Helpful ReplyNorth Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18)

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ScreamingChicken
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2018/04/07 09:30:24 (permalink)

North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18)

Two piece dark, mashed potatoes and gravy.
 
This isn't really an organized event per se, but rather an open invitation to anyone who wants to get together for a bite.  I'm headed back to St. Louis for work next weekend and since I've been itching to get out on the road I've decided to take 2 days to cover about 350 miles, and in the process visit a couple of places that have been on my list.
 
My first stop next Saturday will be Fritz's Wooden Nickel in Stillman Valley, IL.  I came across Fritz's while surfing Google Maps, and since it seems to have a reputation for chicken I figure it's a good place to start the day.  I haven't decided on a time...maybe somewhere in the noon-1:00 window.
 
Next will be the well-known Rip's Tavern in Ladd, right at its 3:30 opening time.  I'll have plenty of time to get there since Ladd isn't all that far from Stillman Valley, so I'll be able to enjoy a leisurely, southward drive on county and town roads.
 
The last planned meal will be at The Chanticleer in Eureka, probably sometime after 5.  Another restaurant with a chicken-based history, I came across it on a Sunday last November.
 
From there I'll be spending the night in Springfield and even though the Drury Inn has a pretty good free breakfast, Cook's Spice Rack and Chili opens at 7am on Sundays and I'm hoping chili will be available.  They have 6 different varieties and "Greasy Pot" is made with "100% ground beef, beans, tomato sauce, beef suet"...I'm practically drooling already!
 
Sunday's going to be more casual and off the cuff, although lunch at R and B's in Staunton is a likely possibility.  Hopefully I'll be hungry enough for both chicken and a BPT.
 
There's always room for more at the table...
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KingCrab
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/07 10:32:06 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby ScreamingChicken 2018/04/09 08:19:24
3 solid choices. Kudos. Been to them all. Rips reigns supreme but all are more than solid. Zucchini bread in the bread basket at Chanticleer is a treat. You seem to be in this area a bit. From north to south in that corridor for chicken. If you haven’t already been, Try Sip n Snack in Mendota, Smitty’s in Leonore for their broasted bird, Mona or Caponis in Toluca, & Fairview Farms in Peoria.
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 02:11:37 (permalink)
We're a definite "maybe" for this trip.  I just picked up a day of work for Sunday the 16th, but Saturday is, so far, still open.  This weird spring weather (snowing as I write this) and driving conditions will determine whether we make the journey.
 
Buddy
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 07:29:15 (permalink)
SC-
May I ask about your plans for the drive home?  We are flying into St. Louis on the 20th and we are strongly considering driving up to Springfield for at least part of the day on the 21st.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 08:18:37 (permalink)
BB, by the 20th I'll likely be back home in WI.  My typical St. Louis work week covers 3-1/2 days from Monday to midday Thursday and then I drive home so I can be in the office Friday morning, so unless something comes up and I have to spend a full week in STL it looks like our paths won't cross.  We haven't broken bread in awhile...
 
Buddy, right now it looks like Saturday is going to be a dreary day with wet and breezy conditions but the temperatures are supposed to be in the 50s, so hopefully that'll rule out snow.
 
KC, thanks for the additional suggestions.  I don't think I'll be able to fit them in on this trip but they are certainly possible for the future.  I find it interesting that Capponi's and Mona's are only a block apart (and Toluca's not all that big to begin with!) yet are owned by the same parent company.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 08:26:52 (permalink)
SC-
That's too bad we are going to miss you by just a few days.  Enjoy St. Louis.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 11:11:48 (permalink)
I'm in if the Roadhouses are in.  Mr. Maki has bowling that night, so he probably won't be available. 

Stroud's latest Facebook post popped up in my newsfeed this morning, so I've been thinking about fried chicken today.

If this outing doesn't happen, I still haven't been to the new location of Mother Clucker's in Palatine.  I'll let you know if it's any good, Mr. Chicken.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/09 14:45:44 (permalink)
Thanks, I'd appreciate it.
 
As an aside, for those who want to finish the day with something sweet the permanent location of Uncle Bob's Homemade Ice Cream is in Eureka, just minutes from The Chanticleer.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/13 21:02:20 (permalink)
In case someone might be considering a last-minute decision to attend, tomorrow's pollo pigout starts between 12:45 and 1:00 pm at Fritz's Wooden Nickel in Stillman Valley.  From there the trip to Ladd may include a short side trip to Country Village Meats in Sublette, so it might not be a bad idea to bring along a cooler.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/14 00:18:43 (permalink)
I'm pretty sure my dad told you, but I had something come up and I won't be able to make it tomorrow.  Can't wait to hear how the food was, though!
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/14 06:37:01 (permalink)
Good call on the meat market in Sublette. Some of the better pork around. Pork necks and snack sticks are purchased on most visits.

