Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Old Jail

We ran across this old brick jail while heading to an open house at a local winery.
This was the third village jail in Manito, Illinois, built in 1906. The previous jail was destroyed by fire, so this structure was designed to be as fireproof as possible.
In the late 1970s, the jail was rumored to be slated for demolition. The Manito Historical Society was then formed and worked to save the jail and move it to its present location.
Next door is an original old red village schoolhouse also nicely preserved.
Both are available for tours by appointment.

Old Jail
204 State St.
Manito, IL 61546

Sunday, November 30, 2008

AMVETS Post 64

The AMVETS Post 64 building in Peoria, Illinois recently came to the forefront of the local news because the city's historic preservation commission decided the downtown building should be a historic landmark and preserved for future uses.
Hearing that the building may be demolished, we wanted to stop by and have a look.
The building was constructed in 1916 and designed by W. H. Reeves, who also designed City Hall. It has been home to AMVETS Post 64 for almost 40 years.
Turning in to the parking lot, I noticed the unique enameled brick and glazed terra cotta facade. The facade is considered by some preservationists to be a historically significant feature.
After being buzzed in, we stepped into the basement bar with its suspended ceilings and wood paneling.
The comfortable room was lined with some bookshelves and cabinets, and a popcorn machine topped with cardboard serving trays waiting to be filled. In one corner was a Christmas tree strung with lights.
The horseshoe bar was lined with many stools and flanked by some circular tables and chairs near a dance floor.
We noticed a handwritten sign on the post near our seats advertising $1.00 hot dogs anytime. We decided to partake, and the barkeep put a couple of dogs on the roller for us to heat up.
Once they were ready, he served them on buns in white scalloped paper trays and directed us to the end of the bar to garnish them.
After finishing our dogs, we checked out the narrow elevator near the men's room, which reminded us of some we'd seen in Germany. These old service elevators do not meet current American's with Disabilities compliancy requirements, which is one of the reasons the AMVETS group cited for wanting to move to a different building.
Above the accordion style metal gate protecting riders from falling into the shaft I noticed a decorative design cut into the metal of the trim above.
Even the panel controlling the elevator and the door handle were lovely.

The results of the vote by Peoria City Council, 9-1, did not find the building historic enough to grant landmark status.
The AMVETS building will most likely be sold and demolished.

AMVETS Post 64
237 N. E. Monroe Street
Peoria, Illinois 61602

Peoria Mineral Springs

Ever since I saw the Peoria Mineral Springs featured on the Name This Peoria Landmark web site, I've been dying to visit the site in Peoria, Illinois' West Bluff. I hadn't even been aware of it's existence before then.
Saturday we got out our handheld GPS and went to check it out.

The first thing we came across was the stately brick home perched on the hillside with a plaque between two of the windows reading "Peoria Mineral Springs Soda and Ginger Ale".
The site was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1982.
The house was built by Zealy Moss.

A bit past the historic house, we came to a short stone stairway leading up the side of the wooded hill. The stairs soon petered out, and with leaves covering the loose stones scattered along the hill, we had a little trouble making our way up.
Either someone maintains this area, or maybe the rumors of hauntings keep people from hanging out here, because I was surprised to find virtually no litter once we left the sidewalk.

Shortly we came to a brick archway capped by a wooden door that has been chained closed.
The little arched doorway in the woods reminded me of something from a fairy tale. Putting my ear to the gap in the door, I could hear the water flowing freely in the tunnel.

Nearby lies a marker topped with a plaque stating "Peoria Mineral Springs has been in existence some 14,500 years and is this area’s last link with prehistoric water sources. Located on Peoria’s historic West Bluff, the springs were the primary source for the first water supply for the City of Peoria. Governor Thomas Ford granted a charter February 20, 1843 for the establishment of this water supply. A reservoir was then built to contain the springs and pipers were laid to carry the water approximately two miles. At this time, Zealy Moss, Revolutionary War soldier, prominent citizen and owner of the property, built a home for himself on the property. The springs are still free flowing today.

This plaque placed by
Illinois State Organization
of the
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
Mrs. Albert Triebel, Jr., State Regent
This Sixteenth day of March
Nineteen-Hundred Eighty-Three"

It's intriguing to me to realize that sites like this exist, seemingly almost forgotten in Peoria. Heck, I drive within a couple of blocks of this site about once a week, and didn't even know it was there.
Upon doing some research when I got home, I also found that the site is said to be haunted. According to ghostsofamerica.com I found "The spirit of an awfully scorched woman is repeatedly observed obliterating a bag at Peoria Mineral Springs at midnight".
I also found this report that "A large chilling ghost was made out beside Peoria Mineral Springs late at night downing blood from a beaker. This ghost is fantastically active in this area; there have been a few other sightings of this specific ghost. Anyhow, it's a scary ghost that you wouldn't want to bump into late at night".
I didn't pick up any haunted vibes while I was there, but certainly found it to be a neat peek into Peoria's past.

Peoria Mineral Springs
701 W. 7th Avenue
Peoria, IL 61605

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dwight, Illinois

Dwight, Illinois hosts an original stretch of Route 66, and several unique historic finds.

