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Chicken Waffles

Featured Article

Food, Foremost

Side Lot: An Ever-Evolving Destination That Delivers on a Unique, Worthwhile Casual Dining Experience.

Article by Stephen Neilson

Photography by Stephen Neilson

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

Years ago, a stone’s throw from the south shore of Bang’s Lake, an unassuming yet persistently popular local watering hole suffered severe fire damage, shuttering it for many months while its future was considered.

Its original rise-from-the-flames was as a microbrewery, newly named Side Lot, which earned enough fans of its craft to survive the difficult pandemic years, producing special brews served up onsite or in take-home growlers. This year, they’ve turned their focus and creativity to food. Still offering over a dozen mostly-local brews on tap, signature cocktails, a lean-but-mean wine list and a full bar, Side Lot’s shift isn’t to “comfort food,” but to unique signature dishes served in a comfortable setting. This sweet spot hits home for many: those who love an elevated level of cuisine, a fine set of beverage pairings, and service providing an informed connection with the food, but prefer a warm, casual setting. (No need for that tie, or even a sport coat; enjoy a night out and delicious food in your comfies.)

Soak up the summertime sun at Side Lot’s expansive outdoor dining area with picnic and patio tables with shade umbrellas for al fresco drinking and dining. Inside is an array of comfortable, eclectic furnishings and smaller tables arranged to meet the evening’s demands. A small gaming area adjoins the nicely-stocked bar. (Families note: their liquor license requires inside diners to be 21 or older – although families with younger members are welcome to dine at the outdoor patio.)

I recently dined on Side Lot’s new cuisine.

The Chicken Waffles (a popular southern-based treat) deliver a sweet-and-savory symphony: 2 fried chicken breasts atop a pair of Belgian waffles are infused with candy sugar bits, harmonized by a hot honey drizzle on top.

The Blistered Shishito Peppers are a light, smoky appetizer served drizzled with house-made tamale sauce, adding a salty-savory kick. (Shishitos are a mild but very flavorful pepper; only 1 in 10 jumps out to say “hello” with moderate heat, adding to the fun.)

My favorite: the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna Nachos, with quarter-inch grill-seared cubes of tuna served over crispy wonton chips with avocado, cucumber, pickled carrot, and radish, splashed with a not-too-spicy-but-exuberant wasabi aioli.

My dining companion loved the flavor and freshness of the Veggie Bowl, a mix of quinoa, cucumber, avocado, watermelon radish, black beans, green and red bell pepper, and scallions; she added the optional topping of grilled chicken, and declared it a healthy, satisfying meal. Meanwhile, a neighboring table raved over the Chicken Shawarma: grilled chicken on pita bread with hummus, tomato, cukes, red onion, and feta.

Owner Phil Castello called out a Korean treat on the menu. “Our Bao Buns are killer… they’re light but very fulfilling.” Served on two steamed rice buns, Side Lot’s Bao Buns are offered in four versions: Shrimp Bao featuring Kimchi Shrimp, Pork Belly Bao with crispy Pork Belly seasoned with Thai Chili sauce, Tuna Bao featuring spicy Ahi tuna, and Chicken Bao with Korean fried chicken. Each is seasoned with varying combinations of sliced jalapeno, pickled matchstick carrots, cilantro, cucumber, and tamari, served with a side of crispy house-made wonton chips.

Side Lot stretches beyond their regular menu to offer themed dinner events with tailored beverage pairings. A frequent diner shared, “Their food is off the hook here now. They recently had a 14-course Omakase Sushi dinner with a paired Sake flight, and a six-course Tapas-inspired dinner… and if the featured dinner doesn’t work for your companion, they can order off the regular menu.”

Side Lot also hosts a range of special experiences. Cabernet Monet, a fun “paint-and-sip” experience, is offered monthly; “Thinking and Drinking” Elephino Trivia with high-energy host Mason Hill highlights Thursday evenings weekly. Popular local musicians perform regularly; recent performances included sizzling jam-band Better With Bacon, acoustic duo Wait, What?, and rocker Gina Gonzales (of Lt. Dan’s Band fame).

If kicking it casual while enjoying tailored culinary experiences sounds like a treat, sidle in to The Side Lot soon.

Side Lot: 110 Slocum Lake Rd in Wauconda, or visit online at to view menus, check out special events, and make reservations.

“Their food is off the hook here now... recently had a 14-course Sushi dinner with a paired Sake flight… if the featured dinner doesn’t work for your companion, they can order off the regular menu.”

  • Side Lot's Chef (Center) with owner Phil Castello (R).
  • Side Lot's expansive patio offers ample space to drink and dine in the summer sun.
  • Chicken Waffles
  • Seared Yellow Fin Tuna Nachos
  • Chicken Shawarma
  • Veggie Bowl, with Grilled Chicken
  • Pork Belly Bao