Lemon Tree Grocer's restaurant a hit with commuters

October 5, 2012 9:41:35 AM PDT
Most niche grocery stores have the same format: some fresh produce up front, cases of meat and fish in the back, lots of prepared items from the deli case, maybe a small sweets section, a few dozen types of wine and beer; that's about it.

But since it's located almost right next to the Metra line in downtown Downers Grove, the Lemon Tree Grocer is a completely different type of grocery store. Part of the reason stems from the customer base, which demands home meal replacement.

"We get a ton of commuter business. They want the easy grab-and-go, meal replacement; it's really important to them to have a full meal or piece parts of a meal," said Chef Tim Canning.

But Canning and his team weren't content to just offer sushi to-go and a dozen or so salads and pastas. They actually carved out a section of the store, calling it Zest Bistro, giving them a chance to stretch their creative muscles a bit.

"We felt our customers really demanded being waited on and being attended to," he said.

But they also wanted food that was a little more ambitious than fried chicken and tuna salad. Take the heirloom tomato salad, for example. Shards of smoked cheese echo the ricotta-and-parmesan-stuffed zucchini blossom that arrives alongside, over a small mound of freshly-chopped tomatoes. A flourish of mustard sauce is quickly covered by two, giant diver scallops.. surrounding a French-influenced salad of frisee and porky lardons. Even the brined and grilled pork chop is impressive.. resting on its bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and braised kale.. covered by a chunky blanket of soft apple mostarda compote.

"We're doing fine-dining on a lower par scale," Canning said.

Now Zest Bistro does a lot more than just lunch and dinner. They have brunch every Sunday, and on Saturdays - when there's a Farmer's Market across the street - they serve up tons of sandwiches. Pretty ambitious for a little grocery store.

They also do a Five-Dollar Burger Monday, as well as serve coffee, wine, cocktails and dessert.

Lemon Tree Grocer/Zest Bistro
935 W. Burlington Ave., Downers Grove
(630) 969-9869
http://lemontreegrocer.com/grocery


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