Monday, August 24, 2015

Roadfood in Illinois

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Random Stops in the Land of Lincoln

I've got so many food stops in random Illinois towns I thought it was time to start getting some of them online. As a lifelong city resident I really do feel bad for those who rarely leave Chicago, as good as it is there's some fun places in areas outside of Chicagoland. Most of them presenting beautiful views you wont find in the city. There's some great small towns and state parks to explore and you're going to be hungry while doing so. Get out and Enjoy Illinois sometime soon.

Candlelight Inn

Sterling, IL

This place down in Central Illinois is a classic. They've been at it for close to 50 years. Locals flock from all angles to get some chicken George in their life. It's basically fresh battered chicken tenders served with a special dipping sauce. I stopped in one day to finally try them. They weren't quite fried fresh because she told us they'd be out in a minute when I asked for them to-go. They make them in large batches as I saw in a video looking up the address, this caused a few to stick but nonetheless they were pretty dang enjoyable for chicken strips. We both agreed they were like a dish you may find at an American-Chinese restaurant which sometimes you just need. The sauce reminded me of the house sauce at southern chicken finger chains like Zaxby's. Kids will love them.

Chicken George with Jan's Special Sauce

Dog 'n Suds

Grayslake, IL

Way up north near where Illinois meets Wisconsin is one of the last of a dying breed. There was a time when Dog n Suds were found all over but the few that remain are independently owned. One of them up in Grayslake is still going strong over the summer season.

Drive-In Hot Dogs

This stop was made a few years ago but I doubt much has changed. They had both classic Chicago style hot dogs (minus poppy seed bun) as well as Coney dogs. I tried one of each and was happy with the product. Neither was the best example of their respective styles but both were satisfying. Even better was the fresh brewed root beer served alongside them.

Coney Dog (L) Chicago style (R)

Da Rajun Cajun

McNabb, IL

Down in the Illinois River Region there's another Cajun joint opened by a former Louisiana resident. Da Rajun Cajun calls itself a southern style restaurant and bar and features live music on the weekends. We sat at the bar for a beer one night while riding home and watched the locals have a good time with the female owner. Her house gumbo was very interesting. It was different but all gumbos are. This one had some redness to it from tomatoes as well as smoked chicken and sausage. The rice was about as fluffy a scoop as I've ever had. Wonder if it was Carolina gold. Good stuff.

House Gumbo

La Gondola Spaghetti House

Bloomington, IL

While down in the land of the Redbirds I spied this building up above and it looked cool, in the old school sort of way so I pulled inside the lot to see what was up. Turns out this is a locals favorite sandwich shop that also serves spaghetti. The Website says they've been around since 1982 and the pizza bread sandwich is a common mention in reviews. So I tried one. Gross. The red sauce was way too sweet for me. I think the only way to like this sandwich is to have grown up on it.

Pizza Bread Sandwich

Shooters Bar & BBQ

O'Fallon, IL

I was down in St. Louis this past Spring visiting my friend and we did some good eating as always. He took me to a spot he likes over on the Illinois side of town. I told him to order what was good and we ended up with some amazing wings and a somewhat gimmicky rack of ribs. The wings were stuffed with jambalaya and smoked. Dope. They reminded me of the stuffed wings at the Hmong Market in Milwaukee except better. The skin was perfectly crunchy and the meat was still pretty moist when bitten into. The rice inside was like reaching the center of a blow pop.

Jambalaya Stuffed Smoked Chicken Wings

The insides

The ribs we ordered were of the deep fried variety. They're smoked first and then dropped in the fryer with a bunch of dry rub sticking to them. Not awful by any means but not something you wanted to eat an entire rack of. It was almost like candy.

Deep Fried Ribs

Candlelight Inn
2907 N Locust St
Sterling, IL 61081
(815) 625-2600

Dog 'n Suds
454 Center St
Grayslake, IL 60030
(847) 223-4601

Da Rajun Cajun
3289 Rt 89
McNabb, IL 61335
(815) 882-2323

La Gondola Spaghetti House
509 S Main St
Bloomington, IL 61701
(309) 828-4141

Shooters Bar & BBQ
113 E 1st St
O'Fallon, IL 62269
(618) 622-2227

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