The Dwight railroad depot, a beautiful structure built by the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1891 in the Romanesque style to a design by architect Henry Ives Cobb. The station has been on the National Register of Historic Places since December 1982.
This station had all of the style and grace of some of the train stations we visited in Germany in 2006.
The depot still serves Amtrak passenger traffic between Chicago and St. Louis via the Lincoln Service trains. Travel time to downtown Chicago is about 1 1/2 hours.

Also in Dwight is one of only three banks designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorite architects.
This bank, called the Frank L. Smith Bank, also known as the First National Bank of Dwight, was constructed in 1905 and opened in 1906. The design of the bank building is quite simple, unlike the classical influences that were commonly used at the time.
From the outside, the bank did not scream Frank Lloyd Wright to me, but it was closed and we were unable to check out the inside on this visit. I would like to have a look at the Roman brick fireplace.

We'll be back to Dwight to check out some more of the Route 66 sites in town, including some of the historic gas stations.

Dwight Railroad Depot
119 W. Main Street
Dwight, IL 60420

First National Bank of Dwight
122 W. Main Street
Dwight, IL 60420

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Atlanta, Illinois

Recently we had a chance to drive through Atlanta, Illinois, located along historic Route 66.
I found Atlanta to be a wonderfully charming town, even though many of the buildings were vacant at the time of our visit in October.
One of the things I loved about Atlanta was the restoration of several old murals painted on brick buildings. I've often lamented the fact that Peoria, IL has not done that sort of thing, despite there being remnants of several murals here and there.
One of the murals in Atlanta is the "J.M. Judy & Sons" grocery store mural. A sign under the mural reads: "During the 1890s, J.M. Judy operated his grocery store on the first floor of this, the Union Building. As the 70' x 15' mural attests, Mr. Judy also dealt in Queensware, a popular china pattern of the day, notions, and musical merchandise. Bill Diaz of Pontiac, Illinois created this design using a photo taken in the early 1900s of the original J.M. Judy & Sons mural that adorned this side of the building.
The "J.M. Judy & Sons" mural was completed in June 2002 during the "Rt. 66 Firecracker Walldog Jam" gathering of approximately 35 Letterheads in Atlanta.
The Letterheads are a group of generous and free-spirited sign painters from across the United States and Canada who are interested in preserving the art of painting outdoor signs and murals."

There are other restored murals in Atlanta including one for Reisch Beer. The Reisch Brewing Co. was located in Springfield, IL.
Reisch Beer Will Give You Health & Strength, claims the tagline at the bottom of this mural. Hmm, I wonder if Chubby's Bar & Grill has any stashed away in the cooler?

The next mural I saw, for the Palm's Grill Cafe, flanks another favorite roadside attraction, a muffler man.
This 19 foot tall Paul "Bunyon" hunk of manliness is cradling a hot dog in his arms now, but once toted an axe.
He used to hold down the fort at Bunyon's restaurant in Cicero, and after the restaurant was sold in 2003 he was moved to his current location.

The Atlanta Public Library & Museum is yet another site to behold. I found the building to be stunning with its unique architecture, Illinois’ only 8-sided, limestone Public Library & Museum. The library was built in 1906 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I definitely plan to visit Atlanta again when I have some time to stop by for some lunch, pie and drinks and do some more sightseeing. It feels like the sort of town that knows how to serve up a true slice of Americana, and that's always tasty in my book.

Atlanta Public Library & Museum (other sites nearby)
100 SE Race St

Atlanta, IL 61723

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Antique Toy Museum

Traveling to and from Lake Ozark in Missouri, we passed the Antique Toy Museum in Stanton, MO.
On our way back, we stopped to check it out.
We stepped into the adjoining gift shop and paid our $6 admission to get into the museum.
The museum is filled with over 3,000 toys from dolls to tractors to planes and even a room with antique cars and trucks.
We saw a set of mechanical dolls from Germany, and a model train was running on a track near the ceiling.
With toys dating from the turn of the century to the mid-1960s, many of them were a bit before my time, but I did see a few newer ones, and it was a fun roadside jaunt.

Antique Toy Museum
2426 S. Outer Road
Stanton, MO 63079

World's Largest Rocking Chair

On our way to Sunrise Beach, MO, we buzzed by a sign on Interstate 44 touting the World's Largest Rocking Chair, and made a mental note to check it out on our way back.
This is a fairly new attraction, having only been put on display April Fool's Day 2008 in Fanning, MO.
The chair towers at well over 40 feet tall, perched next to the US 66 Outpost and General Store. We were disappointed to find the general store closed on Sundays, but I did manage to snap a photo of our 70 pound black lab under the chair, which illustrates just how robust this rocker really is.

