Niche offers visitors an array of whiskeys, wines, craft beers, and locally sourced menu options in an charming, eclectic setting.
Ryan and I love visiting Niche! The restaurant is nestled on Third Street in a historic brick building with large arched windows. Colorful flower boxes are mounted underneath each of the windows, giving a charming feel to the front of the restaurant.
The interior features dark wood tones and bold colors such as lime green, teal, and red. If you’re just grabbing a drink or a few small bites, you can snag a spot at the bar underneath their enormous selection of whiskeys, or opt for the trendy cow-print stools at the tables nearby.
Staying for dinner? The bar area flows smoothly into the dining room, where you’ll see a piece of artwork I totally loved – a large canvas featuring a collage of craft beer labels. Its touches like this that keeps the environment classy, yet inviting.
After snapping a few pictures during our most recent visit, Ryan and I had the chance to sit down with General Manager Vince Balistreri, who is well-recognized for the development of his award-winning wine list at Niche. He introduced us to Server and Wine-Assistant Aaron Schroeder, who took our drink order. Ryan chose the Old Fashioned, with Benchmark Bourbon, Cardamom Bitters, orange, sugar, and bourbon soaked cherries.
I opted for one of my favorites - a Pinot Noir - which was just one of many options available. Vince explained that people shouldn’t be intimidated by the extensive wine list available at Niche. He suggests telling the bartenders about the wine you usually drink, or a brand that you’re familiar with, and they can help match you up to a wine from their selection. If you’re interested, you can easily sign up for their free wine club, which will offer you a ton of perks. Vince mentioned they also feature beer collaborations with places like Penrose Brewing and Pipeworks Brewing Company, as well as specially-barreled whiskeys from Journeyman Distillery.
In terms of menu, Vince explained that he and Chef Chris Ayukawa work together closely to create new dishes that feature locally sources ingredients when possible. Chef Ayukawa was originally a sous chef at Niche several years ago, and had left to take a new position at a restaurant in Chicago. When Vince took over management of Niche, he knew he wanted Chef Ayukawa back, and soon the two were working together again.
The menu changes every few days or so, and often has a strong seafood focus. Vince says there are at least 3 fish inspired dishes offered each day. One of his favorite menu items is the pan roasted Monkfish – which is just one of the gluten free items you’ll find on their menu. Niche also features small plates, salads, soups, pork, chicken, and beef.
While the team at Niche strives for exceptional food, and equally good service, they also want you to feel at home. It is important to Vince and his crew that the restaurant feels friendly, approachable, and creates a fun and unique experience. They try not to take themselves too seriously, and if you received one of their picture Christmas cards last year, you’ll understand. The staff also makes an effort to hang out with each other when possible, and sometimes a game of darts happens in the back after the restaurant closes. They also recently went camping together, but I didn’t get many details. I’m assuming that whatever happened on the camping trip, stays on the camping trip...
After our chat with Vince, Ryan and I settled in to eat and placed our order with Aaron. I was so impressed with Aaron’s knowledge and explanation of the ingredients in each dish he served us.
The Artisan Cheese Plate was a great start to our meal! Aged cheddar, blue cheese, toasted walnuts, fresh jam, house crackers, and pickles were amongst the items served on a marble platter. We also tried the Chef’s cream of asparagus soup, with pureed asparagus and fresh vegetables, tomato, basil oil, and crispy pancetta.
We took Vince’s recommendation and ordered the Seared Scallops (paired with buffalo fried oysters, old bay pickled mirepoix, gorgonzola cream, and crispy rice). I love scallops, and these did not disappoint! I will be ordering them again on our next visit.
We also tried the Steam Buns, which were another recommendation from Vince. I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t have ordered these without his suggestion. I’ve never heard of anything like them, but I am so happy we gave them a taste! The tender steam buns were stuffed with sweet, sticky flank steak, red cabbage kimichi, sesame mayo, sriracha compressed cucumber, and shaved scallion.
We started to get pretty full, so we opted for another round of drinks instead of dessert. It was so nice to chat and enjoy the ambiance of the interior at the end of our meal, and we discussed visiting again to try more of their menu creations. A big thank you to Vince, Aaron, and the rest of the staff for such an enjoyable experience!
If you haven’t been here yet, I encourage you to give it a try! Stop in during the week, or sign up for one of the specialty whiskey, wine, or beer dinners they feature. If you are looking for an event space, they can also customize private dining options for you. Hope you enjoy!
14 S Third Street, Geneva, IL
Tuesday - Thursday: 5:30PM - 9PM
Friday + Saturday: 5:30PM - 10PM