Cooper’s Hawk: Worthy of Skipping Work (or Taking a Date)

Located at 583 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, IL.

I went to Cooper’s Hawk for a dinner party. That in itself isn’t unusual, but I happened to skip work to go… and it was a work dinner party where two of my bosses were in attendance. That’s the type of savagery I operate with, people. Surprisingly, I didn’t get fired and instead had to endure a night of laidback grilling from the group who struggled to comprehend how much balls it took for me to show up.

Truthfully, it got a little annoying after a while, but enduring some light ribbing was worth it to experience the delicious food at Cooper’s Hawk.

The first thing to keep in mind is that even though the name of this particular restaurant (it’s actually a chain) is the whitest name ever, it’s actually not all that posh inside. Sure, the lighting is stylishly dim, so you can’t tell if a girl sitting across the restaurant is really attractive or not, and sure, the interior is an expert combination of classic and modern architectural design.

I think the best way to really describe the physique of this place is to imagine a hipster-esque type of eatery, but an upscale version. Interestingly, there isn’t an official dress code, although I saw everything from casual sweaters to men in business suits walking out looking like they had somewhere to be.

The pricing would probably be equivalent to two or three dollar signs on Yelp (actually I just checked and it’s two). Most pasta dishes fall between $14 to $18, while genuine entrées like pork and steak range from $20 to $30.

Unfortunately, since I wasn’t paying, I had to take note of what other people in the group were ordering and, quite frankly, people were being too miserly if you ask me. Someone got spaghetti and meatballs, another person got fish and chips.

One of my bosses got a freaking salad. I am literally shaking my head.

In any case, even though I wanted to go big, I settled for gnocchi with butternut squash as my entrée. In terms of appetizers, I had no control over what was ordered, although the dishes that came were really good.

— Appetizers —

Cooper’s Hawk Calamari (12.99)

There was a lot of calamari. It was deep fried and glazed with a tastefully sweet and subtly spicy sauce. There was also a dipping sauce which I was literally too lazy to try. At first I thought it was cheese, but it was really aioli.

I would highly recommend this appetizer. There was more than enough to go around for a group of seven people. And did I mention it was delicious?

Over the Border Egg Rolls (10.99)

As you can probably guess, these egg rolls were a fusion of Mexican and Asian cuisine. It’s not the first time I’ve had egg rolls like these, and honestly I thought they were solid. They weren’t spectacular, however, and if you’re going to spend money at a place Yelp gives two dollar signs, you probably want to go for spectacular.

Having said that, it was another big appetizer, although I’m not sure if they did that because of the size of our group, or if they actually roll out (hehe) two handfuls of thick egg rolls every time. It’s definitely a double-edged sword, though, because the last thing you want to do is accidentally fill yourself with appetizers and end up shortchanging yourself for the actual entrée.

I would say if you’re in a group, go for it. If you’re there with one person, skip it… unless both of you are eating machines. If you’re there by yourself, what the fuck are you doing with your life? Find someone to spend time with, gosh!

Some Flatbread Appetizers (I Think SMH) (8.99 – 10.99)

Like I said, I wasn’t there when appetizers were ordered and I’m not actually a food connoisseur so it’s hard for me to remember which flatbreads the table ended up getting. Whatever they were though, they were worth the money.

The texture of the flatbread was perfect – crunchy, but soft where it counts. The flavors worked well together, just a symphony of colors bursting in perfect synchronization. Remember that one scene from Ratatouille?

It was like that. I would recommend these for sure. One of them definitely had a balsamic glaze, so that should help narrow it down.

— Entrée

Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash (17.99)

I don’t know why, but every time I’m not sure what to order at a restaurant, I just go for gnocchi (if they have it obviously). Usually I regret my decision because halfway through a gnocchi dish, I start to feel a little sick. Thankfully, Cooper’s Hawk did something right because this was probably the best gnocchi dish I’ve had in my (admittedly limited) experience with the world of gnocchi.

The sauce was warm and mildly sweet. The squash accentuated the dish and they gave just enough so it wasn’t overwhelming, but you could get some squash with every bite of gnocchi if you were strategic about it. The gnocchi itself had some very good filling – mushrooms and maybe some other edible ingredients.

Across the board, people’s portions looked small, but I guess I was duped because nobody really finished their meals except me and maybe one of my bosses. I would recommend this entrée, although like I said, if you’re going to a place like Cooper’s Hawk, you might as well spend some damn money and treat yourself.

So there you have it folks. Who would have thought an eatery with a name a frat probably came up with would be so great? Plus, there’s a Westin just to the side so if you eat too much and feel like you shouldn’t drive, you can catch a room and nap your coma away.

Cooper’s Hawk also has wine tastings and they bottle their own wine too. I had a lot of wine. I probably shouldn’t have so much wine if I’m going to write about the experience later.

Anyway, check them out!

P.S. Make sure you tell the staff if you’re not done with your dish. Otherwise they might be obliged to glide in while you’re in the middle of a conversation and sweep that sucker out from right under your nose. Next thing you know, you’re stabbing the table with your fork because you’re expecting food to be in front of you.