Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-Amazin' Cajun in the Illinois River Valley Region
With the Fall near and the change of colors coming I thought now would be a good time to add one of the classic must stop eateries in all of Illinois. Ron's Cajun Connection is located down in Utica, IL which is also the home to Starved Rock State Park. If you haven't been there it's one of if not the best state parks in Illinois and with it being only a couple hours away it makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway. One thing you need to make sure you do though is get over to Ron's which has been described by some as the "best Cajun restaurant outside the Bayou" So even if your not a big outdoor person, the restaurant itself is worth the ride. Bonus points in that Rip's Chicken is nearby. Quite the 1-2 punch and I've done quite a few of them.
Locals/tourist favorite in Utica, IL
When you go to Ron's it's as if your stopping by for dinner at an old friends place. It's an old house turned Cajun haunt. Ron himself is always around making sure things are going smooth both behind the kitchen doors and in the two rooms that make up the dining area. As far as the food goes that's why people come here. This is classic bayou cooking by a man who grew up there (St. Charles, LA) and still makes the rounds back home to pick up goods that he just cant get in the Illinois River Valley region. I've only had the pleasure of going here once but I've been waiting on the day I get to go back. It's been way too long. Off the appetizer menu the boudin balls are a good way to start.
Fried Boudin Balls
These fried treats are made from Boudin sausage removed the casing and formed into a ball which is then fried. Ron's has some great homemade sauces at each table. In fact pretty much everything is made from scratch and comes from an old family recipe he either hasn't touched or tweaked up here and there. The menu consists of many goodies including fried gator and frog legs and all the usual suspects you would expect to see on a Cajun menu and then some.
The gumbo is a must get and some of the best not just in state but anywhere. It's a New Orleans style soupier version than other places which make it thicker. Each spoonful packs an amazing flavor punch, you just cant get enough. They also sell individual quart size portions of that amongst other menu items that are frozen so you can take some home and have it whenever you want. I'd suggest doing that since I've been fiendin' for some since.
The menu at Ron's seems to me like it's one of those that's worth going thru. I have a ways to go but will get some of it knocked off this Fall when I head down that way. In order to experience as much of the menu as I could in my one and only visit I went with a combo plate which allows you to choose a few items (2-4) on your plate.
♫ A spoonful of gumbo helps the medicine go down ♪
I was very, very happy with what I got as far as the choose your own goes. The bubba shrimp were seasoned and perfectly cooked served on a stick. Shrimp creole, crawfish etouffee and red beans and rice were also authentic Cajun stick to your ribs good. As good as what you'd expect to get down there in Cajun Country where they know how to eat as good as anyone out here. I'm starting to really want this place right now as I write this so it's time for me to go. I just cant wait to get back. Shout to to the Grub Seeker for the heads up on this must visit restaurant. One of Illinois' best.
Ron's Entree Combeaux Platter
Ron's Cajun Connection
897 East U.S. Highway 6
Utica, IL 61373