World's Largest Rocking Chair
5957 Highway ZZ
Cuba, MO 65453

Two Bit Town

A trip to Lake Ozark would not be complete without checking out the Bagnell Dam Strip.
On our recent visit to Missouri, we parked along the strip and checked out the Rebel Arcade, opened in 1972.
Our next stop was next door at Two Bit Town. We bought four tokens for two dollars so we could go through the maze and Crazy Cousin's Cabin.
The maze is a series of wooden walled paths where you have to locate 13 doors in order to find your way out. Walking through, we noticed several weeds, but on a hot day, the vines covering the top of the walls at some points provided some much needed shade.
We found our way out in about 10 minutes, but StfRon wasn't convinced we should go through the turnstile and thought we must have missed a door near the end. We kept looking until finally the token booth lady said "You guys can come out at any time!" She had heard us coming to the end and realized we must not have figured out we could exit there!

Our next stop was Crazy Cousin's Cabin, a mystery spot of sorts where the tilted walls of the cabin provide a visual illusion and make you feel like gravity has taken a vacation, or at least had one too many cocktails at the Topsider!
We had fun checking out the different places in the cabin to pose, sit or walk and we both noticed we felt a little dizzy or light-headed at times!

Two Bit Town
1475 Bagnell Dam Blvd.
Lake Ozark, MO 65049

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ha Ha Tonka State Park castle ruins

On our recent visit to the Lake of the Ozarks area in Missouri, we took the time to stop at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, Missouri to view the castle ruins.

Around 1900, Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent Kansas City businessman was so impressed with the beauty of the area that he began purchasing much of the surrounding land and eventually acquired over 5,000 acres.

Snyder dreamed of building a private retreat that would rival castles of Europe. He brought in stone masons from Scotland and a hired a European supervisor to ensure proper construction techniques.
Kansas City architect Adrian Van Brunt designed the three-and-a-half story masterpiece. The stone and timber used were taken from the vicinity of the construction site and were hauled by mule team. Construction began in 1905.

Also on the property were nine greenhouses, a stable and an 80 foot water tower, all built of the same stone and timber.
The water tower fell victim to vandals in the 70s, but still stands today.

Tragically, in 1906, Snyder was killed in an automobile accident. The interior of the castle remained unfinished until 1922 when Snyder's sons completed the upper floors of the building.

The Snyder family then faced years of adversity in trying to keep the property in the family. Eventually they leased the mansion to a Mrs. Ellis who operated it as a hotel.

In 1942, one of Ha Ha Tonka's fireplaces sparked a fire in the mansion. All that remains today are the walls on the edge of the cliff. The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978 and opened it to the public as a State Park.

Visiting the site and enjoying some of the 12 hiking trails, we were impressed by the beauty of the property. The views rival those that we saw when visiting the Rhine/Mosel valley in Koblenz, Germany.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park
1491 State Road D
Camdenton, MO 65020

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lou's Drive-In

Looking for curbside service like the good old days? Lou's Drive-In in Peoria, Illinois still offers curbside service after 5 p.m. on weekdays, and all day long on weekends. Just pull up and turn on your headlights and a server will come by to take your order.
Lou's, opened in 1953, is a seasonal business, open from spring to fall only.
With lots of great sandwiches like tenderloins, chicken, burgers and BBQ, plus hot dogs, fries and onion rings, not to mention the homemade root beer, Lou's always makes for a fun time.
Tired of being in the car? Grab a seat at one of the tables and enjoy a little bit of nostalgia with your burger and fries.

Lou's Drive-In
4229 N Knoxville Ave
Peoria, IL 61614

Monday, May 5, 2008

Metro Milwaukee and homeward bound

This weekend we squeezed in a short trip to the Milwaukee area.
My mom found a German restaurant online she wanted to check out, which was located in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Weissgerber's Gasthaus turned out to be a lovely European styled building with beautiful decor.
The Gasthaus has been serving German favorites for more than 30 years.
My mom and I both started with the spinach salads with hot bacon dressing (a la carte for $4) and both chose the Sauerbraten ($21) as our entrée.
StfRon went with the pork shank ($25), over three pounds of roasted pork on the bone. My dad chose the Rouladen ($22).
From the pretzel rolls and ciabatta style bread to the spinach salads topped with savory dressing to the tangy Sauerbraten and red cabbage, everything was wonderful. I didn't finish it all, and didn't even get to sample the sauerkraut. If it was anything like the red cabbage, I surely missed out.
We've sampled a couple of German restaurants in the Milwaukee area over the years, and I would rate my meal at the Gasthaus the best meal I've had in Wisconsin thus far.

Unlike Saturday, Sunday dawned a picture perfect Milwaukee spring day. Because of the great weather, we enjoyed breakfast outdoors and ended up hanging around the city a bit longer, taking our time on the way home. We checked out a couple of antique shops, and started the trek south sometime after noon.
StfRon pulled off the Interstate in Delavan, WI, to see about some lunch options.
Interestingly enough, it turns out Delavan has some fun history. We noticed the statue of Romeo the elephant along the main brick street, and got out to see what the town's claim to fame was.
In 1847, the Mabie brothers, owners of the U.S. Olympic Circus, then the biggest traveling show in America, selected Delavan for their winter headquarters. This was a year before Wisconsin became a state and 24 years before the Ringling Brothers raised their first tents in Baraboo.
Delavan’s land and water was a great fit for the circus animals. The Mabie brothers' circus stayed on Delavan Lake, where their dynasty survived in Wisconsin for the next 100 years.
From 1847-1894, as the circuses grew in strength and numbers, hundreds of performers from over 26 circuses wintered in Delavan.
P.T. Barnum Circus was also founded in Delavan, in 1871.
Delavan's circus run came to an end in the mid 1980s when the E.G. Holland & Co. Railroad Circus shut down.
More than 250 members of these circuses are buried in cemeteries in Delavan.

