I've always thought of the Broken Oar in Port Barrington as a summer hangout.
Located on Rawson Bridge Road on the Fox River not far from Cary, it's a haven for bikers and boaters. With plenty of boat slips, a huge parking lot and a great location on a bend in the road, it's a dockside dream.
Despite my wishes that summer was still going on, we're in the dreary weather winter-came-too-quick season, but that didn't stop us from checking out the Broken Oar on a recent Tuesday for lunch.
The bar area was wide open as we chose a seat with a view of the Fox River. I could dream about days of boating past, at least, while we took a look at the menu.
I ordered a Coke while my fellow diner chose a Sam Adams Oktoberfest, because it's the season for that after all.
We started by searching for an appetizer and, after debating everything from curds to flatbread, we agreed on the rocket shrimp ($12).
It came out first, in a basket and we ended up fighting to see who could get the most bites. The spicy aioli sauce was sweet with a little kick, and the shrimp were cooked just right.
For the main course, my fellow diner went with the lemon thyme steak salad ($15), which was highlighted by seared ribeye strips but also included mixed greens, grape tomatoes, red onion, bleu cheese crumbles and a lemon thyme dressing.
I stared at the many burger selections for a while but ultimately decided on the braised beef mac ($14), marked on the menu as a Broken Oar specialty.
When you order a meaty adult mac and cheese, you usually end up with a dish of mac and cheese with a clump of meat on top.
This dish, which came out at just the right level of warm from the oven, was not that at all. It might look like a regular-ish mac from the photo, but I sunk my fork in and found that this dish was majority meat, an excellent braised beef with what was described on the menu as brown gravy drizzle.
It was a hearty plate, and I knew eating half would be plenty to be filled up now and have a hearty plate waiting to re-heat for my next meal as well.
It was made with cavatappi pasta, a mix of American, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses with bread crumbles along with mushrooms and roasted red peppers.
A feast worth the trip. That lunch left both of us diners satisfied.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.