Anywhere you travel in Illinois, you will find delicious food and drink, from award-winning Chicago restaurants to the historic food options of Springfield.
Duration: 4 Days
Suitable for: Adults
Day 1: Illinois Breweries, Distilleries, Farms and Wine Tasting
Begin your journey in Elizabeth with a visit to Dittmar Farms and Orchard (open Saturday and Sunday). Operating since 1854, this family-owned farm specializes in apples, sweet corn, pumpkins and doughnuts. The farm offers seasonal activities such as scenic hayrides, u-pick apples, a corn maze and u-pick pumpkins. In 2018, Dittmar Farms expanded by opening a retail shop in Elizabeth, where you can purchase fresh-baked farm products year-round. Another Elizabeth treasure is Eshelman Pottery, where Paul and Laurel Eshelman create contemporary, red stoneware utilizing glazed and unglazed surfaces for a visual and tactile contrast. These functional masterpieces range from cups to plates to serving dishes.
The charming town of Galena resides 20 minutes from Elizabeth. Your group can satiate its hunger with a visit to a multitude of restaurants, including Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub and Grill. This restaurant features an expanded menu and extensive beverage selections. After eating, your group can venture to River Bend Gallery, where professional artist Geoffrey Mikol creates stunning photographs that shed new light on the natural surroundings of Galena. Pinder Pottery (open Saturday and Sunday) specializes in handmade art crafted in Galena. Joe Pinder creates intricate and functional stoneware pottery for everyday use that are beautiful and make perfect gifts. Next, your group can head to Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., where you can savor a delightful beverage.
The Blaum brothers set up shop in Galena in 2013 and hand-craft small batches of rye, whiskey and vodka by meticulously controlling the process, from sourcing grains from local farmers, to milling, mashing and distilling in their custom-made copper still. Blaum Bros. has become a popular tourist attraction, thanks in part to its spirits tours that take visitors through the distillation area to the barrel room and concludes in a tranquil tasting room.
Galena Cellars offers its visitors the chance to relax among acres of rolling farmland while sampling more than 40 wine varieties in three tasting rooms. Groups can take a narrated walking vineyard tour and learn how Galena Cellars wine is made, savor a wine tasting at both the downtown location and at the vineyard, or spend time on its wraparound deck with a glass of wine in hand. For dinner, Galena is home to a variety of top-flight restaurants, including Fried Green Tomatoes, a modern Italian-American restaurant in a brick-and-stone setting, and Log Cabin Steakhouse, which has been operating continuously since 1937 and is Galena’s oldest eating establishment.
Another fine option is to take a short drive east to Stephenson County, which is home to three breweries in a less than eight-mile radius: Lena Brewing (a dog-friendly brewery nestled among the rolling farm fields near the village of Lena), Wishful Acres (a small family farm and artisanal craft brewery in Lena) and Generations Brewing (an industrial-chic tap room in Freeport that offers artisan ales and lagers in all shapes and sizes).
Day 2: Hearty Breakfast, Quad City-Style Pizza and More Beer
Travel 90 miles to the Quad Cities, where you can enjoy a hearty breakfast at QC Coffee & Pancake House, located in historic Rock Island. This popular eatery serves breakfast and lunch items, including omelets, sandwiches, burgers and cinnamon roll pancakes. Also in Rock Island, stop in at Wild Cherry Spoon Co. They use ethically harvested urban lumber to create handcrafted wooden spoons, spatulas, pizza cutters, cutting boards and more.
The Quad Cities is home to a unique style of pizza, featuring a crispy hand-tossed malt crust, scissor-cut strips, a healthy amount of mozzarella, generous portions of crumbly sausage meat and a spicy tomato sauce.
Locals frequent their favorite Quad City-style pizza places including Harris Pizza (which opened in Rock Island in 1960) and Frank’s Pizza (which opened in 1955 in Silvis). Both claim to have invented the Quad Cities-style pizza. Another fun pizza can be found at Happy Joe’s, with a number of are scattered throughout the Quad Cities). Its founder, Joe Whitty, invented the taco pizza more than 40 years ago. For generations, the Quad Cities has been home to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that creates homemade ice cream, possesses a massive selection of candy and features rows of handcrafted mahogany booths for families to relax. Now in its fourth generation, Lagomarcino’s (which opened in 1908) has been making chocolates, candy and ice cream for more than a century. The venerable shop is one of the only soda fountain confectioneries left in the country.
