LOOKS LIKE THE third time was indeed the charm for Valor, a Mediterranean-American bistro in downtown Glencoe. Co-owners Rick Raschillo and Steven Santiccioli previously opened and closed the rustic Italian Cibo Trattoria—I still dream of their Italian poutine—and District Sports Bar in the same Vernon Avenue location.
It’s always surprised me that Glencoe, a bustling North Shore suburb by any standards, seems to have trouble supporting multiple fine-dining restaurants, especially with nearby Writers Theatre packing them in on the regular and Ravinia just up the road. Guildhall has made a go of it, but another comfortable restaurant with reliable food and service should be able to thrive.
Valor opened in 2017 and I think finally zeroed in on the right formula to survive in this neighborhood. There was a changing of the guard in September, and the classically trained Stefan Markov—who previously cooked in the kitchens of North Shore stalwarts Restaurant Michael and Abigail’s before coming to Valor—took over as executive chef.
The room, with its dark-wood main bar (yes, there’s still a TV in the equation... sigh... but that seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days), long communal bar table and cozy banquette seating, all under the warm glow of the concentric circular chandeliers, envelops the diner in a pleasing way. Grab a signature cocktail—perhaps the refreshing and boozy Bourbon Grapefruit Smash ($14) or the spicy, smoky Asian Mezcal Margarita ($14)—and get down to business.
The basket of warm sourdough bread from Evanston’s Hewn is the only thing not made in-house from scratch, but I’m not sad about it. I’ll eat that bread anytime, anywhere, especially slathered with soft butter. It’s the perfect sop for the tender plancha octopus ($18), perched above a mound of white beans and sauteed Spanish chorizo, drizzled with sherry vinaigrette, and girded with slivered green onions and paper-thin shingles of Iberian ham. It’s cheaper than a ticket to Madrid and pretty effective at replicating that Spanish mindset.
The warm Brussels-sprout Caesar ($12) is a welcome respite from the kale version on every other restaurant menu, and it’s laden with nubbins of bacon, little brioche croutons and copious amounts of Parmesan cheese. The Caesar dressing has a good amount of acidity to bring the dish into balance.
Steak frites ($29) here means skirt steak, cooked medium rare and beautifully seasoned. Personally, I prefer a skinnier frite, but the sauce au poivre, complete with de rigueur cognac and cream, gilds this lily, and for that, I am grateful. We truly enjoyed the Mediterranean sea bass ($30) preparation, the skin pan-sauteed to a satisfying crisp, with the big-flavor elements of Romesco sauce (red peppers, garlic, olive oil and almonds) combining with olive tapenade, roasted fennel and lemon quinoa for a stunning dish. Vanquish the winter chill with an order of creamy garlic polenta ($14), topped with a plethora of wild mushrooms, crispy flash-fried onions and a runny sous-vide egg to mash about.
About dessert: Is this the best rice pudding on the North Shore? I’m thinking yes. The gluten-free L’Ami Jean rice pudding ($10), served in a bowl with a mountainous peak of freshly whipped cream, generous deluge of salted-caramel sauce and sprinkling of chopped toasted pistachios, stakes its claim on my heart. I am a custard dessert gal, but I know not everyone feels the love. For you, I say, “Valrhona chocolate cake” ($14), and now you can get on with your life.
667 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847.786.4324
HOURS Open for dinner Tue.-Sun.
PRICES Starters and salads, $10-$18; entrees, $16-$30; desserts, $10-$14; Sunday family dinner for two adults and two kids that includes salads, entrees, sides and desserts, $68