I'm sorry, but I have to apologize to whoever it was who told me that I needed to try The Country House in southwest suburban Clarendon Hills, IL (see map). The person sent me an e-mail a couple three months ago about how good the burgers are at The Country House. Not long ago, I tried them out for myself.
The Country House in Clarendon Hills has some interesting history behind the place. The original building was built in 1922 by Emil Kobel as a combination road house tavern and grocery store. Kobel continued to run The Country House until 1957, when he sold out and retired to Florida. In 1974, local residents and frequent visitors to The Country House, David and Patrick Regnery, bought the restaurant. A year later, the place underwent a major and much-needed renovation. Along with the renovation, Regnery came up with a new menu which featured the soon to be famous Country Burger.
In 1985, The Country House expanded to a second location in a small shopping mall in suburban Lisle (see map). While it was difficult to re-create The Country House experience in a strip mall, the Regnery's decorated the restaurant with a rustic theme, similar to the original place in Clarendon Hills. In 1996, the Regnery's opened a third location - this one definitely with a country feel to it - in Geneva along the Illinois Prairie Path in the Fox River Valley (see map). While the building in Geneva is similar to the original Country House in Clarendon Hills, it's larger and features an outside deck area that overlooks a small pond.
The Country House also is somewhat infamous for being haunted. The restaurant is visited annually by hundreds who believe in the paranormal as a series of manifestations have occurred in the restaurant over the years. I certainly didn't know about that before I went there, that's for sure.
It was just after noon when I walked into the original Country House in Clarendon Hills. The parking lot was packed with cars and there was a little wait for a table in the rustic dining area. I kind of stood around in the bar, hoping to get an open chair at the bar. There was a lady sitting with a man at the bar who had her coat draped over an open chair next to her. Finally, I had to ask, "Are you saving this chair for someone?"
She looked at me sort of funny, then looked at her coat on the chair and sort of jumped in surprise. She said, "Oh, my goodness! No, I'm not saving this seat for anyone. Let me move my coat!" So that worked out pretty well. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask.
Even though I pretty much knew what I wanted, I took a menu from the bartender and ordered up a Bell's Amber Ale that they had on tap. While most of the items on the menu consisted of sandwiches and burgers, The Country House also featured steaks, seafood, chicken and salads. But they're famous for their Country Burger - a 1/2 pound chopped sirloin served on light or dark rye bread. I finally ordered up a Country Burger - medium - with Swiss cheese, and I got an order of steak fries on the side.
It took about 20 minutes during a very busy lunch hour for my burger to show up. Immediately, the burger reminded me of the dark rye cheeseburger they serve at the Hackney'srestaurants around the Chicagoland area. (As an aside - Geez! I can't believe I've NEVER written about Hackney's on Road Tips!) And just like the Hackney Burger, the Country Burger was very good. It was flavorful, moist and juicy. The Swiss cheese was a perfect complement to the burger meat.
While I was having my burger, the people next to me left and one of their seats was taken by a guy who immediately ordered up the Country House's chili. It looked - and smelled - great. I couldn't help but ask the guy if it was as good as it looked. He said, "This is the best chili in Chicago. I can't wait until winter time when they start making it again." I told him I'd have to try some the next time I came in to Country House.
And just like Hackney's, the Country House is pretty proud of their burger. They charge $9.45 for the burger and steak fries. A little steep, but they don't seem to have a shortage of people rolling in to have their burgers. I suppose having their burgers recently voted the Best in Chicago by readers of the Chicago Tribune doesn't hurt either. And their burgers were very good. A neat place with good food and some history thrown in- that's the Country House in Clarendon Hills.