By Jessica Mozo
When Al Berg opened Al’s Café & Creamery in Elgin in 1981, it quickly became a favorite with the locals for its hand-blended malts. Thirty years later, Al’s is still serving up the same rich malts made with high-quality ice cream, but it has also become a destination for creative cuisine made with fresh, seasonal produce.
“We’re very famous for our chocolate, vanilla and strawberry malts,” says Tony Jamin, who bought the restaurant in 2004 with his wife, Patricia. “The recipe was perfected in 1937, and Al Berg bought it. We’ve been making the same malts since then, and we’ve added many more sandwiches and dinner items to the menu.”
A native of Holland, Jamin was trained in the culinary arts in Germany and France, where he worked in several high-end restaurants. When he and Patricia bought Al’s Café & Creamery, they created a one-of-a-kind dining destination that fuses American and European cuisines.
“We’ll do a Scandinavian month, for example, with Scandinavian dishes, and in October we have Oktoberfest and serve German specials,” Jamin says. “We have a very family-oriented, relaxed atmosphere with ’50s and ’60s jazz music playing. Anybody can come eat here, whether you want a sandwich or steak and shrimp.”
One of the café’s best-selling entrees is the Roasted Salmon Mediterranean, a salmon filet pan-seared in garlic, tomato and white wine, and topped with sautéed shrimp. It is served with roasted potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables.
”Our Finnish Pork Chop is also very good,” Jamin says. “It’s one-inch thick and comes with fresh vegetables, homemade mashed potatoes and Scandinavian-style red cabbage, which is sweet and sour made with lingonberries.”
Jamin likes to create new recipes and experiment with new dishes, and then ask for feedback from customers.
“We make a Danish Bleu Steak with bleu cheese melted on top,” Jamin says. “I never thought people would go for it, but it has a really interesting flavor. Then people started trying it, and it has become a big hit on our menu.”
Al’s Café & Creamery, 43 Du Page Ct., opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday with seating until 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). It’s closed on Mondays. For more information or to make reservations, call (847) 742-1180 or visit www.alscafe.com.