You will pass right through Mendota on this route you are taking. Home of Sip n Snack. If Rips is considered by many #1 in the area(state) for tavern style fried chicken, Sip n Snack is #1a. I don’t think they open til after 3 though.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/14 08:47:51 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby ChiBears15 2018/04/14 08:55:59
It's worse than that...on Saturdays Sip-N-Snack doesn't open 'til 5 and Sundays are only 30 minutes earlier.  Given my usual travel pattern it may be tough to eat there without making a special visit.
 
Abe, there's a good chance a chicken and maybe barbecue lunch in the Wedron/Ottawa/L-P area might happen on one of my travel Sundays later this year.  It would be more convenient for people coming from the Chicago area and those who have to work Saturdays.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/17 20:42:02 (permalink)
It was an interesting Saturday.  I wound up being 45 minutes late due to a semi being blown off I-90 (it was windy, rainy, and just generally all-around crappy weather-wise) and when I finally got to Fritz's, Buddy informed me that fried chicken was available only at dinner.  At least we split a pretty good BPT to make up for it.
 
From there we took the back roads to Sublette, only to find that Country Village Meats was closed.  This was on me; somehow I missed that they close at noon on Saturdays.  But at least Buddy can now say he bought gas in Sublette.
 
From there it was more back road driving to Ladd, where we arrived just as Rip's was opening at 3:30.  Which was a good thing, because around 4:00 the customers really started coming in.  At Rip's it takes awhile for the chicken to arrive but it's worth the wait...more later.
 
The final stop was The Chanticleer in Eureka.  We arrived right around 6 and had to wait for about 20 minutes or so for a table, but the bar had refreshing beverages and time passed quickly.  We later ate chicken.
 
I'll let Buddy fill in the details as he sees fit.
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/18 19:17:54 (permalink)
Every early indication pointed toward a disastrous day for our intrepid trio.  The weather was miserable; a dreary cold rain that was more appropriate to February than mid April, our GPS was completely malfunctioning on a day when we were entering unfamiliar territory, and ChickenMan was running late due to a weather related interstate accident, previously related.  The worst news though, came when Mrs. Roadhouse and I arrived at Fritz's Wooden Nickel around 1pm, only to learn they didn't start serving Fried Chicken Dinners until 5pm. Now it was up to me to call the still in transit El PolloGritando and break the news to him.  I just didn't have the heart...
 
So I didn't.
 
Instead, we waited until he got there and let him down gently as he shook off the cold.  He reacted surprisingly calmly, and with a quick glance at the menu offered to split the above mentioned Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich.  It was a good enough slab of pig; appealing thickness, not a giant flavorless paper thin sheet of breading and not much else.  We chose it mainly to tide us over until we got to our next destination.  We finished up, thanked Fritz's folks and promised to come back another time, after 5pm, to sample their well reviewed Fried Chicken.
 
A long circuitous route (it was meant to be "scenic", but the vile weather, combined with Illinois' flat landscape put the kibosh on that), that included a Travelin' Man moment at a rural butcher shop, brought us to Rip's Tavern in Ladd, IL.  Rip's is in the heart of North Central Illinois' Fried Chicken Corridor, and may be the best known and most celebrated outlet of this regional specialty. We were smart to get there when we did.  We sat down almost immediately in a nearly empty dining room.  By the time we left 90 minutes later, the room was full and there was a line stretching almost out the door, with an hour or more wait for a table.
 
Rip's has a unique service system that starts before you're even seated.  A waitperson asks you to place your order when you get to the front of the line.  Menus are unnecessary.  You've got two choices: two piece light meat dinner, or two piece dark meat dinner.  Both options come with Fries and a slice of bread resting underneath the chicken, soaking up the grease (maybe the best thing on the plate).  While you wait, you're automatically served a cup of very salty pickles and a tray of even saltier "Crispies"; little bits of fried chicken batter, collected from the cooling racks, reheated and served piping hot (once they cool down, the grease coats your tongue in a rather unappetizing way).  The point of these two "freebies", of course, is to encourage you to order extra drinks from the bar while waiting for your Chicken Dinner to arrive.
 
We also opted for an order of Fried Mushrooms while we waited.  Like the Crispies, they were served hotter than the human mouth can tolerate.  Once they'd cooled down a bit, we decided these hand battered fresh mushrooms were worth the sacrificed belly space.  They were loaded with "meaty" mushroom flavor and had a firm texture.  These were the real thing, not some mushy frozen mushrooms.  Finally our Chicken Dinners arrived and we tucked in.  The chicken was very good, but the breading was overly salty and one dimensional due to a lack of any other seasoning.
 
