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.
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.
post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2018/04/19 16:57:46