Our next jaunt off the Interstate was Clinton, WI, because StfRon spotted an 1895 limestone water tower from the highway.
We decided to see if there were any geocaches in the area, and I found one that I wanted to check out.
The cache was placed near a historic bridge spanning 400 feet across the Turtle Creek Valley near the village of Tiffany.
The Tiffany bridge is a 5 arch stone bridge built with no steam or power in 1869, one of the most scenic railroad bridges in northern IL/ southern WI. It is still in active use on the Janesville branch of the Union Pacific Railroad.
On such a beautiful day, the site was quite peaceful. We saw several people canoing and had it been a tad warmer, I probably would have stretched out on the grass where I could hear the water bubbling along the creek and taken a nice rest. But we had to get home some time, so off we went.
I'm glad we found out about this site and were able to check it out.

Weissgerber's Gasthaus
2720 N Grandview Blvd
Waukesha, WI 53188

Delavan, WI 53115

Tiffany, WI 53511

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mickey's Diner

Mickey's Diner is a gem nestled in the shadows of towering downtown office buildings in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The diner was manufactured in New Jersey and made its way via rail to St. Paul where it has been in operation since the late 1930s.
Mickey's was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
I had to stop in, knowing it was so close to my destination.
Despite having a light breakfast at 7:30 a.m., I figured I could squeeze in an early lunch. I set out on foot, and arrived around 10 a.m.
I pulled open the original art deco styled door and stepped inside. I took my place at one of the dozen or so counter stools, facing a small glass tower of single serving desserts.
The diner retains its original character and charm, with stainless steel and decorative mahogany trim throughout.
I took note of the signs lining the wall near the ceiling which stated Mickey's is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
I was promptly greeted by the server who offered me a menu and some coffee. Since I'd already had a couple of stout cups, I went with some iced tea.
Perusing the menu, it didn't take me long to decide I would go for the Classic.
The staff of Mickey's seemed to enjoy their work and were friendly and cheerful, often singing along with the oldies music. Waiting for my food, I felt right at home.
My meal arrived around 10:15 and consisted of a cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun accompanied by three generous slices of dill pickles, a gut busting serving of thick shreds of hash browns good, greasy and browned to perfection and a cup of Mulligan stew. Everything was great. I finished almost all of the hearty stew, all of the burger and about half of the potatoes.
My waitress offered me some more tea when I got low, but I had plenty.
Sadly, I soon had to be on my way, so I went to the register to pay my bill. Mickey's does not accept checks, and you can't put your tip on a credit card.
Starting down the sidewalk, I passed a gent who had been sitting next to me and had stepped outside for a smoke. He bid me a nice day and I was on my way.
As I walked back to my destination, I reflected on the fact that the Minnesotans I encountered on my trip were very nice. I hadn't heard the term Minnesota nice until I was in the thick of it, and I certainly found it to be true on this visit.

Mickey's Diner
36 7th St. W
St. Paul, MN 55102

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Walking through downtown St. Paul, MN via the skyway during a chilly, overcast day, I popped out onto the street to see what I could see.
Spotting a bright, interesting vintage-looking awning, I noticed the Candyland name splashed across the front. Once I saw the Famous Since 1932 sign, I knew I needed to check the place out.
Originally known as Flavocorn, Candyland is filled with glass cases displaying a great selection of old fashioned candies, and the air is perfumed with the aroma of caramel and other sweet treats.
I made off with a bag of caramel covered marshmallows, of which I've sampled one so far. The combination of the salty caramel coating the sweet, soft marshmallow is a wonderful combination.
I also bought a bag of their Chicago mix; popcorn mixed with Cheddar and caramel popcorn, which I plan to save for a little bit later. If I can hold out.

435 Wabasha St. N
St. Paul, MN 55102

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Die Cast Auto Sales

Last Sunday afternoon found us on the way to Springfield, Illinois for some dinner.
Along the way we stopped off in Williamsville along Route 66 to see if the antiques store was open, since we had a bit of time to kill.
We found that the antique shop had just closed, so we took a jaunt through town and came across the Die Cast Auto Sales building.
Once a gas station on Route 66 in the 1930s, the building is now an interesting collection of Route 66 and Coca-Cola memorabilia and, of course, die cast car models.

Die Cast Auto Sales
117 N. Elm Street
Williamsville, IL 62693

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mother Road

We hit the open road today, off to pick up a purchase in Plainfield, Illinois, but had other adventures in mind as well.
Being pretty familiar with Route 66 from Dwight heading south, we decided to pick up the route in Dwight and head north for a change.
We kicked off our Route 66 leg of the trip by stopping at the Route 66 Java Stop, a newer addition in Dwight, IL, built using a couple of former shipping containers.
We've driven by several times on holidays, only to find the place closed. Today we were in luck.
Five minutes later, with coffees and some yummy oatmeal muffins in hand, we hit the highway.

