Amy Morton’s newest eatery brings her signature fare and passion to Chicago’s western suburbs. Located on Stolp Island in the center of the Fox River, Stolp Island Social is a seasonal kitchen and steakhouse opening November 2019. Adjacent to the Jeff Award-winning Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora, the restaurant will offer a warm, relaxed atmosphere to pre- and post-show patrons as well as those living in the area with a touch of chic. Stolp Island Social is the first new dining destination in historic downtown Aurora to open in years.
"The vibe is 1920s Aurora meets Coco Chanel today!" says Morton. The eatery located in the fabled Block and Kuhl department store, famous during the days of prohibition, will once again be front and center as the "be and be seen" place to drink, dine and gather. “The city of Aurora, on the verge of a massive downtown revitalization, is thrilled to have a top-notch restaurateur such as Amy Morton coming to town,” says Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.
The once historic 4,500 square-foot space next to Paramount Theatre is an open and light-filled space with floor to ceiling windows. Paramount Theatre has been open since 1931 and is iconic to downtown Aurora with its Art Deco architecture and world-class entertainment. More than 41,000 subscribers from the city and suburbs enjoy Broadway-quality productions and internationally known entertainers at Paramount, now the second largest subscription house in the nation.
With a background spent on the stage, Morton is fully embracing her new neighbor and the artistic Aurora community. “I feel like I’m back to my theater roots and that this is the ultimate synergy,” says Morton.
Whether hitting the town for a celebratory event, having dinner with a friend, lunch, tea, drinks or dessert before or after a show, or just looking for a place to cozy up, Morton’s newest venture hits on all cylinders. General Manager Fred Gore, hailing from James Beard Award-Winning Commander’s Palace, Bistro 110 and Gibson’s, oversees the run of the restaurant ensuring a top-notch experience for all guests. “It will be a place that makes you feel like you belong,” says Morton. The space, laid out in a series of rooms to create a more intimate experience, boasts a modern take on Pullman booths with a wood-paneled lounge, salon-style art hung floor to ceiling in the lounge with vintage settees and cocktail tables, period fixtures and a free-standing bar and lounge.
Co-chefs Steve O’Neill, formerly of Morton’s Evanston flagship Found Kitchen & Social House and MJ Avalos, formerly of Harry and Eddie’s in Hinsdale, will lead the kitchen in tandem. “I’ve never had a co-chef team, but they complement each other so well that I quickly realized they would make an incredible partnership,” says Morton. And the restaurant is all about local – Morton’s core philosophy is that restaurants need to be homegrown – Stolp Island Social will source as much product as possible from nearby farms, breweries and distilleries in Aurora and surrounding west suburbs. “Its seasonal kitchen meets steakhouse, an ode to my two Evanston restaurants, Found Kitchen & The Barn Steakhouse,” says Morton. “The menu will be a perfect balance of rustic grains, vegetables and of course steaks!” Menu items include Roasted Tomato Hummus ($9) with smoked carrots, radishes and baby gem, Burrata & Eggplant Ragout ($12), Chicken 3 Ways ($21); braised, confit and pan-seared with fregola and leek puree, Farm Steak Frites ($24), a traditional preparation with ever-changing Slagel Family Farm cuts. For those wanting to “up the ante,” Stolp Island Social will pay homage to its sister restaurant, The Barn Steakhouse, offering the same reserve cut list. Guests heading to Paramount Theatre will be treated to prix-fixe menu options for a quality in-and-out pre-theater dining experience.
From nibbles and cocktails to the warm service and ambiance, guests will instantly feel transported, comfortable and welcome. Morton’s knack for creating dining experiences is matched only be her innate sense of hospitality. The open kitchen provides full transparency and interaction with the culinary team. Upon walking in, a partitioned area called the “green room” offers a lounge for anyone grabbing a quick drink or waiting for a table. The entire restaurant has an open concept with a 142-person capacity including the bar, which is seated in the middle of the space. Looking up, guests will see inspiring quotes hand-painted onto the ceiling, all created by local artists from the Aurora community.
Creating an air of simplicity and sophistication, the brass-topped bar, with its quarter round façade, will be the place to cozy up for a cocktail or glass of wine. “Our cocktails will be both classic and seasonal,” says Morton. Featuring selections including G & T Rethunk ($12), CH Key gin, house tonic syrup, lime wedge and soda to Chorus Girls’ Milk ($12), a nod to Paramount Theatre, made with Aviation gin, Gouguenheim Rose, lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters and a lemon twist.
The happy hour and late-night bites menus will also be an option for pre- and post-show patrons. Stolp Island Social will offer a variety of theater-themed events and live jazz brunch every Sunday, the complement to a matinee at Paramount Theatre.
In addition to serving food, Morton is committed to restoring Aurora’s architectural and economic significance as she joins forces with the Mayor and ACCA CEO Tim Rater to redevelop the most prominent property in the city. Harkening back to Aurora’s hey-day, Stolp Island Social gives a nod to the glorious time when flappers reigned while creating a modern 21st-century space. “It’s exciting to be part of the revitalization of downtown Aurora – the city is putting its money where its mouth is,” says Morton.
Continuing her mission and commitment to social and environmental sustainability, Morton focuses on utilizing as much local fare as possible to reduce her carbon footprint along with composting and recycling. She gives back to the community through First Mondays, where she offers her restaurant space complimentary for all non-profit organizations. In addition, Morton understands the importance of and prides herself on hiring from marginalized populations.
Stolp Island Social is located at 5 East Galena Blvd, Aurora, Illinois, 60506. Hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday: 5–10 pm for dinner; Wednesday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm for lunch; Saturday & Sunday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm for brunch. Light bites menu available Tuesday – Saturday: 2 – 4 pm; Tuesday – Thursday: 9 – 11 pm; and Friday & Saturday: 9 pm – 12 midnight. Live jazz brunch every Sunday. For more information, please call 708.576.8645 or visit stolpislandsocial.com.