Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Galena Eats

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Cruisin' Country (Galena, IL)

I spent a weekend in Galena over the mild winter and enjoyed my first visit back since the annual 8th grade ropes course trip my grade school used to do there. I took it back in 1996, with of course a visit to US Grant's old home included on the overnight field trip. This time around it wasn't spring but still really pretty and the town itself reminded me much of Deadwood when I went there. Even though I'm a city boy, I enjoy getting to see these old school towns where much of the past is still preserved today. I stopped back into Galena for breakfast this Spring after spending the night in East Dubuque so this is a two trip post thrown into one. Anyone looking to get away for the weekend who enjoys a piece of old time Americana with some new life thrown in should consider a trip to Galena sometime soon. It's beautiful year-round.

Some different views from the seasons

I enjoyed the town as much as I remembered I would. Even back in 8th grade when I could of cared less about the historic charm of places like this I remember at least thinking how the houses were cool. Nothings changed and alot remains the same. As always there were a few food stops on radar. We stayed on Main Street and not too far from where we were there was the Galena Brewing Company.

Located on Main Street

Started in 2009, this place isn't old but once upon a time there was another Galena Brewing Company and as I learned here, they were famous for their Red Stripe Beer. Yep as it turns out, the popular Jamaican lager enjoyed by many alongside a spliffy isn't even from the islands mon. It's from Galena, Illinois where it was brewed until the late 1800's and then the recipe was sold to a couple of British businessmen who brought it to and then started brewing it in Jamaica. In fact, due to it being the first Mineral rush city in the USA, Galena had nine breweries in the 1800's. A few of those breweries old buildings still stand today and you get can get tours of them thru GBC. I hope to do that next time.

From the relics display case on hand at GBC

The lady was telling me about their Red Stripe history and showed me some of the old things from then that they still have on display such as the kegs for which it was named, they have a red stripe across them. Every summer they have a big reggae weekend and get some, from what I was told, well known acts to come in for their celebration of it. It'd be cool to be there since I really liked the space and thought this was the best place for a drink and snack around town.

Old Red Stripe Keg and other memorabilia

We went here a few times and the food ranged from really good (roasted bone marrow) to pretty good (stuffed 'shrooms) to not good (empanada) and the beer was very nice. I liked their amber ale the best. On top of that, great service and the $5 menu, which all the items I ate came from, was a nice pair to go with the beers. I had at least five orders of the bone marrow on my three visits. You cant ever get enough of that.

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$5 Food Menu and their house brewed beer is a good way to go...

For a more upscale sit down place for dinner we both really enjoyed One Eleven Main. The name (It's address) might be corny but the seasonal menu served with locally influenced dishes tries to take the food most people are familiar with to an unfamiliar level. According to their website "we've forged special partnerships with local and regional farmers, artisans and food purveyors." We ended up eating here twice and because of that I was able to eat a few things off their winter menu as well as have a few specialty cocktails since it was a short walk back to where we were at. Nice.

Downtown Galena on Main Street

The cocktail menu features the classics and also hand muddled/homemade options and sours n' such and housemade pitchers of punch. There's lots of spots like these popping up all over as we had just enjoyed a similar spot, Merchant (In Madison), the night before. They use many local Midwest distilled spirits including Templeton Rye (IA) North Shore Distillery (IL), Deaths Door (WI) and so on. The drinks were very nice and I've become a cocktail snob of late so I'm picky.

Winter Drink Menu

Food wise I liked what we had. It was winter so I bet the summer menu is better but their housemade pasta selections were very good as are the cheese curds. I liked the pork ragu a whole lot and the beef stroganoff was very good too. Both did what they said they said as a restaurant they were trying to do. Also great is their "daily feature menu" which had a special pork, fish or beef dish that changed by day. I liked what I had off of there. I'd stop back in when around town again and that I will do that next time I need a break from the concrete jungle of cements.

