Kankakee County is home to some delicious Southern cooking, even though Kankakee is in the northern half of the United States. Three popular Southern-style restaurants in the county are Savannah’s Southern Bistro, Jimmy Jo’s BBQ, and Bulls Pit BBQ & 5 Star Wings.
Savannah’s Southern Bistro
Here’s a salute to Savannah’s, which is owned by two National Guard officers. Frank Hayden and Mark Ray not only operate the restaurant but are soldiers who served in Iraq and are currently in the Illinois National Guard.
“I’m a culinary chef who noticed not long ago that Kankakee is limited in its selections of true Southern food, so we started Savannah’s,” Ray says. “We are the only restaurant in this part of Illinois that serves broaster chicken, which is cooked in a giant pressure cooker. The result is chicken seared on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside.”
Other Southern menu items at Savannah’s include Kentucky hot brown wraps, chocolate bourbon pecan pie and bread pudding. Ray and Hayden have also started serving authentic Creole dishes such as gumbo, etouffee and red beans and rice.
“We keep our prices down – everything here is $6.99 and under,” Ray says. “And because of our background, members of the military receive a special discount at the restaurant, as do police, firefighters and other uniformed public servants.”
Jimmy Jo’s BBQ
Their specialty is just like their name says – barbecue. Menu choices at Jimmy Jo’s include beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken, turkey breast and smoked hot link sausages. Also available on the large menu are full and half slabs of ribs.
And going with the Southern theme, side items include baked beans, corn on the cob, chili and a Texas-sized baked potato. For a beverage, many customers order the sweet tea.
Even the kids menu at Jimmy Jo’s is Southern-based, with choices of barbecue ribs, two chicken legs or a Texas slider sandwich.
Bulls Pit BBQ & 5 Star Wings
This popular eatery is known for its slow-cooked pork sandwiches with a side of thin vinegar barbecue sauce, along with side orders of baked beans and macaroni and cheese. Also on the menu are Memphis-style barbecue, Chicago-style hot dogs and beef, and chicken wings with more than a dozen varieties of dipping sauces.
“Southern cooking is becoming quite a big hit in Kankakee,” Ray says. “It’s good food and can be prepared in a healthy way. And it’s always filling.”