This was our second visit to Rip's in about two years and we liked it better than our first experience.  But frankly, I'd like to check out a few of their competitors in the area to see what they have to offer.  The Stern's have joined many others in praising the Fried Chicken Dinners at Wedron Office in Ottawa, IL.  I think we'll need to give them a try before we make a return trip to Rip's.
 
A quick side note with some sad news, Roadfood reviewed Torri's Ice Cream Parlor, also in Ladd and jut down the street from Rip's, is no more.  It appears there is a casual Italian restaurant in that space.
 
From there we continued south to The Chanticleer in Eureka, about 15 miles east of Peoria.  Our mixed bag of luck was about to get a whole lot better.  We relaxed for about 20 minutes in the vintage bar while we waited for a table to open up.  We watched other diners eating at the bar, giving us a promising preview of what was ahead.  Unlike Rip's, Chanticleer's Chicken is fully loaded with herbs and spices.  The breading may not have been quite as crisp as Rip's version, but the flavor was a cut or more above.
 
We really enjoyed our sides.  The rich Au Gratin Potatoes may have been the best thing we ate all day, and the Southern Style Green Beans were comparable to Stroud's.  In fact, I'm going to risk angering the Fried Chicken Gods and say Chanticleer ranks right up there with Stroud's.  Before anyone gets overly agitated and demands, "Are you saying they're as good or better than Stroud's?!?" No, I'm saying they're in the same league with Stroud's.  That's in much the same way the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots are in the same league.  Both are professional football teams, both have played in the Superbowl multiple times, but only one team has five rings to show for it.  Still, they're both playing on a different level from your local high school or college team.
 
After parting ways; ChickenLickin' heading further south to Springfield, us back north to Chicago, we grabbed a few pints at Uncle Bob's Homemade Ice Cream.  It is in fact among the best Ice Cream I've ever tasted.  The Milk Chocolate with Marshmallow Ribbon was full of deep, satisfying chocolate flavor, the Praline Pecan was loaded with its sweet crunchy namesake confections, and the Georgia Peach was comparable to the highly regarded peach ice cream at Cunis' Candies in Chicago's south suburbs.  The peach flavor was bright and intense; a nice counterpoint to the rich texture.
 
It was a long day and a long ride, but I'm ready to do it again if the overall rewards are anything like what we enjoyed last weekend.  Thanks to ScreamingChicken for organizing.  Maybe when he posts his pictures, we can combine words and images to make a more complete report.
 
Buddy
post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2018/04/19 16:57:46
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/19 14:57:59 (permalink)
BuddyRoadhouse
the Southern Style Green Beans were comparable to Stroud's.  In fact, I'm going to risk angering the Fried Chicken Gods and say Chanticleer ranks right up there with Stroud's.  Before anyone gets overly agitated and demands, "Are you saying they're as good or better than Stroud's?!?" No, I'm saying they're in the same league with Stroud's.  That's in much the same way the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots are in the same league.  Both are professional football teams, both have played in the Superbowl multiple times, but only one team has five rings to show for it.  Still, they're both playing on a different level from your local high school or college team.

 
So to ensure we all understand the metaphoric clarification: Stroud's green beans equate to the 5-11 Bears, while Chanticleer's green beans equate to the 13-3 Patriots.  Gotcha. :-)
post edited by TJ Jackson - 2018/04/19 14:59:10
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/19 16:40:41 (permalink)
Sez the guy from the home of the 7-9 Bengals.  Okay, moving on since this is not a discussion about football...
 
I would say Chanticleer's green beans were about on par with Stroud's, both in terms of flavor and texture.  The only thing missing was the pudding thick gravy.  The potato category is a little trickier.  Both Stroud's Mashed Potatoes and Chanticleer's Potatoes au Gratin are outstanding, so it's just a matter of taste: "To cheese, or not to cheese, that is the question."
 
I'll give Stroud's the edge in the Main Event (Fried Chicken), but just an edge.  If Stroud's was still in their original location; the falling apart shack at 85th & Troost, I'd declare them the clear winner based on character alone.  But now that they're in a more generic building, it's a closer race.
 
Bottom line, you won't go wrong at either Stroud's or The Chanticleer.  It's just a matter of which one you're closer to next time you get a hankering for Fried Chicken.
 
Buddy
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/20 17:03:24 (permalink)
Damn Buddy, your review of Rip's is the first that wasn't raving about the chicken.  But I appreciate the attention to detail in your review.  One thing with fried chicken places that cook it to order is that fried chicken is too hot to eat when it's out of the fryer and takes a while to cool down.  Was that the case for you at Rip's?  I still have it on my must try list, but your tentative review makes me think about the overrated Chicken Annie's and Chicken Mary's of Pittsburg, KS that I had.  I am sure Rip's is much better, but...
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/20 17:50:05 (permalink)
Rip's is fine.  Chanticleer is better.  It's also 50 miles further south, if that's an issue for you.
 