Once in Plainfield, we saw a nice business district filled with historic buildings, so we stopped to poke around.
We went to Miller's Old Fashioned Butcher Shop and bought a large, homemade frozen chicken pot pie. Should make a nice dinner for Monday night.

We drove by the Polk-a-Dot Drive In in Braidwood, a 50s-style drive in, but will have to save that stop for another time, as we had plans in mind for dinner.

We pulled in to the Riviera Restaurant in Gardner shortly after they began serving dinner.
Built in 1928, this was a favorite haunt of Al Capone and was known as a gangster hangout. Gambling and alcohol were secretly offered here during prohibition.
We made our way to the basement restaurant and took a seat. This almost seemed like dining in Grandma's farmhouse basement, on plastic patio furniture with vinyl table cloths, complete with battleship gray painted concrete floors and low ceilings.
The patio furniture is a newer addition, due to the occasional invasion of water from the nearby river. It's easier to move around, and can withstand the elements.
We placed our order, chicken breasts with poppyseed gravy for me, and prime rib for my husband.
We watched the waitress clip the order sheet to a string on a pulley, and send it on its way to the kitchen.
Our salad course arrived via dumbwaiter, mine cole slaw, which seemed homemade with it's milky dressing sprinkled with dill, topping a nice array of chopped veggies and cabbages. These were accompanied by a basket of crackers and some Italian bread, served with a nice pimento spread.
We soon found out that the gentleman who came down the stairs and sat at a table next to us is one of the owners, Bob Kraft. He regaled us with some stories of visitors he's met from far and wide, including Brazil and Russia.
Our meals arrived. My chicken was piping hot, topped with a milk-style gravy peppered with poppyseeds.
My husband's prime rib was tender enough to be cut with a fork, served with a cup of au jus and a side of horseradish.
Both meals were served with some artfully arranged small fruit or vegetable plates.
While waiting for a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, another waitress gave us a tour of some of the hidden treasures and hideaways in the building, and the bartender told me I had to check out the ladies' room, so I headed in.
The, er, throne, is perched upon a trio of concrete steps, graced with an iron hand rail. Once you start up the stairs, you have to start hunching over as your head quickly approaches the basement ceiling. She explained that the toilets are set up like this due to flooding from time to time.
When I got back to the table, the pie had arrived, served warm and delicious.
All of this and a few drinks set us back a grand total of $36, including a 20% tip.
We bid our farewell to the friendly crew, and headed out to the backyard for some pictures of the streetcar diner that is located on the property.
The Illinois Route 66 Association rescued it from destruction and have been involved in the preservation.
Over a hundred years old, the streetcar was horse drawn at one time, originally operated by the Kankakee Transit System. In 1932 George Kaldem purchased it and moved it to Gardner, converting it to a basic roadside diner.
The diner closed in 1939, and over the years it saw many uses, from a summer cottage to a children’s playhouse, even a rental property for workers at the Joliet Arsenal in W.W. II.
In 1955 Gordon Gunderson, who had married the original owner of the Riviera's daughter, purchased the streetcar, and the streetcar was moved to its present location behind the Riviera.
The streetcar is open so guests can step in and appreciate the character of this gem, from the arched wooden ceiling to the original streetcar bell.

Before we hit I-55 to start heading home, we drove through Gardner once more and took a peek at the historic two celled jail, circa 1906.
I imagine a few patrons of the Riviera roadhouse spent some time cooling their heels in these quarters.

Route 66 Java Stop
502 W Mazon Ave
, IL 60420

Riviera Restaurant
5650 Highway 53 S,
Gardner, IL 60424

City Jail
302 N. Center
Gardner, IL 60424

September, 2009 — According to information posted on Roadside America's site, the Riviera Roadhouse was put up for sale earlier in 2009, sold and later received a shut down letter from the city. The restaurant is currently closed.

June, 2010 — More bad news for the Riviera Roadhouse, which has now suffered a fire: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-roadhousefire,0,1689188.story

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Destination: Maple Syrup Open House

We set off today in search of the Maple Syrup Open House at the Forest Glen Preserve in Westville, Illinois.
Last year we went to the maple syrup fest in Colchester, Illinois and had a fun time, but this year their fest conflicted with another event, so we decided to check this one out.

On our way there, we saw a sign on I-74 for the historic Mansfield General Store, and decided to detour and check it out.
Of course it turns out the general store is closed on Sundays, but we got out to peer in the windows of the neat building.
Nearing 100 years of operation, this store looks to be a little bit of everything to this town, with video rentals, groceries, cigarettes and some ice cream shop chairs and tables in the front window, with a sign boasting 24 flavors of soft serve.

