Over the last couple of years, Cindy and I have explored the area a bit and found some absolute gems for dining and shopping. In reality, Cindy has found the shopping places, but I'm the restaurant guy.
D & J
This restaurant , in Lake Zurich, boasts the best 'Pomme Frites' in the States (that's what brother Scott says). Also, they serve a wide variety of classic French cuisine, in a comfortable atmosphere that is never intimidating and always welcoming. If you want to know if the owner is in that day, look for the old Citroën 'deux chevaux' out front.
Créperie & Bistrôt:
This is an absolutely lovely restaurant in downtown Woodstock. The owners, Frank & Kristine Ferru & Kathy Cappas, have strived to limit the menu to fantastic dishes, a very nice beer and wine selection, and desserts that Cindy (and sister-in-law Cathy) absolutely fawn over every time they visit. I can honestly say it brings us back to Europe every time we visit, and the food, drinks and atmosphere never disappoint. They often have specialty meals, paired with appropriate wines, that Cindy and I try to attend whenever possible.
Another wonderful spot in Woodstock, this restaurant boasts a beautiful and wide array of authentic Italian dishes, along with unique specials. Honestly, though, Cindy and I almost always go there for their White Pizzas, they also have Alfredo, Pesto and BBQ pizza selections, in addition to the more familiar pizza choices. The owners also host Jazz on the Square, an open microphone event full of local, and more well known, Jazz enthusiasts.
OK, Cindy really hasn't told me about any that strike her as amazing, but when she does, they'll be here!