Category Archives: Illinois

Ithaca in Joliet

Greetings from the Comfort Inn in Joliet where the highlight was this car’s bumper stickers (purity ice cream and Ithaca is Gorges)! beyond that, what a news day with Comey testifying in DC and the Tories falling apart in England….

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Where to eat in Oak Park, Illinois (after getting my sister’s okay)

This from a NYTimes article on Oak Park, Illinois (several years after my 36 Hours NYTimes article on Oak Park). Of course I will first run these dining options past my sister, a long time Oak Park resident.

 

Lake Street is the main commercial corridor in downtown Oak Park, brimming with restaurants and shops.

 

With gluten-free options and a homey feel, Delia’s Kitchen (1034 Lake Street, 708-358-1300; deliaskitchen.net) can send you to breakfast nirvana. Try the Mediterranean omelet ($9.50), with feta, baby spinach and green onions.

The Lake Street Kitchen and Bar (1101 Lake Street, 708-383-5253; lakestreetkitchenbar.com) is a solid destination for farm-to-table fare. For brunch, try the carrot cake French toast, served with candied pecans and a cream-cheese glaze ($11); and the smoked sockeye salmon and rye crepe ($11). Pair meals with drinks like the Boulevard Blue, with raspberry vodka, blueberries and lemonade ($10); and Smoak Park, with mezcal, ginger liqueur, orange juice and lime ($13).

Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie (119 North Marion Street; 708-948-7720; sugarfixe.com/opmenu) has a variety of French pastries. The gluten-free lemon macarons ($2), cupcakes ($3 to $3.75) and turkey and Gouda croissant ($4.25) are winners.

Close to the Oak Park Green Line train station, Maya Del Sol (144 South Oak Park Avenue; 708-358-9800), a Latin fusion restaurant, is popular with locals. Start with the taquitos de camaron, with shrimp, roasted tomato sauce and onions ($10). Then try the carne asada, with skirt steak, Brie and chimichurri ($26).

 

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Wedding at Allerton: Monticello, Illinois

EmmaDirckWeddingSpectacular weather for a wedding on November 1, no less. Almost hot, near 70 degrees and lovely autumn light as Dirck walked Emma out of the mansion at the rural retreat Allerton, past a pond and to the man she would soon marry.emmaAndLucywedding

Allerton proved a lovely setting for a wedding, outside and in. The wedding was in a garden overlooking a small pond and a wooded hillside beyond as the sun started to drop. Inside, the festivities spread out across several elegant rooms including a two story library packed with old books, a main hall where Emma had spared no detail in decorating the tables with vintage travel items, orange and teal colors, and a handwritten letter in an old airmail envelope to each and every guest. She also had vintage postcards on a front desk for people to fill out if they wanted and toss into an old suitcase. We even watched the KC Royals win the World Series in the bar room! It was really nice to stay in the surprisingly spacious Gate House at Allerton after leaving the wedding at 1 am. And in the morning, we stumbled into another area of the manse for a goodbye breakfast.emmaWedding

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Big Grove tavern/blind Pig Pub/kopi in champaign

The bride as a young actress.

The bride as a young actress.

Two days later: Let the wedding festivities begin! We drove in misty rain to champaign, Illinois from Des Moines, stopping in Iowa city to pick up our niece. And in Galesburg at Baked for some okay pizza and watery tomato soup.

The weather cleared briefly when we arrived (and is spectacular today for my stepdaughters wedding). My brother and I snuck away to catch up over coffee and chai at cafe kopi (which was cute place although the server erred in asking us to bus our cups when we left. Really? After we each bought $4 drinks?) tacky. (Although we didn’t mind bussing.)
The rehearsal dinner at the big grove tavern was good. Good steak, pork loin, veggies, faro (must add faro to my repertoire). Our room at the new Hyatt place here is really sleek and light and clean (and quiet!) Very pleasant.

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Juliet’s in Joliet

The downside (or among the downsides) of having a famous prison in your town is that this is what the town becomes synonymous with. When we heard our nephew and his star baseball team would be playing in the Illinois state high school championship in Joliet, the first thing that came to mind was “prison.” (The second thing was “Blues Brothers” — the movie that features The prison.)
turns out Joliet has a few other things including a casino (which we didn’t visit) and the silver cross ballpark, a pleasant minor league size stadium with real seats and cup holders, and Juliet’s, a warm and cozy bar that serves decent food in an old building with red brick walls, burnished wood and high stamped tin ceilings. The town (once you get in the old part, east of the nondescript sprawl near I 55) has some charming old buildings and looks like the typical struggling town that has hidden gems here and there, if you are willing to explore. Which we were.
For the record: the comfort inn in east moline was much better than the comfort inn in moline. Room didn’t smell. Mattress and pillows comfortable. Odd decor (wall art here and there, each time featuring two of the same image, hanging side by side or one atop the other. Huh?)

At Juliet's

At Juliet’s

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American Harvest eatery/Lincoln home (natch)/FLWright house (surprise!)–Springfield

Honest Abe’s house was worth a visit in Illinois’s state capital but a nearby house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright knocked our socks off. The hour long tour took us all though the rambling Dana-Thomas  house with barrel vaulted ceilings, original FLWright furnishings and even a duck pin bowling alley in the basement. The house was a sight to see! Also had a good brunch at the american harvest Eatery. Now barreling home on Interstate 80 after a brief stop at the always good Oasis cafe for some middle eastern food in Iowa City. Best part about Springfield was seeing emma and rocket (and noah and Rachel!)

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Aroma curry house/allerton/blind pig/golden harbor in champaign, Illinois

Beautiful spring day in the college town of champaign where emma and rocket were our enthusiastic guides. We met downtown…….

Thumbs up for roger ebert's home town  (champaign)

Thumbs up for roger ebert’s home town (champaign)

Blind pig brewery

Blind pig brewery

At the aroma cafe, not to be confused with aroma curry house, in a strip mall outside campus. Where we had excellent South Indian food. Good lunch specials. $7.99 for

Emma at allerton

Emma at allerton

a huge selection of food served not buffet style but instead in individual round trays, each with about eight little round bowls filled with goodies. We also liked the deep frid red spicy cauliflower and onion dosa.

allerton is a huge estate about 25 miles outside champaign near rural Monticello. Built by a civil war profiteer, it’s now owned by u of Illinois. There’s a mansion, other brick buildings here and there, sunken gardens, statues, hiking paths through the woods. We are looking forward to a family wedding there in November.

imageBack in champaign, we enjoyed the blind pig brewery which has a spacious beer garden and warm and woody pub interior.. For dinner we had classic Chinese at the bustling Golden Harbour, where many Chinese nationals attending u of Illinois seemed to hang out. Huge menu, fresh ingredients, big round tables with giant lazy Susans, perfect for sharing lots of dishes. The green beans, tofu and Black mushrooms were a highlight.image

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