Our next destination was the nature preserve, established in 1968. The roads leading in to where the pancake and sausage meal were held were winding and lined with trees, many of them sugar maples with bags or buckets of sap attacked to their trunks.
Coming into the parking lot, we were a little shocked at the crowd and amount of cars in the parking lot. This event was much larger than the Colchester fest.
We arrived at the building at about 2 p.m., and found a line of people still waiting to sample the pancakes and maple syrup, with serving ending at 4 p.m. Peering in the windows, StfRon could see that the line wound around a few more times before meeting up with the ticket table, so we went to look at the sugar bush, where the sap was being boiled off for maple syrup.
After that, we headed to a cabin on the property, where costumed volunteers were sitting in rockers tending to a fire and visiting with the guests. They offered us cookies and sassafras tea, and we sampled both, then stopped off in the maple syrup sales area. I was hoping for maple candy or maple fudge, but there was none to be found.

We decided to go look for some food in the Danville area.
We saw Schroeder's Drive-In, which was a possibility, but we decided to see what else was around.

As we crested a small hill, we spotted a retro looking donut shop sign, so we decided to check it out. When we saw how cool the Royal Donut building looked, too, we couldn't just drive on by.
Royal Donut has been serving up deliciousness since 1973.
Walking in, the first treat to tempt StfRon was something called an angel bite, a square donut filled with cream icing, iced in chocolate and topped with another dollop of the cream icing. He sampled it right away, was sold on them, and ordered two more to go.
I went with a Bavarian cream, and we also tossed in a glazed one for good measure.
There were also danishes and muffins available, and one case filled with some great looking pies.
Royal Donut also claims to be the first donut shop to use Nextra, the "heart healthy shortening." Hmm, maybe I should have some more donuts...they're healthy, right?

Back in search of more of a meal, we ended up at Schroeder's Drive-In, a former Burger Chef restaurant.
The restaurant, opened in 1960, is graced with a really cool retro sign. The inside looks like a fast food burger restaurant, where you order at the counter and sit at booths to enjoy your meal.
The dining room is decorated with a lot of war plane photos, propellers, other historical photos and there is also a section of Burger Chef memorabilia near the bathroom hall.
We each ordered a burger, and shared an order of onion rings. The food was hot and hit the spot for a quick meal.

On the way back home, I decided to sample one of the angel bites from Royal Donut. Oh, my! It was heavenly, and I'm not really a big donut fan. The entire pastry tasted fresh and different than any I've had before.
I also sampled my Bavarian cream donut and again found it to be extraordinarily good. It also seemed very fresh, and the powdered sugar had a nice sugary grittiness, not too powdery.
If we're ever within a half hour of the place again, I'm sure we'll be stocking up!

Mansfield General Store
107 Jefferson
Mansfield, IL 61854

Forest Glen Preserve
20301 E 900 North Rd
Westville, IL 61883

Royal Donut
911 N Vermilion St,
Danville, IL 61832

Schroeder's Drive-In
432 N Gilbert St
Danville, IL 61832

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Landmark 1850 Inn

We visited the Landmark 1850 the weekend of June 23, 2007.

On this visit, we went in search of the Landmark 1850 Inn, the oldest tavern in Milwaukee, constructed of beautiful cream city brick. The building used to be a stagecoach stop.
The place was neat; lots of history, from the converted gaslight sconces to the antique woodwork and tin ceiling to the neat old black and white photos throughout.
The Landmark also sports a decent patio area.
We also noticed some newer touches, but overall it was great to see this establishment, and they had almost 50 draft beers to choose from.
The food selection is light, pizzas and such, but the cozy atmosphere and large selection of beer, it's worth checking out.

Update - I have heard that as of December 2007, the Landmark was closed for remodeling. As soon as I know more, I will post about it.

Landmark 1850 Inn
5905 South Howell

Milwaukee, WI 53207

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hamburg Inn

We visited the Hamburg Inn the weekend of November 4, 2007

This weekend took us to Iowa City, and the Hamburg Inn No. 2, Iowa City's oldest family restaurant, recommended to us by our friend Minney.
The little place was packed when we got there, so we sat at the counter, facing boards listing menu items. The shakes & malts board caught my attention, with the choice of vanilla, chocolate, coffee, butterscotch, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, pineapple, orange, lemon and maple. We placed our order for a butterscotch malt.

The back wall of the Hamburg Inn, established in 1948, is covered with political advertisements and memorabilia.
From their web site: " The Hamburg Inn story began in the mid 1930's when Joe Panther started Hamburg Inn on Iowa Avenue." There were, at one time, three locations of the Hamburg Inn. Number 2, launched in 1948, is the last remaining location.
For lunch, I had to try the sweet potato pancakes, so I ordered just one, and a California burger, topped with cheese, avacado and pico de gallo.
StfRon went with a bacon cheeseburger, fries and chips. The chips were homemade, toasty brown, and pretty good. The burgers served are 1/2 pounders.
The sweet potato pancake was huge, enough to almost cover a dinner plate. The sweet potato and spice flavor is subtle; at first I thought it was just an ordinary pancake, but it's a nice change.
The butterscotch malt was awesome. I might have to make several more trips back to to get my fill!

