Best Fine Dining
Before she purchased 1776 Restaurant in Crystal Lake in 2016, Rhienna McClain was a patron. As someone with celiac disease and food allergies, 1776 was “one of the few places I could eat,” McClain says.
Today, the entire kitchen is gluten-free— a relief to those like McClain who have food allergies, and a source of astonishment to those who frequent 1776 for its outstanding cuisine.
Under executive chef Eric Feldbusch, the menu encompasses small plates, soups, salads, flatbreads and entrees. Popular dishes among the locally-sourced food items include salmon with spinach risotto and chimichurri sauce; a chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage jambalaya; and an eight-ounce filet mignon served with bone marrow butter and goat cheese mashed potatoes. The Brussel sprouts nosh plate, all the flatbreads and the weekly specials are big hits with customers, McClain says.
Erik Nordstrom, 1776’s wine and spirits director, oversees the restaurant’s 1,500-bottle wine cellar, which happens to be a recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. Over the past three years, McClain notes, Nordstrom has built “a fantastic wine selection” by concentrating on small-case production.
“Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive,” McClain explains. It’s a message she’s used to delivering personally when she does her rounds, visiting diners at their tables.
McClain, whose background is in event planning, says that she “loves to entertain.”
In the five years that she has owned 1776, McClain has overseen three major renovations. Once a Kentucky Fried Chicken, the interior now sports a shabby-chic vibe. At each of the 10 tables within the free-flowing space, the focus is on the food and the conversation. A pergola-covered patio provides more space during warm weather, and this summer, an outdoor garden will accommodate 40 to 50 diners with a small plates menu and a bar housed in a rebuilt 1967 Airstream trailer.
“At 1776, we are redefining what fine dining looks like,” McClain says.
Location: 397 W. Virginia St., Crystal Lake, IL
1776restaurant.com | 815-356-1776
Photos by Luke Rayson