Famous for massive bluffs and spectacular waterfront views, Alton, IL, located 25 minutes north of St. Louis near the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, has a vibrant and growing restaurant, winery and brewery scene. After browsing Alton’s Antique Row for treasures, touring the historic business and residential neighborhoods, or enjoying a day of boating or kayaking, make time to explore the many food and craft refreshment spots found in the Alton area.
Delicious Dishes in Downtown Alton, Illinois
The first destination on a foodie tour of the Alton area should be downtown Alton, a revitalized dining, entertainment and residential district on the Mississippi River where new boutiques, lofts and eateries are popping up all the time.
Take a look into some of the restaurants that line Alton's historic Third Street entertainment district.
Bluff City Grill serves up big, delicious and hearty sandwiches and burgers in its location on East Broadway. The vibe is relaxing and fun. This is the place to go to watch March Madness basketball, baseball STL-style or your favorite NFL team when you’re in town. The restaurant, sports bar and lounge has an impressively large menu featuring all kinds of comfort food: pot stickers, crab cakes and chicken wings.
My Just Desserts is known for its homemade pies and desserts.
Opened in its current location since 1988, My Just Desserts showcases sweet treats hand-crafted by owner Yvonne Campbell, including up to 13 flavors of homemade pie every day. "Our pie list consists of 150 different flavors that rotate on a monthly basis," she says. "[But there’s also] lunch served in an antique atmosphere, with soup, salads or a half pound chicken salad sandwich." Campbell uses farmers’ market produce when available. My Just Desserts is ranked the No. 1 restaurant in Alton on TripAdvisor.
Speaking of farmers’ markets, downtown Alton puts on the Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market every summer and fall, running from early June through mid-October. It's at the corner of Landmarks Boulevard and Henry Street, and is open on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. You can find fresh produce, crafts, baked goods, flowers, handmade jewelry, artwork and more - all made by local vendors.
Diversity is celebrated in Alton, and diners can explore other cultures through its food without leaving the downtown area. Foodies can enjoy an authentic lamb burger or corned beef platter at Morrison’s Irish Pub, where the atmosphere reflects the vibe of a true tavern in Ireland. Or spice it up at Ragin Cajun Piano Bar for a delicious po’ boy with accompanying live music.
Don’t leave Alton without trying the Pad Thai or Pizzettes at Bossanova located in the 3rd Street Entertainment District. Be sure to stop by State Street Market for lunch, dinner or a bottle of top-notch wine at its adjacent wine bar, the Copper Bar.
More: Read more about My Just Desserts’ founder Ann Badasch, a local legend, here.
Bring on the Brews
Wine isn’t the only drink of choice around here. Beer is a pretty good contender as well. Known for great locally brewed beer and farm-to-table entrees, Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton has quickly become a popular local fave since opening in January 2015. "The Old Bakery Beer Company’s first priority is to make great organic craft beer, but we make sure to complement that with a local, seasonal food menu and knowledgeable staff," says Lauren Patton, co-owner. "Housed in an old bakery building, we made sure to maintain the industrial, historic feel of the building, and you even get a good look into the brewery as you walk through the building to get to the restaurant."
Check out the great local brews and food at Old Bakery Beer Co. (photo by Illinois Office of Tourism)
Another fantastic destination to grab a cold brew is at Tony’s Restaurant, which markets itself as a pizza and pasta house—and it’s a great stop if that’s what you want to eat. But when you want something interesting to drink, Tony’s is a cool place for that, too, with plenty of different craft beers to chose from—along with 90 types of wines. This old-school Italian pizza, pasta and steakhouse restaurant has that Prohibition-era vibe you don’t find many places anymore.
"We are excited to see constant upward growth in the local food and drink scene in the Alton area," Patton says. "There is so much potential [and] we, of course, love that craft beer has really taken off in the area over the last few years."
Food Events and More
(Unfortunately due to COVID, many of the food festival were postponed this year. Check our events page for upcoming events you won't want to miss!)
A smart way to plan a foodie tour of the Alton area is to arrange a visit at the same time as one of the local festivals and events. One possibility is a weekend trip during the Sauce Alton Food Truck Festival, where dozens of local food truck vendors showcase excellent, quick-made dishes and treats like Korean tacos, Italian ice, wood-fired pizzas and more. Admission is free but guests can opt for a $25 VIP pass for an upgraded experience, free drinks and open seating at the amphitheater.
In addition to the downtown Alton farmer’s market, you'll find locally grown produce and artisan items on Tuesday evenings through September at Jerseyville’s farmers market too. Another one to consider is the Bethalto Farmers’ Market featuring fresh produce, flowers and houseplants as well as homemade pastries, jams, art pieces, and craft and woodwork items held on alternating weekends.
Additional food-oriented events include the Annual River Rat Catfish Tournament as well as frequent offerings at Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center in Grafton, from a Peach Festival to Mexican Wine Pairing Dinners, or a Beer Garden & Fish Fry. And of course there’s always Restaurant Week to look forward to twice each year in Alton in January and July. Close to two dozen local restaurants partcipate (many of those featured in this wine and dine guide), planning out prix fixe menus at reasonable prices. Restaurant menus differ in price, and the atmospheres range from elegant white tablecloth to hip, casual brewery.