Hamburg Inn
214 North Linn
Iowa City, IA 52245

Coletta's Restaurant

We visited Coletta's the week of December 24, 2007

Our last meal in Memphis, Tennessee this trip was at Coletta's Restaurant.
I saw Coletta's listed on the Food Network's web site, and it is also Memphis' oldest restaurant. They also claim to be the originators of Elvis' favorite pizza, the BBQ pizza. All of this was sufficient for me to want to check the place out.
Coletta's is now in it's fifth generation of family ownership.
There are now two locations, but we chose the original 1923 location.
The restaurant was probably quite nice in it's heyday, however the floors and ceiling could use some real updating now.
We both decided to try pizza, but not the Elvis special. I had an Italian spinach pizza and StfRon went with sausage.
The pizzas were very good, with a nice crisp, thin crust and salty, buttery browned cheese on top. The spinach pizza was covered with tons of spinach, so much so that I started pulling it off after a while.
We were there a little late in the evening, on a Sunday night, and the restaurant was rather quiet.
If you're looking for the oldest restaurant in Memphis, Coletta's original location is the place for you.

Coletta's Restaurant
1063 S. Parkway East
Memphis, TN 38106

Seville Quarter

We visited Seville Quarter the week of December 24, 2007

After dinner in Pensacola, Florida, we decided to try Seville Quarter, a complex of bars we had noticed on the web.
The building is an old brick structure, with wrought iron decorative balconies, reminiscent of New Orleans.
All of the bars/restaurants are attached inside, so you can wander from place to place to see what's going on.
We found deuling pianos in one location, 80s music and aviator's decor in another, a live rock band in one, and a nice outdoor courtyard with gas heaters in back. There was a small oyster bar location as well, which seemed to be our speed, but the place was full up.
There was a place to play billiards and video games, and all of the locations allowed smoking, which was something we had not seen anywhere on our trip.
Opened in 1967, Seville Quarter really is a sight to see, with gates from the governor's mansion in New Orleans, chandeliers from England, French doors also from New Orleans, brick flooring from a theater in Pensacola, old train station benches, bar stools from an 1870s café, ship's doors, the list goes on and on. It's really quite stunning, and seemed to be the place to be as the night wore on, more and more people piled in.

Seville Quarter
130 East Government Street
Pensacola, FL 32501

McGuire's Irish Pub

We visited McGuire's Irish Pub the week of December 24, 2007

We had a great time at McGuire's Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida. I had seen the restaurant on the web, and at least wanted to stop there for drinks to check the place out.
I love a little imbibery and debauchery just as much as the next gal.
McGuire's is dubbed one of America's Great Steakhouses, and opened in 1977. They moved to the current location, a 1927 fire house, in 1982.
This restaurant was room after room of tables packed with diners. One of the coolest rooms was the wine cellar, an intimate dining room with room at the back for 8,000 bottles of wine. The wine list features a huge selection of Chateau Mouton Rothschild Artist Series, pick your vintage year and they probably have it. We could have ordered a bottle of wine from the year of my birth for a mere $2,000.
One of the most stunning sights when you visit here is that the bar and lobby ceiling, plus parts of the restaurant, are covered with dollar bills bearing names and messages from patrons of Irish descent. There are well over half a million dollar bills hanging in this place.
The rest of the decor is a blast to check out, from corpses to celebrity photos to odd signs and the like.
For dinner, I ordered yellowfin tuna with a side of asparagus. StfRon decided to try the hickory smoked prime rib. Our meal was preceded by a delicious loaf of warm brown bread drizzled with honey, and some great garden salads. The tuna was excellent, as was the prime rib. We also split a bottle of wine, a $25 Pinot, instead of the $2,000 bottle. Our meal with tip was about $90.
Our enjoyment continued when an Irish chap took the corner stage and played some tunes, so we hung out for a bit longer.
Actually, the place was so nice, we visited twice.
On our second night's visit, we mixed things up a bit. This time I had the hickory smoked prime rib, again with asparagus and a great salad, and StfRon tried the ribs. These ribs were covered in thick meatiness. There was no way to finish this rack. My prime rib was excellent.
For dessert, we split some bread pudding, which was delicious.
On this visit, there was a bagpiper wandering from room to room. The music was excellent and not overwhelming, and added a great touch to the atmosphere.

