Elmhurst isn't exactly a coastal, seaside village where ocean tides gently rock creaky wooden fishing boats moored in the harbor. However, once you've boarded the deck at Victory Meat and Seafood, the newest restaurant to drop anchor in a bustling downtown district already teeming with night life spots, you might feel like you're at the yacht club to crack open an oyster or two.
From images of mighty ships and faraway destinations hanging on painted paneled walls of gray to the blue captain's table appetizer plates on very tight tables, Victory projects a big "welcome aboard" vibe. On the busy and frigid Saturday night we visited, the thought of sailing away somewhere tropical was just as good as the items inside the manila folder menu -- made to look like a ship's manifest. Yes, it's the same type of file folder on your desk at work. But don't worry: You won't see a TPS report when you open it up.
The drink menu is as wide-ranging and impressive as the food menu. A variety of mixed drinks, popular beers, craft brews, fine wines and champagnes are available for food pairings. There's even a $550 bottle of famed Opus One wine from California's Napa Valley available. We opted for more wallet-friendly beverages that brought a little bit of Mexico and Michigan to our table.
Our drink orders included the Margherita house cocktail, featuring Milagro Silver tequila, Pamplemousse grapefruit flavor and lime. On a whim, I paired glazed salmon with a Bell's Oarsman Ale (on the lighter, crisper side of the beer spectrum). It was a combo that sailed smoothly.
When it comes to the food, you can tell there's a major focus on freshness, which you would expect at a place touting seafood in the name. To start, there are a lot of appetizers to get you going, including choices of oysters from North America's East and West Coasts. Some of the half-shell starters on the specials menu featured the Royal Miyagi oyster from British Columbia and Montauk Pearl off the coast of Long Island. There are also several other oyster varieties on the main menu, all for between $3 to $4 each. If you're new to oyster eating and want to give it a shot, this would be a good place to dive in.
Other small plates include Mediterranean mussels, shrimp Milanese (breaded) and baked clams. There are also selections from Victory's Potatoes, Salads and Veggies sections on the menu.
For main courses, my dining crewmate and I decided to go surf and turf. One of the nonseafood items we tried was the crispy herb brick chicken touted as a signature dish. The pressed-down method of cooking chicken in the skillet really brought out the seasoning, juices and flavors that accent this tasty and filling dish -- fancy comfort food on a cold winter night.
We also tried the glazed King Salmon from the Fresh Fish specials menu. Perfectly cooked salmon dripping with a tangy glaze and seasonings sits on top of a bed of bright green asparagus. It's accompanied by a lemon half in a porous wrap tied at the top for easy application. Not only did this colorful dish look like it was carved out of a rainbow, but also it was flavorful and filling.
Other fresh fish selections include striped bass, swordfish and sushi-grade tuna. And if you're in the mood for lobster, you're in luck. You can try Victory's lobster roll or the lobster mac and cheese.
If seafood isn't your thing, there are plenty of selections from the land. Victory offers a variety of steaks and chops, including filet mignon, bone-in rib-eye, a dry-aged Kansas City cut and even a gut-expanding 32-ounce center cut porterhouse.
While Victory Meat and Seafood is still new, it's already generating lots of buzz judging by the big crowd we joined. Space inside is a bit tight, and this place maximizes every inch of space for seating, even a few inches from the front door. So get ready for blasts of bone-chilling air with your dinner if you're seated by the entrance on a winter night, as we were. As with any place that's packed, it can get quite loud, but not too noisy for conversation.
Although Elmhurst may be far from the nearest beach, Victory's arrival on popular York Street may convert this West suburban downtown into the Fresh Coast.
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Victory Meat and Seafood
116 N. York St., Elmhurst, (630) 359-5599, victorymeatandseafood.com/
Cuisine: Steak and seafood
Setting: Upscale casual
Entrees: Dinner $12-$58
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.