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During a trip to Sophia’s Family Restaurant in Roscoe, Ill., Nikki Bolka, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, enjoyed this prime rib salad featuring chopped lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, onion, cucumber, tomato and blue cheese dressing.

ROSCOE, ILLINOIS

I have a rule that when I pay to dine out, it should be food I can’t or don’t make at home. I want to break the meal down and get new ideas of how to make it myself.

When we ended up at Sophia’s Family Restaurant in Roscoe, I eschewed that philosophy and reverted back to childhood when I just ordered what sounded good at the moment.

The menu at Sophia’s is huge, and I was impressed by the page of special salads—a great summer marketing strategy.

Passing the bakery case as we were guided to our table (there is no way to avoid it—another smart tactic), Helene was already scoping out the selections and making her list. I was right behind her, giving encouraging advice and asking which of the tasty dishes had been made in-house.

With several booths lining the perimeter and an abundance of tables, Sophia’s dining room can pack a crowd. It is obviously a family favorite because the place was full, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves—including the staff. The service was exceptional and, as busy as the wait staff was, we were served promptly and had frequent drink refills and check-ins.

The eclectic atmosphere showcases antique miniature trains and motorcycles and various period pieces. With a wall displaying vintage musical instruments, Sophia’s is anything but dull.

Jennifer, an avid bird lover, also noticed a small green space outside in the rear of the restaurant with several small umbrella tables. She was intrigued by the unusual birdhouses scattered throughout the property.

I studied the menu and finally settled on a chicken and avocado sandwich ($8.99), adding a side of french fries ($1) to round out the meal. The sandwich’s sourdough bread was crispy and lightly browned, and a layer of Swiss cheese was creamy and melted. With just the right amount of avocado and a tender, thick chicken breast, it made for a good lunch.

Searching for something on the light side, Helene looked at Sophia’s many variations on salads and opted for the catch of the day lo-cal plate ($9.99). The catch was stuffed salmon, which featured two baked, medallion-size salmon fillets stuffed with a breaded mixture of red bell pepper and parsley bits. Alongside that was cottage cheese with grapes and cantaloupe, which was quite refreshing.

In addition, Helene’s meal also came with soup (she chose vegetable) and a choice of toasted bread. It was a lot of food, and she was afraid she wouldn’t have room for dessert.

Nikki noticed the specials board on the way into the restaurant and had pretty much already made up her mind. The prime rib salad ($12.99) was a straightforward mix of chopped iceberg lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, rings of raw onion, cucumber slices, beautiful red tomatoes and tender, perfect strips of prime rib. Blue cheese dressing (99 cents extra, but totally worth it) added the final touch.

Nikki’s dish also came with garlic bread and a choice of soup. She opted for stuffed pepper soup, which was a rich, flavorful, tomato-based dish. She raved about it, so we all took a taste and agreed it was delicious.

When Jennifer learned Sophia’s served breakfast all day, she knew that was what she would order. With so many choices, she had a difficult time deciding.

She wound up going with the hobo skillet ($6.95) and enjoyed the crispy hash browns smothered with small hunks of sausage and onion. However, the sausage would have been even better had it been pan fried (it seemed it had just been microwaved). The scrambled eggs were served just as Jennifer likes them—light and fluffy—and the onions provided a bit of sweetness.

Helene had already made her way back to the dessert case before we learned she and Nikki’s meals each came with a choice of tapioca pudding, rice pudding or ice cream. Nikki ordered the homemade rice pudding—a solid comfort food—and was happy to find it was just as good as her mother’s.

I headed over to the dessert case to inform Helene, who was chatting with the wait staff about desserts. The cream pies on the top shelf are all made in-house while the others (cakes, pies and cheesecakes) come from Sweet Connections in Chicago.

Too tempted by the selections in front of her, Helene skipped the complimentary dessert and opted instead for a square of the chocolate cream pie ($3.99), calculating she had to augment calories for her lo-cal meal. It was a sweet treat with a graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding and whipped topping.

Even with four forks we couldn’t finish it.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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