By Michael Gebert

Chicago is famous for improv. Chicago is famous for chefs. Those two facts couldn’t go unrelated forever, and the result is one of Chicago’s most innovative restaurants—except it’s not in Chicago, but in cozy Lake Bluff. John des Rosiers worked his way up through the North Shore’s best kitchens, but he always had his eye on the way chefs like Charlie Trotter (whom he worked for) and Grant Achatz had made city dining a form of personal expression. With Inovasi, his artistic sensibilities get free rein—there are no recipes here and dishes evolve constantly according to his desire to experiment, a fact which he admits frustrates the kind of diners who wants the same thing they had last time. But you can always count on housemade pastas to be satisfying—and because Des Rosiers is such a good shopper, sometimes the simplest things are best, such as a great sheep’s milk cheese drizzled with honey and topped with tomato relish. Ask him about a dish and you’ll not only get the thinking behind it, but the history of the artisanal made-in-Kentucky soy sauce that went into it—and the piece of driftwood it’s plated on. The train stops right out front, making Inovasi an easy romantic evening’s getaway from the city—complete with city cuisine.

sweet seats

Summer outdoor seating overlooks the idyllic village green and gazebo, and in the wintertime the far dining room with the fireplace is pretty darn romantic.

chew on this

Des Rosiers created much of the playful art on the walls himself, which in turn inspired a dish in which he plates on a piece of canvas—and splatters the sauces Jackson Pollack-style.


dinner Mon–Thurs. 5:30 PM–9 PM; Fri.–Sat. 5:30 PM–10 PM

price range

$10 (Brad’s simple salad) to $22 (Kentucky squab)