An innovative restaurant that’s setting the table for future culinary stars reopens for the semester. 


On February 12, a dining destination is set to reopen, boasting classic comfort food with a modern, upscale twist – entrees like napoleon of filet mignon and portabella mushrooms. The ingredients are inspired by seasonal, locally sourced foods. 


This intimate venue that seats 60, however, is not set in a trendy downtown district that requires reservations or leaves you with a hefty tab. It’s right in our backyard. 


Slàinte, the student-managed restaurant at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, re-opens for the spring semester from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays through April 23.


“Slàinte is easy to access with great food at prices you can afford,” said Tina Drzal, culinary management department chair. “It’s a fun environment to visit.”


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MCC Culinary Management students get to see the whole picture of operating a restaurant. 


Culinary Stars on the Rise 

When you visit Slàinte – in addition to getting a great, affordable meal close to home – you’re helping to create a real-world experience for McHenry County College’s Culinary Management students – in the front and back of the house. “Our focus in the program is giving the students the opportunity to see the whole picture,” Drzal said. “They test and cost recipes, maintain inventory, manage and learn the importance of service standards. Upon graduation, they are certified in food safety, safe alcohol service, nutrition, inventory costing and supervisory management.”


The program is unique in that it “allows for our students to act as a small cohort,” Drzal explained. “Most of the students in the restaurant class are also in a menus class and a costing class together. The menus class reviewed the Slàinte menu and the costing class will review recipe costs for Slàinte. Since the restaurant is attached to our culinary lab, the students have access to several chef instructors for questions on recipes and ideas for plating desserts.”


The program is written so that it is attainable for students to get a dual degree or certificate, she added. “We encourage the degree-seeking culinary students to take two more lab classes and get a baking certificate and vice-versa," she explained. "We are also one of the few community colleges that has a student-run bakery, Sweet Scots Bakery. The Slàinte dining room in the spring semester turns into the bakery class during the fall." 


The program, at just four years old, already boasts graduates at four-year hospitality programs like Kendall College, Chicago's top culinary arts school. “We also have two graduates so far that have gone on to The French Pastry School in Chicago,” Drzal added. “Several graduates and current students are working in the area in country clubs and restaurants.” 


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Slàinte's menu, with entrees Filet and Portabella Napoleon, emphasizes food sustainibility and diversity. 


Behind the Name

Slàinte (pronounced “slawn-cha”) is a Scottish toast that means “to good health!” which is the philosophy embraced through the restaurant’s emphasis on integrity of food, sustainable ingredients and a delicious diversity of dishes, Drzal noted.


In keeping with its focus on sustainability, Slàinte sources herbs from MCC’s horticulture department’s hydroponics garden, for example. Further, MCC’s Slàinte instructor works for Fortune Fish Gourmet, providing access to sustainable meat and fish. The restaurant also uses earth-friendly, biodegradable tableware in kitchen lab classes.


Reservations are highly recommended, especially for parties over eight people (call 815.479.7800 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The menu is a la carte style with most meals under $15.


MCC is located at 8900 U.S. Hwy. 14 in Crystal Lake. Slàinte is located in the MCC Scot Room, Building B, Room 178, behind the cafeteria. See more photos in our Facebook album

Published in Food & Spirits