Yes, Rip's chicken was served too hot to eat, but as you point out, that's almost to be expected.  There's nothing wrong with the food at Rip's; it may just be a tiny bit over-hyped. I'd really like to get out there and try some of their competitors in the area to see how they compare.
 
Based solely on your description of the disappointing experiences at Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's, I'd say Rip's is still better than either.  I have yet to make the pilgrimage to Pittsburg, KS, so can't offer a first hand assessment.
 
My advice is to head out early and make a day of hiking through Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks, then head over to Rip's in Ladd for sustenance.  Even if it doesn't live up to expectations, at least you had a fulfilling day communing with nature.
 
Buddy
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/04/29 13:26:45 (permalink)
Well after waiting many years to try it, I finally made it to Rip's Tavern yesterday.  I ended up going solo as my friend bailed at the last minute to take care of a family emergency (not that I have a problem going alone).  Since my girlfriend enjoys gambling at Harrah's in Joliet more than chicken, I dropped her off and drove on to to Rip's.  I got there a little later than I had planned (around 4:40) and there was already a line to the door.  I waited another 20 minutes in line so it wasn't too bad.  I decided to get a half white; since I drove 2 hours to eat here, hell yeah I'm getting more chicken.  I also don't care much for wings, so I wanted as least two breasts.  When I saw the plates coming out around me, I was shocked at the size of the chicken breasts - they're huge.  I got a little boat of crunchies (which were not too hot) and pickles (they charged me 75 cents for the pickles) while I waited, but I didn't want too much of that to ruin my appetite.  Finally the meal arrived.
 
The chicken was worth the drive to me; some of the best I've ever had.  Unlike Buddy's meal - it wasn't served too hot (it was probably just right) which I was nervous about.  The batter was crispy and salty (as Buddy said), without much of anything else in terms of seasoning and the chicken was moist and juicy.  But I was fine with the flavor of the batter and didn't want to mess with it.  The fries were excellent too and even the bread was (as Buddy said) really tasty on the bottom.  Near the end I even used some of the leftover crunchies to dip my chicken into.  Anyway it cost a very low $11.00 including tax for the half white chicken dinner + 75 cents for the pickles.  I was totally thrilled with my food and I will return for sure.  I'm looking forward to trying the other well know joints in the area this year when her need to gamble hits at the same time my itch for fried chicken hits.  We've gotten a lot of free rooms around the country and Canada (Caesars, Harrah's, etc) as a result of her limited game play too so it's a win-win for us and technically ties into my roadfood adventures as a result.  Free rooms = more roadtrips which = more roadfood fun. 
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: North Central Illinois Chicken Crawl (4-14-18) 2018/05/07 18:25:48 (permalink)
Fritz's Wooden Nickel:
 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Rip's Tavern:
 

 
Our table in the back corner gave us a nice view into the kitchen.  Later on we would see servers loaded up with 6 (or more!) plates of chicken to be carried into the dining room, and it was pretty darn impressive.

 
I was a busboy years ago and at the end of the night I used to like a few handfuls of crispies from the sheet pan under the fryer, so I was happy to see these.

 
Some really good fried mushrooms.

 
IMO, due to the saltiness of the crust Rip's chicken is better suited for biting a mouthful of crust and meat because the salt level gets a little more balanced.  Peel-and-eaters might not care for it as much.

 
 
Chanticleer:
 
This photo is actually from last November, but the weather was pretty much the same this day.

 
I can't disagree with Buddy's assessment of Chanticleer as it was a great dinner, but I would've liked to see mashed potatoes and gravy as an available side.  I'm not sure why he compared it to Stroud's, though, as that's a chain.

 

 

 

 
As Buddy mentioned, when we parted ways the Roadhouses went back to the Chi-burbs and I continued on to Springfield for an overnight stay.  The next morning I breakfasted at Cook's Spice Rack and Chili, which is one of the few (maybe the only?) Springfield chili houses open on Sunday.  Maybe it's because they spell chili with one L instead of two.

 
It's a cozy, funky kind of place.

 
This is "Greasy Pot", which is made with ground beef, tomato sauce, beans (I chose pinto and black) and beef suet.  It has no heat but does have good flavor.

 
It also makes a great dipping sauce for a tamale.

 
Buddy had warned me that I was eating Springfield chili at grave peril but I survived the experience just fine, and wouldn't mind stopping at Cook's again to try some of their other varieties.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2018/05/07 23:32:11
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