The new QC Ale Trail introduces visitors to the 13 breweries (and counting) in the Quad Cities and invites beer lovers on a self-guided tour of the local craft breweries across the region. Groups can enjoy food and beverages at these breweries, and craft beer enthusiasts can use their mobile phone to check in at the breweries to earn commemorative QC Ale Trail items. Or, you can download the paper passport from the website (www.qcaletrail.com) and get it stamped at each local brewery you visit.
Day 3: Unique Coffee, Whiskies and a Blooming Illinois Farm
Two hours east of Moline is Aurora, where you can start your day with a trip to Endiro Coffee, a tree-to-cup coffee company born in Uganda with a global vision to end child vulnerability. Endiro imports raw coffee from Uganda, where it is roasted and brewed in the Aurora coffee shop. The profits of Endiro help to end child vulnerability in the communities where they operate, from farms in Uganda to its partnerships with local child-focused charities in Aurora.
One of the newest entrants into Aurora’s culinary scene is also one of its most celebrated as Hardware Sustainable Gastropub and Brewery serves delicious food and more than 450 whiskeys from around the world. Hardware offers custom blends, rare finds and distillers’ private selections and also features numerous local beer options and a full list of organic bio-dynamic and sustainable wines. Generous patio seating is accompanied by a roaring fire pit and gathering space and strings of fresh hops from the adjacent BBGB Hop Farm, where essentials for Hardware’s illustrious craft brews are grown on-site.
A brisk two-hour drive will take you from Aurora to Bloomington, where you can visit Epiphany Farms, which has three restaurants in downtown Bloomington and one in Leroy. Epiphany Farms Restaurant serves family-style dinners and brunch, and all of the Epiphany Farms restaurants serve food from their over 70-acre working farmland with livestock and greenhouses.
Day 4: A Springfield Signature Dish, Hot Dogs and More Things to Eat in Illinois
Barns are a staple of the Midwestern Epiphany Farms in Bloomington landscape. The artisans of Sangamon Reclaimed in Springfield are determined to keep the story of every barn alive. A collective of local veterans and firefighters carefully dismantles these barns and turns the wood into new works of furniture and art.
The state capital of Illinois, Springfield is the epicenter of government activity. It is also the town that serves a dish rarely found anywhere else: The horseshoe. An open-faced sandwich featuring thick-sliced toasted bread, a hamburger patty, french fries and coated in a rich cheese sauce, the horseshoe is a delicacy Springfield residents relish. While Springfield has a multitude of establishments that serve the horseshoe, one of its tastiest can be found at Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery.
Obed and Isaac’s offers a wide range of meat options with its horseshoe, including ground sirloin, pulled pork and lamb, and complements that dish with an eclectic menu and locally crafted beer. Those seeking an old-fashioned hot dog in Springfield will find a delicious option at the Cozy Dog Drive-In, which has been serving corn dogs on a stick since 1946. In fact, Cozy Dog is credited with inventing the delicious deep-fried dog in its current incarnation. The restaurant’s location on Route 66 and its massive amount of memorabilia makes it a popular destination for hungry road-trippers. Those seeking a one-of-a-kind dining experience can visit Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill and Museum, which features delicious pub food and drinks, a gaming room and a museum designed for car racing enthusiasts.
Another option is to drive 45 miles south, where you can visit Ariston Café in Litchfield, the oldest continually operating restaurant on Route 66. The Ariston Café opened its doors in 1924 and offers a range of food including American, Southern, Italian and Greek fare along with a fully-stocked bar.
Another quality option is the Chef’s Shoppe, a one-of-a-kind gourmet kitchen store in Edwardsville that for more than 20 years has been bringing fun, flavor and quality into kitchens. The Chef’s Shoppe offers more than 70 flavors of popcorn every day as well as 160 bulk candy dispensers, saltwater taffy, hand-painted chocolates and 53 different types of glass bottle soda. In Collinsville, Old Herald Brewery and Distillery is a family-friendly restaurant experience featuring craft beers and spirits produced on-site. It also offers one of the best destination craft distillery tours in the country along with unique private event spaces celebrating the history of the city’s nearly forgotten brewing and distillery plant.
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