Entertainment ::

Dining: Fresh Starts Restaurant
Still a very special place in Flossmoor

January 18, 2007
By Christina Biggerstaff


When it comes to suburban dining with a cosmopolitan feel, Fresh Starts hits the nail on the head.

Nestled between storefronts in Flossmoor's downtown area, the unique restaurant has become a staple for many south suburbanites for the past 20 years.

And after the first bite of food, it is obvious why Fresh Starts has gained attention both locally and nationally.

My guest and I were welcomed by warm bread served with hummus and butter nearly seconds after we took our seats.

Traditionally, hummus is made with chickpeas and often garlic and olive oil. But, at Fresh Starts, the paste is blended with roasted red peppers, tomato and basil, creating a flavor combination unlike anything I've ever tasted.

It was so good, my guest and I agreed we could have made a meal out of the bread and colorful hummus spread alone.

Because the restaurant is known for seasonal ingredients, fresh fish and hormone-free meat, however, we had to restrain ourselves from filling up on bread.

Fresh Starts bills itself as an "American eclectic" restaurant, and by the looks of the menu, it is just that. The innovative use of ingredients, textures and colors create entrees that cannot be found anywhere else.

As for appetizers, tuna carpaccio, lobster ravioli, blackened spicy jumbo scallops and pan seared duck breast are a few of the choices. Although many of the appetizers were appealing, we chose the crab cakes, which did not disappoint.

The soft and tender lump crab cakes were paired with a horseradish aioli that had just enough spice to it to contrast the crab's mild flavor. Served two to an order, it was the perfect size for two people.

When it came time to choose entrees, my guest took a suggestion from our server and ordered the Shrimp & Grits.

Pan seared grit cakes were topped with shrimp, lemon cream, green onions, spinach and tomato, which created a colorful dish that looked more like a work of art than dinner.

The grit cakes had a polenta-like texture which complemented the slightly crunchy shrimp and soft spinach. The lemon cream sauce was used sparingly and allowed the dish's individual flavors to remain distinguishable.

I opted for Beef Tenderloin Tip Ziti and was more than satisfied with my choice.

Tenderloin tips, wild mushrooms, fresh fennel and ziti pasta are served with an asiago cream sauce, creating a dish similar to stroganoff but much better.

The rich asiago cream sauce was flavorful, yet not so overwhelming to hide the taste of the beef, which was tender and lean.

The smooth ziti noodles were a welcomed change from ridged mostaccioli or rigatoni, and contrasted the textures of both the meat and mushrooms.

Other entrees include veal medallions, chicken scaloppini and grilled New Zealand rack of lamb. Paella, made with shrimp, chicken, spicy andouille sausage and saffron rice also is available.

All entrees are served with salad. Soup can be substituted for $1 extra.

A bed of greens, red onion, tomato and cucumber are served with a choice of dressing. I tried the raspberry vinaigrette, which is my new favorite. The raspberry flavor was obvious, but not too tart, and was a light alternative to the creamy parmesan peppercorn that my guest chose.

In addition to everyday menu items, Fresh Starts offers daily specials including entrees and wine. Pan seared walleye and swordfish were available the night I visited, but as they may not be on the menu for very long as the options change depending on fresh fish availability.

Desserts also change weekly. Among those available recently was cinnamon brown sugar gelato sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies, and triple chocolate mousse terrine.

The cinnamon brown sugar gelato was creamy, sweet and slightly spicy. Crunchy pieces of brown sugar crumbles broke apart as soon as they hit your tongue and mixed together with the cold creamy gelato.

The small, fluffy chocolate terrine was served atop raspberry sauce and was most likely the richest flavored chocolate dessert I've ever tasted. Only a few bites, and my sweet tooth was satisfied.

In addition to seating for 60 people, Fresh Starts has a small bar and a specialty wine shop.

The restaurant occasionally offers special themed wine and dinner nights.

LOCATIONPHONE: CUISINE: DINNER MENU PRICES: HOURS: CREDIT CARDS: EXTRAS: Full-service, off-premise catering service available; on-site wine shop with special, hard to find, selections from around the world.

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Copyright 2006 Fresh Starts Restaurant, Inc.. All rights reserved.
1040 Sterling Avenue   Flossmoor, Illinois 60422