Breakfast, Friday morning:
Start your Illinois foodie adventure in the heart of it all: Chicago. You’re going to need a hearty breakfast to keep you going for the rest of the trip, so stop at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant on Jackson Boulevard. A basket full of complimentary donut holes greets you as you walk in, but don’t get full yet! Uncle Lou’s Best Breakfast on the Planet awaits, and diners can choose from three options packed full of breakfast favorites like waffles, pancakes and omelets.
You can’t go to Chicago and not get a Chicago dog—that’s just un-American. While there are tons of dog places to choose from, we suggest Byron’s Hot Dogs on Lawrence Avenue. Once in front of Wrigley Field, this institution serves what’s arguably the best Chicago-style hot dog around.
Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Chicago—there’s so much to see! But before you can start thinking dinner, you’ve got to grab a snack. Head to Roots Handmade Pizza for a plate of made-from-scratch jumbo mozzarella sticks covered in garlic breadcrumbs. It may not be the fanciest food around, but it sure is the tastiest.
As your last meal in Chicago (on this trip at least!), you have to blow it out of the water. As of June, 2017, 26 Chicago restaurants have garnered themselves Michelin star ratings. The top two with three stars each are Alinea and Grace. Either one will be sure to wow you, but if you can swing it, Alinea has just introduced its most intimate experience yet: The Kitchen Table. Parties of six or more can expect to shell out $385 per person for its jaw-dropping fare.
After all that, you might be feeling like you want to take it easy. Head south for a few hours on Route 66 (or what’s now I-55) until you hit Bloomington. Although not your typical brunch fair, Anju Above serves up tapas-style dishes including Korean pork buns and delicious pizzas. Plus, everything is seasonal and locally-grown.
Belly up to D’Arcy’s Pint in Springfield, an Irish bar with a huge claim to fame: its Horseshoes. Basically, it’s a burger on a piece of Texas toast, covered in fries and slathered in a secret cheese sauce and other toppings.
From Springfield, drive an hour and a half east to the city of Champaign. You haven’t had Chicago deep dish pizza yet on this trip, and we know you’re craving it. Hopefully you have room after your horseshoe, because Papa Del’s Pizza is a must-try. This local pizza joint has been around for more than 40 years and serves both pan and thin crust pizzas.
Photo provided by Courier Cafe.
Head to nearby college town Urbana for a step back in time at the historic Courier Café. Its antique and old-school vibes pairs well with its classic (but delicious) breakfast fare. Diners love their sausage gravy and Rancheros Rarebit.
Southern Louisiana has come to southern Illinois. The Blue Boar Restaurant in Cobden is located a stone’s throw away from the Shawnee National Forest, one of Illinois’ biggest claims to fame. Fill up on some red beans and rice or a Cajun baked potato, or go another route and have some of their award-winning BBQ. This out-of-the-way place is the perfect stop before spending a day in Shawnee hiking or exploring its wine trail.
Photo provided by 17th Street Barbecue.
When you think of Illinois, you don’t really think of barbecue. That’s about to change. You’ve wound up in Murphysboro, a town you’ve never heard of, and you think we’re crazy for recommending a stop here. Walk into 17th Street Barbecue, an established joint that has been rated in the nation’s top 33 BBQ places. Try their famous ribs and get ready for a food coma.