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Noodle Selections (Pork Ragu, Beef Stroganoff)

Main Street Galena

I stopped back into Galena one morning this spring after spending the night in East Dubuque, IL. We rolled into town around 10a and decided to stop in at a breakfast place I had wanted to try on my last visit. It had much promise to it from the looks of the place and it's menu. Even though it seems like a place that might of been around for a while and just underwent some graphic changes in their restaurant logo that wasn't the case. This is one of the newer places around town. Located in a building that once housed Galena's first post office around 1855 and then from 1902 on into the 50's it housed a Carlson's drug store. After that a few cafes made their home there. Nowadays it's the Victory Cafe

Locals favorite on Main Street

We stopped in for breakfast and I could tell had warmed up to it because everyone knew each other on my visit. They serve breakfast (all day) and lunch too. They're open from 6a-3p daily. The lunch menu had a few things that looked good including the fried meatloaf so I'll have to try that next time. On this trip it was before 11am so breakfast was what was on the menu. The first thing listed under 'Homestyle Favorites' was their "hobo hash" which has country potatoes topped with chorizo, celery, onion and cheese and comes with two eggs and toast. Sour cream and salsa included too. This was a nice way to start the day especially if your doing some outdoor activities or sightseeing via walking around later that day. This will fill you up.

Hobo Hash from Victory Cafe

Timmerman's Supper Club was actually a spot I wanted to eat at when I was up in Galena this past winter but a snowstorm switched those plans up. I remembered they also have a hotel so that's where we stayed on a recent overnight trip into Dubuque, Iowa. Located across the river in East Dubuque, IL it's about a 15 minute drive from Galena and if you enjoy Supper Clubs like I do this is one you might want to check out for dinner one night.

East Dubuque, IL

We checked in at their Inn and then walked over to the supper club for dinner a little bit later. Classic supper club setting and on top of that this one has sick view overlooking the Mississippi River. We sat down at the bar right around sundown, the place is huge and can serve 100's so it seemed empty considering the space but nonetheless all the tables along the glass windows overlooking the bluff were taken for dinner during prime time.

The view sitting at the bar

The old ambiance and drinks are the biggest draws to supper clubs for me. More so than not, the food can be pretty damn good too as long as your not dumb enough to order something that was obviously added to the menu recently and in some cases, seafood. Hey most Supper Clubs are in Wisconsin and Great Lakes territory. So fresh lake perch? Yes. Fresh fish from the ocean? I suspect not. The onion rings were mentioned as lightly battered and freshly fried served with a side of cheese dip and those are a good way to go as is the whiskey sour old fashioned and French onion soup. I went with the "what else would you get" supper club order of prime rib with my potato choice being hash browns with onions and cheese please.

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Supper Club Eats & Drink

They offer an extra think cut but I went with the regular size and ordered it medium rare and everything was what you would expect. Very nice piece of meat and more than enough to eat along with your soup and potato. Not to mention the supper club standard house rolls served with dinner and complimentary corn bread at the bar. Our bartender was great and fit the roll of a supper club bartender well. The service was great and I got to take half of the thing back to the room which is where the good stops. It's not horribly dirty or disgusting but the actual hotel is ok at best. I wouldn't stay there unless passing thru and looking for a fair priced place to stay and a good dinner not far away or in this case, walking distance. The leftover meat and potatoes were even better for dinner the next day.

Prime Rib Dinner from Timmerman's

So if you're thinking of a place to get away and like the old school ambiance of old towns then Galena is a good bet. There's some good things going on as far as the food movement goes and as always theres the town itself with all of its 100+ year old buildings including the home where Ulysses S. Grant stayed before he moved into the White House. The fact that it was a mining town makes for some fun walking around up and down but you gotta be fit to do so. I cant imagine what its like living at the homes on top in this old mining community during the winter months. It's a popular place for motocycle riders and I could see why. Great rides, good times.

Seeing Galena

Where U.S Grant stayed...see ya next time on America, the beautiful

Galena Brewing Company
227 North Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
(815) 776-9917

One Eleven Main
111 North Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
(815) 777-8030

Victory Cafe
200 North Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
(815) 777-4407

Timmerman's Supper Club
7777 Timmerman Drive
East Dubuque, IL 61025
(815) 747-3316

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