened in recent years, Port Edward still stands out as a first-rate.
When my husband took me there for my birthday, it was a nostalgic occasion. Port Edward, you see, was the first up-scale restaurant we went to after moving to Crystal Lake, and it has been a place to celebrate several mile stones in our family’s history.
The first thing you notice when entering the restaurant is an indoor harbor containing a welcoming 25-foot authentic sailboat named the Porpoise. Patrons can request a table in the cabin of the boat for an intimate and memorable dining experience. (The size of the boat limits the number of diners to four.) The surrounding décor suggests a town on the ocean’s coast. Picturesque lobster traps, nautical carvings and vintage boards of long-leaf yellow pine might start you thinking about ordering a lobster from the restaurant’s large tank.
There are two other special seating opportunities at Port Edward. One is a room reconstructed from an old windmill, and the other is a “secret room” inspired by the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass.
During the summer, they have nights when guests who want to dine outdoors can bring their dogs with them. Funds raised on these dog-days of summer are given to local animal foundations.
Yet another highlight of this restaurant is the Friday international seafood buffet. Seafood specialties including lobster bisque, paella Valenciano, freshly shucked oysters and clams, and a sushi bar, and it is a wonderful dining experience to start the weekend.
There also is a sumptuous award-winning Sunday champagne brunch, where you can choose from made-to-order omelets, eggs benedict, cheese blintzes, fresh Belgium waffles, clams casino, smoked salmon, french fried shrimp, smoked salmon, chef’s London broil and a turkey carving station; plus assorted pastries, pies, chocolate-covered strawberries, crème brûlée and bread pudding.
Lunch fare includes delicious soups ranging from New England clam chowder to Manhattan lobster bisque, seafood salads, burgers and their famous New England lobster roll.
When we visited Port Edward recently, I enjoyed an 8-ounce Brazilian lobster tail with drawn butter, mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. My husband enjoyed a dish called Hemingway’s Trout made from an authentic Ernest Hemingway recipe for whole Idaho trout. Both dinner entrées were outstanding. Top of the line steaks, chops and chicken also are available.
It is unlikely a stroll along the river is in your near future, but keep it in mind when warmer weather comes.
The restaurant is on the banks of the Fox River on Algonquin Road (Route 62). They have a very helpful website, www.portedward.com. In addition they can be reached at 847-658-5441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Sue Neuschel shares her experiences as a Baby Boomer, offers unique places to visit in and around McHenry County. She can be reached at email@example.com.