“People will travel anywhere for good food.” – Rene Redzepi
Looking for, and finding, great places to eat is not just a fad. It has become a way of life. Traveling to discover the hidden gem, the unusual diner with the best homemade rolls, or the family-owned restaurant with secret recipe fried chicken has become a quest.
Locally owned and operated restaurants florish throughout the Great Rivers & Routes region. Signature pepperloin steaks, prime rib, pastas, Japanese pancakes and baked macaroni and cheese to sweetly seductive pies and desserts, menus are full of dining options exclusive to the region.
Pull up a chair, relax and prepare yourself to be enjoy dishes that can only be found where the Mother Road meets the Great River Road.
Here is just a sampling of “must try” dishes found in the region!
(Don't forget dessert at My Just Desserts in Alton.)
Chicken Salad and Pies: That is the recipe for success at Alton’s My Just Desserts. Famous for its half-pound chicken salad sandwiches prepared fresh daily, the pies also attract considerable attention. Head baker and owner Yvonne Campbell advises diners to order their pie first. When they are gone, they are gone!
Japanese Pancakes: What’s a Japanese Pancake you ask? Check out Cleveland Heath in downtown Edwardsville to find out. Wild shrimp, bacon, cabbage, Kewpie mayo, green onion, bbq and bonito flakes are involved so it must be good. (This restaurants was the semi-finalist in 2015 and 2016 for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region for the James Beard Foundation.)
(Collinsville is home to Cajun food with Who Dat's.)
Cajun Delight: Cajun food in the Midwest? You bet. Who Dat’s in Collinsville creates New Orleans-style Cajun food daily and once it’s gone, it’s (yes, you know) gone for the day. Crawfish Etoufee, Blackened Redfish and fried catfish top the menu. If you are lucky you might show up during a good ol’ fashioned shrimp boil.
Horseshoe Anyone? Traveling down Route 66 can build up an appetite and Weezy’s Route 66 Bar & Grill in Hamel has just the thing to fill an empty stomach. Check out the cheesey open faced Horseshoe Sandwich with fries. If that looks like too much food, the Ponyshoe is also on the menu.
(Pies at Diamond Mineral Springs in Grantfork.)
Mile High Pies: Hidden away in tiny Grantfork are some pretty impressive pies. Mile High Pies to be precise. Discover Diamond Mineral Springs, a gem of a restaurant, which serves meals family-style and those decadent meringue topped pies.
(Bakers & Hale in Godfrey.)
Farm-to-Table: Godfrey based Bakers & Hale exploded onto the food scene in 2018 with its farm-to-table menu using fresh herbs and veggies grown in the adjoining garden. Salads, sandwiches, pizzas and tacos highlight the available fare.
(Try secret recipe fried chicken at Castelli's Restaurant.)
Secret Recipes: Three generations of the Castelli family in Alton have closely guarded their trademarked fried chicken recipe. And for good reason. Diners come from all over the country to enjoy the tender, juicy chicken at Castelli's at 255.
Cast a Line: Some of the best fried fish sandwiches can be found at two fish stands located in Grafton at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. O’Jan’s Fish Stand and Beasley’s Fish Stand serve up fried buffalo, Pollack and tilapia sandwiches. Don’t forget to sample the fresh frog legs.
(Fin Inn in Grafton is renowned for its turtle soup and seafood entrees.)
Turtle Soup: Considered a true delicacy by locals, Grafton’s Fin Inn is known for its delicious turtle soup. The atmosphere is also worth the trip. Diners can eat alongside giant aquariums in this family-owned and operated restaurant.
(For one-of-a-kind burgers try Sloan's Pub in Collinsville.)
Pub Burgers: No one does a pub burger better than Sloan’s Pub House in Uptown Collinsville. Fried eggs, thick slices of cheese and grilled onions top these juicy burgers. Salty housemade chips complete the meal. Enjoy the cool sports pub atmosphere while dining.
For more great culinary choices, look here!