You need not be a member to enjoy all that Cary Country Club and The Clubhouse restaurant have to offer.
It’s been back there for 90 years. Hidden. Some call it one of the best-kept secrets in all of McHenry County
A mile and a half from Route 14 in Cary, it might as well be 30 miles back in the country. Turn off 14, pass through a tidy old neighborhood and onto a winding country road. Take it through Root Springs, a former summer home community for wealthy Chicagoans that you probably didn’t think existed in Cary. Then you see it, at the end of the road, along the banks of the Fox River: Cary Country Club.
The golf club is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1923 when Charles T. Allen and Ralph B. Bowers were directed to negotiate with the Chicago & North Western Railway for the purchase of 78 acres adjoining the Root Springs subdivision.
Evelyn Coffman, the secretary of the club’s board of directors, said she has seen many changes since she first waitressed at the club in 1946. She and her husband got married at the country club in 1951. “The [clubhouse] building was very small,” she said. “A porch ran around the building and we had an enclosed dining room.”
Flash forward 62 years and Cary Country Club is still known for its hilly, scenic and challenging golf course. It’s also gaining a reputation for the food it serves and the atmosphere at its newly renovated restaurant, The Clubhouse.
Outside, it’s surrounded by the hills and manicured fairways of the golf course, 100-year-old oak trees, and a preserved prairie
All of that scenery makes up the backdrop for diners at The Clubhouse, a place that prides itself on value and comfort. They’re so serious about comfort that Danny Kendrick, the restaurant’s cook and kitchen manager, refers to himself as a “comfort cook.
Recently completing a three-year-long renovation, the main dining room is big and airy, but retains an intimate feeling because there are just 17 tables in the space. With a ceiling that is 20 feet high and a wall of windows that washes the room in natural light and takes in the views of the golf course, it is one of McHenry County’s most picturesque restaurants.
Ken Swoboda, who oversees the restaurant as general manager of Cary Country Club, said the scenery and new furnishings are just one part of what makes The Clubhouse so special.
“The number one thing here is customer satisfaction,” Swoboda said. “We’re told [by customers] that we do such a great job people come back, and more people find us because of word of mouth.”
One of the draws during the summer alfresco dining season is the outdoor deck that spans the back of the restaurant. “It’s one of the nicest balconies for dining,” Swoboda said.
Kendrick is a big man with a big smile. He’s been cooking for more than 20 years and has an amazing energy. His take on cooking is very straightforward: “I cook simple stuff, stuff that tastes fantastic,” he explained.
The Clubhouse’s manager, Debra Grochocinski, said in addition to the “beautiful setting and great food, diners will find great value. I don’t think anyone can touch our prices.”
Two of the dishes The Clubhouse has become famous for are the prime rib and the 20-ounce rib eye. Grochocinski also calls out their fish fry. “We use haddock because it is a much better fish,” she said.
The dishes come with the restaurant’s unique 9-foot salad bar. Kendrick said there are “19 to 27 different items on it. Every week the salad bar changes. There’s always a different mix.”
The team has recently started payingattention to the needs of large groups. Grochocinski thinks the staff’s personal approach to service, the dining rooms and the scenery make The Clubhouse an ideal destination for weddings or business gatherings.
Swoboda said it’s especially nice for weddings because it offers so many things a bride and groom look for: good food at the right price, attentive staff and beautiful scenery.
“Why get married in a box when you can get married in front of a wall of windows [that look out over a verdant golf course]?” he said. The grove of old oak trees also provides an ideal setting for wedding photos.
“We’re like a … hideaway,” Swoboda added. “It’s like having Galena in your own backyard. We’ve been here 90 years and so many people don’t know we’re here. Once they come here, they keep coming back.”