The Elm restaurant review


“George’s Bank Swordfish” from The Elm (Fry/LION)

Morgan Fry, Reporter

Sleek black paneled windows encompass shades of grey, white and orange toned decor. A spacious dining room surrounds the open kitchen filled with staff busy preparing dishes. Industrial modern railings hold the grand staircase leading up to rooftop dining that looks out on the heart of LaGrange. All of these elements work together to create the one of a kind dining experience that is The Elm. 


 Originally planned to open in early 2020, the grand opening of the restaurant was postponed until late May due to COVID-19. Curbside pickup began on May 27 and indoor dining began June 26. 


Being a foodie myself, I could not wait to try the high-quality American cuisine served in this grand restaurant. Before dining, I did my research to understand the kind of experience owners and LaGrange locals Dan and Caitlin Spain sought to deliver. Their website boasts of food “made with the freshest ingredients” and “service that transpends your expectations.” These sophisticated descriptions set my expectations exceedingly high.


I sat in the main dining room, where face masks were required when interacting with the server. There was no one else sitting on my table’s side of the room, and opened windows gave plentiful airflow that made me feel comfortable sitting inside.


For the appetizer, my family of four started off with the tempura shrimp ($10). Our server let us know the dish only comes with three pieces of shrimp and was very accommodating in offering us an extra piece to satisfy our needs. When the dish arrived at our table, I could tell it had just come out of the fryer due to the hot temperature. The shrimp had the perfect ratio of breading to shrimp, which added the right amount of crunch with each bite. The sweet chile sauce was an amazing accompaniment to the shrimp, adding a nice hint of spice. In addition, the hoisin ginger slaw offered a delightful cleanse to my palate after the subtle heat. My only complaint with this dish would be to come with more than just three shrimps, so it is more shareable as an appetizer. 


After a phenomenal first course, the bar was raised even higher. I can happily confirm my main course met my conjectures. I ordered the seared tofu ($24), but sampled all of my family members’ dishes. 


While I am not a vegetarian myself, the tofu dish is a great option for those who do not consume meat. I had never ordered a dish solely based around tofu before, so I was excited to see what the dish would be like. I was a bit apprehensive as tofu is bland on its own, but my concerns were quickly refuted. The stir fried vegetables and soba noodles sat on top of the comforting ginger broth. The subtle flavors married well with the broth, which soaked up all of the mildly sweet and tangy sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of this dish, which made for a light, yet satisfying bite. However, I do feel it would have benefitted from a crunchy element that would make up for the soft foods featured on the plate. 


Another item I tasted was the elm cheddar burger ($15). I always like to judge a restaurant based on its burger, as it is a staple item that should be mastered. This burger proved to be nothing short of amazing. The juicy beef combined with the sharp cheddar melted in my mouth. The herb garlic mayonnaise took the burger to the next level and added an element of creaminess that partnered well with the traditional fixings. Moreover, the fries served with it were crisp and well salted. There was nothing remarkable about them, but they were satisfactory.


The restaurant claims to be known for its seafood, and while I did not order seafood as my main course, I of course had to try a sliver of my family’s. The scallops in the risotto ($20+$10 for scallops), were seared to a golden brown on the outside, and had a soft chewiness on the inside, just as they should be prepared. Another noteworthy mention was the special, the George’s bank swordfish ($29), also cooked perfectly. 


For dessert I ordered  the caramel cheesecake gelato special ($4) as well as the brown butter bourbon cake ($8). I have to say, I was disappointed in the gelato. It had small chunks of ice on it and the flavor was far too sweet and artificial. I later discovered the gelato was not house-made as it came from “Angelo Gelato Itailiano.” Contrastingly, the butter bourbon cake was superb. The caramel sauce drizzled on top of the moist cake collaborated with the candied pecans to create an explosion of flavor that satisfied my sweet tooth. 


Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of service and food at The Elm. The dishes came out hot and our server took great care of us. As described on the website this “neighborhood gem with a big city vibe” is a great addition to LaGrange. However, with a “big city vibe” came “big city” prices. The food was definitely on the expensive side and in my opinion, is meant for special occasions. This does not make it very accessible to high school students on an average night. While the Elm claims to be family friendly and offers a kid’s menu, the elegant ambiance made it hard for me to picture young children there. The food is also more adventurous and may take some modifications for picky eaters. 


The Elm is located at 23 W Harris Ave, LaGrange and is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. Reservations for the outdoor rooftop and indoor seating are available upon request.