When the owners of City Park Grill in Highland Park began working on their menu, they based most of it off of the dishes served at their previous restaurant, the now shuttered Forty One North. A growing gluten free menu sports dishes so delicious even people without dietary restrictions love them.
The bar area offers a more casual setting. A pair of flat screen TVs hangs behind the long, blacktopped bar. Bottles of alcohol are on display behind the bar, where the list of specialty cocktails and single malt scotches is written on a mirror. The dining room has a formal but contemporary vibe.
We were greeted and seated promptly. Since it was our first time at the restaurant, the host said he'd put us with one of their best servers. He lived up to his reputation. He was friendly and offered excellent recommendations for food and drinks. I started with a mango mojito. The well mixed and refreshing cocktail was served in a very tall glass, making the $9 drink a better deal than you'll find at most equivalent restaurants. The lemon drop martini was also great, sweet and sour with lemon sorbet layered on top and limoncello providing extra kick.
Entrees come with a choice of salad. The Caesar salad was solid, but the field greens salad was a standout, with the leafy greens topped with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and croutons. We'd ordered the baked goat cheese appetizer, but it hadn't showed up by the time our entrée came out so we told our waiter to scratch it. He made it up to us by refilling our drinks for free.
I'd been debating between the horseradish-encrusted salmon and cashew tilapia with Thai peanut sauce. Our server said both were great, but recommended that I try the tilapia bruschetta, his favorite dish on the menu. Part of the restaurant's gluten-free menu, the dish periodically winds up on the specials list to expose more people to it. The attention is well deserved. The light fish is covered in a flavor-packed mix of sautéed spinach, plum tomatoes and portobello mushrooms. Paired with a side of garlic green beans, the meal was filling without being heavy. The barbecue sauce-marinated skirt steak was a little chewy, but the mix of tastes and textures worked best when you got a bite including the crunchy garlic toast and crispy onions served with the steak.
For dessert we ordered small portions of the apple crisp and bread pudding. Both were well worth saving room for. The warm slices of granny smith apples worked perfectly with a bite of cinnamon ice cream and the sweet, crunchy breading topping. The soft challah used for the bread pudding provided a delightful base that was covered in bourbon sauce with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. The sweet eats topped off a night of excellent food, drinks and service that make City Park Grill well worth a visit.