Everyone LOVES a great meal. But there’s definitely this idea that if you want a great dining experience, you have to head to the nearest big city. That’s just not the case. In fact, there are small towns across Illinois with EXCELLENT restaurants–from “dives” to fine dining experiences. Here are ten to try out:
1. Firefly Grill (Effingham)
The Firefly Grill specializes in fresh, new American cuisine. The setting is gorgeous, the plates look beautiful, and it isn't pretentious. Moreover, many of the dishes can be made to fit dietary preferences.
2. 9th Street Cafe (Highland)
Here is a great place to get classic diner food. Pancakes, meatloaf...you know the drill. But the food is just executed in an excellent way. Don't miss it!
3. Fritz and Frites (Galena)
Enjoy great German and French cuisine...the best of both worlds! Get a really well done wiener schnitzel (that's so fun to say!) and steak frites. You'll love it!
4. Rajun Cajun Piano Bar (Alton)
Who knew you could get some classic Cajun in southern Illinois? Great ambiance with a live piano player.
5. Uptown Grill (La Salle)
In business for thirty years, Uptown Grill serves "polished casual" food. You can get a four-course dinner or just a burger and dessert. They have everything from steaks aged in house to imported charcuterie. Who knew?
6. The Purple Onion (Annawan)
These guys are serving up classic country food, a true Mom and Pop place with great service. People rave about the biscuits and gravy...and the pie!
7. Gallagher's (Waterloo)
Just outside of St. Louis, this renovated mill building is the home to a fantastic restaurant. They specialize in comfort food, but don't let that designation fool you. It's really good. And they won an award for best fried chicken...so that's reason enough to pay them a visit!
8. Ray's (Elgin)
Ray's has been around for over forty years and is beloved in Elgin. This is the way diners are supposed to be--solid food, excellent service, and reasonable prices. Many of the people who work there and eat there have been doing so for decades...always the mark of a great place.
9. Niche (Geneva)
Yes, fine dining does exist in the Chicago suburbs. You'll get fresh, American cuisine...eclectic but elegant. And it's nationally recognized for its excellent wine list. Hey, and if you aren't a wine guy, there's 200 whiskies to choose from. Seriously, bro.
10. Townee Square Restaurant (Libertyville)
If you want to find one of the Libertyville locals, chances are they're eating at Townee Square. It's a gathering spot of sorts for the people of Libertyville, but it attracts visitors from outside. Whether you are looking for a superb breakfast or want a quick lunch, you can't go wrong at Townee Square.
Know of another great Illinois small town restaurant that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments.