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Chef Profile

Looking at the menu, names such as Bird and the Bee, Paradise by the Dashboard Light and Widow Maker may raise some eyebrows.

But when guests visit Sovereign Tap, Head Chef Dave Donohue hopes they are not only amused by the names, but also impressed by each dish that comes to their table – as well as the craft beer selection that can be enjoyed separately or as the perfect complement a meal.

Donohue, who left a career in corporate purchasing at age 25 to pursue his passion in cooking, worked in various culinary jobs including the Wyndham Hotel in Itasca, as well as Stonebridge Golf Club in Aurora, Catch 35 and Riva in Naperville, before joining the team in May 2014 to open Sovereign. Donohue, Dale Lewis, Raphael Gomez and Jessica Watson opened Sovereign Tap on Dec. 7, 2014.

Housed in a historic building in downtown Plainfield, Sovereign Tap features only 16 tables, however, the small venue gives Donohue the opportunity to focus more on the cuisine, he noted.

“The smaller restaurant allows us to focus more on the cuisine and to make sure that as many plates as humanly possible that leave my kitchen are as perfect as possible,” he said.

Donohue said his focus at Sovereign Tap is farm to fork, working with as many local farmers as they can. It’s important, he said, for people to know where their food comes from and to provide quality ingredients from smaller farms that are free of chemicals and animals that are raised humanely.

“We believe in trying to keep as much of the money that comes into our restaurant in local communities as opposed to having it go clear across the country or in some big corporation’s pocket,” he added.

The cuisine is contemporary American, which Donohue said gives a nod to his mom, Mary Mittler, who first inspired him with her Midwest comfort food. But the dishes also reflect other cuisines that influence the flavors.

“With this country being made up of people from all over the world, they have their own take on food from their countries. I take ideas from that and what I see when I go out to eat whether it be a restaurant or going to a friend’s house,” Donohue said, “so you’ll see Latin and southeast Asian elements in my meatloaf. It’s a way of borrowing from many different cuisines and melding it into my own.”

One dish that is his take on Cambodian street food is the deep fried Brussels sprouts. Fried simply with salt and white pepper, they are served with a sweet Thai dipping sauce.

“We sell probably 200 pounds a week of Brussels sprouts,” he said. “I took it off the menu in the fall to make room for another item and we nearly had a revolt on our hands.”

Ground in house using brisket and applewood smoked bacon, the Sovereign burger is another popular offering. Donohue said it took weeks of trying different recipes to create the dish they are proud to put on the menu.

“By the end of it, none of us wanted to ever see another burger as long as we lived,” he said.

Donohue also recommends the two-pound bone-in heritage Berkshire pork shank. The pork shank is placed atop a sweet potato puree with garlic sautéed kale and topped with a peppercorn mustard demi jus.

As for the unusual names given to appetizers and entrées, many are created by Gomez and reflect the management’s love of music. The meatloaf, named Paradise By the Dashboard Light, is a familiar title; however it takes a few ideas sometimes to create a title that is family friendly, Donohue added.

“When I’m designing a dish or I’m done, I have to admit I will sometimes get a little bit scared as to what Raphael is going to come up with,” he said.

Donohue provided an appropriate name to one popular entrée, the Widow Maker. The braised local pork belly includes blistered jalapeños, Vidalia onions, smoked goat cheddar and pasilla porter BBQ sauce.

‘It’s a warning to diners. We want to sell a lot but you probably shouldn’t eat it seven days a week,” he said.

A big focus at Sovereign Tap and passion for the owners is offering Plainfield diners a craft beer pub. With 25 beers on draft as well as several casks, the restaurant strive to provide beers from local breweries, Donohue said.

“We have a cask from Two Brothers in Warrenville that we will be tapping into this weekend,” he said. “That is something the ‘beer geeks’ – as some of us are called – will travel for.”

Understanding diners will wait a long time for a table, particularly during the weekend, Donohue hopes those who come to Sovereign Tap feel the trip was worth it.

“It is something we are very grateful for here and we feel lucky people will do that, and so it’s important that we do not let them down. It runs the gamut from service to drinks to food,” he said. “We want them to feel they ate good food that is raised responsibly and drank beer from talented breweries who are no more than an hour to two hours from where they had the beer and feel good that their money is spent in a way that is responsible to the community.”

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