Yesterday at the State Fair, I heard judges for the KC Masterpiece competition rhapsodizing about fried chicken. One very effusive lady claimed her undying love for fried chicken by, “Tasting every fried chicken between Chicago and St. Louis!” That is quite a mouthful and someone I needed to know, so I slipped over and introduced myself. Another judge was chef and owner of another fried chicken institution named Trucker’s Homestead at the 82 mile marker exit south of Springfield. This lady did all the introductions advising they not only make the best broasted chicken, they make their pies from scratch, salads and rolls. Later I met someone who also loved this place, indicating the owner sometimes walked through the dining room stating, “Clear the way, apple pie coming through!” How could you not want to visit such a place of such fine character and reputation.
I thought my opportunity to visit Trucker’s Homestead would be far into the future until I called my sister in Bloomington. She had a patient emergency and wouldn’t be available soon, please have dinner without her. I was not too disappointed because her emergency became my opportunity to visit Trucker’s Homestead. Instead of heading north toward home, we steered the faithful chariot south on I-55 to exit 82. The truck stop on the west side featured TCBY, Subway and other well known fast food, but no restaurant. Then tucked way back in the distance beyond and behind the truck stop was a sign announcing ‘FOOD.’ Did a quick drive around to find a neatly arranged yard of the Trucker’s Homestead. It was too easy to miss and a joy to discover, thank goodness I had faith in those people’s instructions.
If I was a perfect stranger walking unaware into this restaurant, the very first case of pies was a sight to behold.
You turn around to several more cases filled with fresh baked goods in a window enclosed pie safe-type storage. You know you are visiting a place, which takes pride in making food from scratch.
The all you can eat buffet was $12.99 per person. It featured broasted chicken, but I was in no mood for a food coma. I still had at least 4 hours of driving ahead and wanted to get home in one piece. So I opted for the Trucker’s Homestead special of 2 eggs, hash browns, biscuits for $3.99 and a side of sausage gravy for $1.19. When I asked the waitress about the sausage gravy, she advised it was thick, full of sausage but I would need to add the pepper myself.
The eggs were perfectly cooked. The sausage gravy was clearly homemade without the canned, cooked milk taste when it comes from the can. I had a side plate brought over to allow me to split my biscuits and drown them in the sausage gravy. I kept one half biscuit to eat with blackberry jam. The hash browns were crisp, though they missed the onion they forgot to include.
When I met the owner, he said they had daily blue plate specials which they served on a blue plate. The blue plate special was two pork chops, corn on the cob, homemade roll with butter and homemade potato salad for $6.49. When Mother’s plate arrived to the table, I remarked to waitress, “Is this the Paul Bunyon special?” They lied! They served three pork chops and two corn on the cobs, when does this ever happen? These pork chops were delicious though cooked to a thorough white, when I would have preferred pink. Again, it wasn’t my order and my Mom was quite delighted with her meal.
Since I finished first before my Mom, I ordered a piece of peach pie. It was quite a large piece, which I ended up sharing with my Mom.
This pie was made on the premises. It wasn’t a perfect piece of peach pie, though it was better than most I encounter. The juiciness of peach pie can often compromise the crust’s bottom, which happened here. The juice penetrates and softens the dough, thus making it difficult to impossible for a crisp bottom. This pie suffered from this problem. It also could have used a tad bit more sugar. However, compared to almost all pies available retail, this was much better than average.
Trucker’s Homestead Restaurant has certainly earned a place on good road food worthy of a visit along I-55. As for the lady I met, I sent her links from LTHforum and hope she chooses to post her finds her.
Trucker’s Homestead Restaurant
Illinois I-55 & Route 104
Exit 82 (south of Springfield) on I-55
"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie DupreeFacebook
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