O’Hare Irish dancers to perform at Ginger’s Friday March 17 & Saturday March 18
Above, Ginger’s serves up the longtime popular Scornavacco’s pizza and a fish & chips every day. – Tina Johansson photos
by Tina Johansson
While tending bar on a recent Saturday afternoon, Jim Stoecker, world traveler, bicyclist, and self-proclaimed liquor and wine connoisseur was wearing his Kelly green sweatshirt with “Ginger’s” written across it, gearing up early for his first St. Patrick’s Day party at the Highwood restaurant.
The co-owner of Ginger’s of Highwood, which opened last July was in the aviation industry before, as he says, he began “buying restaurants.” Stoecker acquired Alex’s Washington Gardens located next to Ginger’s, 10 years ago.
Ginger’s is located in the North Shore’s most authentic Irish setting—the former Bridie McKenna’s Irish Pub. The 5,300-square-foot building that seats up to 175 comfortably (not including an outdoor patio which can accommodate an additional 85 people), is like a street in an Irish village complete with old fashioned phone booth out front.
“The architects (who by the way were from Ireland) really went above and beyond,” said Stoecker. Everywhere you look inside Ginger’s, offers a true Irish experience, without of course, going to the Emerald Isle. Stoecker, of all people should know. “I’ve been to Ireland many times for both business and pleasure,” remarked the ginger-haired, 59-year-old. By the way, Stoecker started the Redhead Festival in Highwood two years ago. The next event will be held in July.
A resident of Long Grove, Stoecker is hopeful that the luck of the Irish will be upon Ginger’s. “We are a startup, re-introducing the place to people,” he said, adding that his staff of 15 is friendly and accommodating.
When Bridie McKenna’s closed, it sat vacant for two years. He and business partner Steve Saks, an attorney who lives in Highland Park, bought it from the bank “at a good price.”
“Right now we have a very simple pub menu, but are planning to expand that. We may add some Irish dishes,” said Stoecker.
One thing on the menu made in the Irish tradition is the daily offering of fish and chips made with Atlantic cod, battered and deep fried to a golden brown. The meal which includes a creamy home-made cole slaw also comes with Ginger’s Fries. “I am very particular about our fries,” said Stoecker. “I did a lot of research before deciding on what kind of potato and cooking method to use.”
For a minimal upcharge, the chips in the fish and chips can be substituted for the Route 101 Fries, a tasty ode to the California freeway. These “Cali” style fries are tossed in a tasty blend of olive oil, garlic, parsley and fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Another Irish staple is the corned beef at Ginger’s which comes as a sandwich, piled high between slices of marble rye. There is also a Reuben with corned beef, melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on the side. All sandwiches are served with Ginger’s fries or sweet potato fries.
The original Scornavacco’s recipe pizza is offered, which has been made at Alex’s Washington Gardens for years. In fact Stoecker said the Scornavacco family pizza parlor was the first on the North Shore, established in 1944.
Diners will love the old world flavor of the pies including Ginger’s favorites: Chicago spicy Italian with Italian beef and hot giardiniera, garlic and yellow onions; Margherita with tomato and fresh basil; and a Route 66 with bacon, sausage, onion, green pepper and smokey barbecue sauce. Or create your own pizza with any of the many varieties of toppings. Pizzas come in deep dish, thin crust, and gluten-free.
Ginger’s has a wide variety of beers on tap and in bottles, both imports and domestic, as well as whiskeys, bourbons, scotches and other liquors.
As for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Stoecker said, “We’ll be ready to party.” Ginger’s plans to have entertainment from the O’Hare School of Irish Dance in Lake Bluff, who will be performing during both Friday and Saturday.