McGuire's Irish Pub
600 E. Gregory St.
Pensacola, FL 32501-9971


Nildo Bernardi purchased a beer parlor, presently known as Mona's Italian Restaurant, in Toluca, Illinois in 1933.
Over the years, Mona's has evolved into a famous 250+ seat restaurant.
Three generations of Bernardi's are now in the restaurant business.
We heard that Mona's and Capponi's in Toluca were celebrating their 75 anniversary in February.
StfRon used to have lunch at Mona's every Sunday after church when he was a wee lad, so that's where we headed last Saturday night.
I especially love their old neon sign out front.
On this cold, blustery night, we entered through the bar, where StfRon was not allowed as a kid.
The decor in the lounge is quite nicely vintage, with a white marble look to the tables and bar top, vinyl booths and barstools with wooden backs. The rat pack tunes complete the feel.
The restaurant was bustling at 5:00, and there were several large group tables being set up. We're talking tables of 12 and 20.
We were seated in one of the back dining rooms, which has a neat stone fireplace along one wall. The walls are covered in nicely darkened paneling with a nice scalloped wood trim at the ceiling. You can't find trim like this at Lowe's.
In the dining room, we were a little disappointed to not hear the same tunes from the bar being piped over the sound system, but there was some lighter music playing.
Looking around, there were several older patrons dining with kids and friends, who have probably been coming to Mona's for decades.
Our waitress, Teresa, was funny, cheerful and efficient throughout our meal.
We each went with meals we've had at Bernardi's many times over the years. I had the chicken Parmesan, an unbreaded, marinated chicken breast next to some spaghetti, the whole thing topped with their signature meat sauce and cheese, accompanied by two hearty slices of garlic toast.
StfRon had the 1/4 famous fried chicken, in their tempura-style batter, all white meat, a side salad topped with thousand island dressing and a side of tortellini with meat sauce. StfRon claims the dressing at Mona's still tastes like he remembers it as a kid, but that Bernardi's dressing is good, but not exactly the same.
I had some of their new dipping oil with the bread that was brought out when we were seated, mixed with a little Parmesan cheese. It was very good and nicely seasoned. You can buy the oil to take home, for about $5 a bottle.
Everything was very good.
We finished our meal by sharing a dish of peppermint ice cream, another treat from StfRon's youth at Mona's. The ice cream did not have the peppermint crunchy candy in it that we remembered, so we asked our waitress, and she said the ice cream used to be Prairie Farms, but now is Blue Bunny.
The restaurant does not accept reservations for groups less than 12.
75 years is something for a restaurant in central Illinois to be proud of. If Mona's keeps the food, service and atmosphere going the way they are, they should be around for many more decades.

202 N Main St
Toluca, IL 61369-9431

Fondue Stube

This trip actually took place in late October, 2007.
We had the opportunity for a little travel to the suburbs, so we sampled some local fare in the Chicago area.
On the evening we arrived, we headed for the Fondue Stube, 2717 W. Peterson Avenue in Chicago. We had dined there almost 7 years ago when we first started dating, so this was a trip down memory lane, of sorts.
I remembered the decor being a little different, kind of 1980s living room with silk plants, sponge paint and the addition of red and green lights lining archways in the room, and my memory served me well. The theme is also classical, including the music, some of the artwork and the names of the menu selections, like Sinfonia Eroica.
The last time we were in, I think we went with the Sinfonia Eroica, a three-part meal including a cheese fondue served with bread cubes and apple chunks; beef fondue with vegetables and dipping sauces; and a fudge fondue for dessert, served with fruit and cake. The thing I remember from that visit was that we were not overly impressed with the fudge fondue, but we had a nice time.
Several years later finds us more the fondue aficionados (we have swiss fondue about once a month at home), so this time we went straight for the cheese: one order of cheddar fondue and one order of swiss, with the promise of a dessert fondue as well. Each pot of cheese fondue was $17, with dessert priced at $9 each. The cheese fondues are also available in half orders.
We were surprised when salads were served to us, as we didn't realize we would get them. The salads were well above most garden salads served to us at home, filled with dark leafy greens, a large carrot slice, a tomato wedge, a cucumber wedge and some red cabbage, accompanied by garlic bread and a dressing caddy at the table with Bleu cheese, creamy Italian and white French dressing.
Next came our pots of cheese fondue, set on their own flame in front of us, and each of us received our own basket of bread cubes and a nicely-arranged set of apple chunks. The fondue was a little mild for our cheesy palates, and also seemed a bit oily. Both had a nice garlic flavor. I was surprised to find that I preferred the cheddar to the swiss, so much so that I finished the whole pot, with a little help from my husband, StfRon.
After all of that, and after waiting a few minutes for our server to have a chance to come back, we decided to pass on trying the caramel dessert fondue.
Our server was pleasant and the other gentleman working was johnny on the spot with the water pitcher.
The Fondue Stube is a small, local restaurant, a bit off the beaten path. It's not the best fondue we've ever had, but we have enjoyed our visit each time we've been in.
Tuesdays and Thursdays they feature scallops, fish and chicken for your fondue enjoyment.
The also seem to believe in advertising and coupons, so be sure to check online if you decide to go. We've saved money with coupons and offers each time.

Fondue Stube
2717 W Peterson Ave
Chicago, IL 60659

Village Supper Club

Traveling on Route 32 in Wisconsin, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, you can hardly travel 10 miles without seeing an interesting looking supper club, family restaurant or cocktail lounge, usually proclaimed by some retro neon sign.
We stopped to check out the Village Supper Club, in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
It was odd at first for us to be in a place that allowed smoking, since our home state of Illinois recently went smoke free.
The dining room was small and cozy, done in dark wood, with a bar along one wall. The bar was topped with shelves housing bottle after bottle of an interesting collection of vodkas. There was Virgin Vodka, vodka bottles shaped like dolls, even a vodka bottle with a skull on it. Someone has quite an extensive collection. Along the restaurant wall, there is quite an array of beer cans as well.
After this most recent stint driving on 32 from Milwaukee to Chicago, we were discussing how much fun it might be to do a supper club/cocktail lounge crawl in the area, after booking a room at one of the motor lodges nearby.
We had a drink and had to be on our way, but would love to come back and check out dinner some time.

Village Supper Club
10909 Sheridan Rd
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158