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The District at Oakbrook Center puts itself on culinary map

OAK BROOK – From all-American, slow-smoked meats to a wide array of ethnic favorites, The District adopts an international reach at Oakbrook Center, which recently introduced the new configuration of separate dining destinations gathered in one spot.

Many have outside patio seating in an area ringed with greenery and flowers, while indoors is a large food hall, appealingly split into sections for the various eateries with interesting seating options and tables sized from petite to communal.

The 14,000-square-foot space is home to quick-service options that complement the full-service restaurants at the shopping center. The District features Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken, Greek Kitchen, Freshii, DAVIDsTEA, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, Cilantro Taco Grill, DMK Burger Bar, Pie Five and Potbelly Sandwich Works.

Rounding out the selection is Butcher & The Wok, the creation of local restaurateur Michael LaPidus of Brookfield, known for launching Q-BBQ and the Hot Dog and Burger Co. in La Grange.

LaPidus said he was approached by Oakbrook Center to come up with a fresh addition to The District. What he’s done is create a fusion of smoked meats and Asian dishes.

He said he found the meat component in Chinese cooking to sometimes be an afterthought and wanted to “make it stand out.”

Butcher & The Wok grills its meats over hickory wood. It’s then cooled, sliced and added to the wok to complement the fresh vegetables and other ingredients.

He calls it a different flavor profile. One will find an Asian-inspired pastrami paired with Mongolian sauce, as well as the signature spicy chicken. Lobster Rangoon is another of his recipes.

LaPidus and his wife, Jaclyn, are the team behind Butcher & The Wok. The restaurant includes an attractive, intimately scaled bar and cocktail lounge, where Michael LaPidus said one of the popular throwbacks is the “old-fashioned Old Fashioned.”

Instead of muddling cherries and orange, the drink is prepared with sugar cubes, orange bitters, aromatic bitters and one’s favorite bourbon. Plenty of locally sourced spirits are stocked.

A favorite dish is the short rib, which is marinated overnight, then cooked at 250 degrees for eight hours until it falls apart, he said. It finds its way into sandwiches topped with Asian slaw and served atop a toasted brioche bun or provides a satisfying filling for egg rolls.

For a gluten-free sweet treat, Butcher & The Wok serves a rice cereal treat taken up a notch with almond and coconut.

At The District, dessert lovers will want to try the classic Indian pudding nestled in a flaky pastry prepared at Nando’s or the honey-drenched baklava from Greek Kitchen. Stan’s Donuts and Coffee serves its namesake as well as gelato and specialty coffee drinks.

Nando’s, with an Afro-Portuguese focus, serves marinated grilled chicken. Freshii aims for nutritious meal choices with offerings such as umami salad. Cilantro Taco Grill offers tacos, burritos and other Mexican staples. Pie Five creates hand-crafted custom personal pizzas.

DMK Burger Bar is known for freshly baked buns, grass-feed beef, hand-cut fries, malted milkshakes, fried pickles, deviled eggs and American craft beer. Potbelly’s offers made-to-order sandwiches, salads and baked goods.  

The wood-fired, Asian-inspired Butcher & The Wok also offers its food outdoors this summer for Oakbrook Center’s free Movies on The Lawn screenings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The Lawn has artificial turf and a prime view of a giant, elevated digital LED screen. Films continue through Aug. 7.

LaPidus said the menu for the films will include items such as orange chicken, short rib egg rolls and garlic fried rice, complemented by a bar on-site.

Tim Geiges, senior general manager of Oakbrook Center, said he is pleased with “all the amazing food at The District … all under one roof.”

He noted that construction at the former Lord & Taylor site will be turned into more restaurants and retail, and KidZania is scheduled to open in 2020. The entertainment center is described as an interactive city for children ages 1 to 14 where they can try 100 careers through realistic role play.

“We never stop evolving and changing here at Oakbrook Center,” Geiges said.

If you go

WHAT: The District food hall

WHERE: Level two at Oakbrook Center, 533 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

INFO: oakbrookcenter.com

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