I spent a Sunday night down at Starved Rock and was able to meet up with the Central IL Fried Chicken Chief for some chicken and beer while down there. Beforehand me and my friend stopped for lunch in Putnam County which isn't LaSalle but it's of my belief that anything on the border or around the Illinois river and extended into the valley is fair game. Everyone does fried chicken down there. Rip's
is without a doubt some of the best you can get...anywhere. But it doesn't end there. Here's another spot that I think is worth checking out. We stopped in for an early lunch at Ray's Place in Hennepin, IL right along the river. It's cool old time exterior looked like it was worth a stop for a quick bite and to relax a bit. Even though I knew nothing of Ray's, I knew fried chicken was on the menu.
Hennepin, IL along the Illinois River
Ray's was a really cool spot especially for some drinks. I've been to alot of old taverns and supper clubs where not much has changed and I love Lanuti's but the bar at Ray's Place was straight out of the movies. I felt like I was on set filming. There's also a dining area in a large room to the left. Like most towns around here it's one of the few spots to eat out at and I imagine it gets packed on weekend nights. The menu has quite a few options similar to the rest of the bars and supper clubs including what they call the "best fried chicken in Central IL"
My view at the end of the bar
There were a few regulars including some old ladies who were sitting at a table in the bar section talking about having fun. The other said, that means we need some drinks, so they started to have some fun. The bartender/waitress was a really nice young lady who made us feel right at home. She even handed me the remote to the TV and told me to put on whatever I want. I knew the fried chicken was a go and opted for a basket (leg and thigh) since I knew more fried bird was coming. When I asked the bartender about the onion rings which are listed as hand battered, she told me they were very popular and I needed to try them so that was that. She wasn't crappin' me neither. Some of the best onion rings I can remember.
Ray's Place on the River: Central Illinois best onion rings
I had very high hopes for the chicken after the fantastic basket of rings and as is the case with most of these great fried chicken joints, they fry it fresh to order so it was about a 20 minute wait. It came out piping hot and I finally remembered this time around to let it sit for five minutes so the roof of my mouth wasn't singed. The chicken was very good, perfectly cooked making it moist and juicy with no resistance when eating it off the bone. Although this would be an excellent rendition of fried chicken in Chicago, it was just 'good' for the Valley. I guess I just prefer the beer battered to the other ways when it comes to frying but that's not to say I wont be back at Ray's. Ordering the same thing too I would assume.
Ray's Place on the River: Fried Chicken Basket
One of the older ladies who was an owner came over to make sure everything was ok as we were wrapping it up. She was also the bartenders grandma so it's all in the family over there and they do care. If your ever boating the Illinois River they have a dock for you to stop at with your boat and pop in for some chicken. Along with some amazing onions rings, very friendly service and a really cool bar. Check it out.
The view from the bench across the street from Ray's
Rip's and Cherry Super Club look very, very similar. I thought it was exactly the same until I compared plates. Does Cherry Super Club dip their chicken in batter, too?
I had to do a double take myself when I was posting,
Cherry's is batter dipped and very good, a close second to Rip's as far as I am concerned.
From the Surviving in Ottawa
We met up with the Central IL Chicken Czar for a few drinks at Lanuti's before we headed over to the Cherry Supper Club which is only a few miles down the road from Ladd in Cherry, IL. There was a horrible mining accident
here back in 1909 in which 259 men and young boys (no labor laws then) lost their lives. You pass the memorial and gravesite as you enter into town. Nowadays it a quiet place that I wouldn't even call a town. There's less than 300 people but there's also an awesome supper club that serves some excellent beer battered fried chicken with that familiar friendly service you seem to get everywhere down there.
I like to take a seat at the bar when visiting local taverns like these so we had a few cold ones at the bar before sitting down. The bartender who's name I forget was a very friendly guy and also the restaurants owner. You tend to see the owners there all the time engaged with the locals enjoying what they do. After a few drinks we headed over to a table for dinner. There were a few other groups there for dinner but service was swift. One of the specials was the fried chicken family style dinner. It gets you three pieces of fried chicken, with a side of hash browns, a side of ravs and spaghetti and unlimited trips to the salad/cold pasta bar which also has a house made soup. The price? $9.00. Even before we ate I felt like I was ripping this place off.
Soup and salad, plate of ravs and spaghetti
The salad bar which is in the dining room has quite a few pasta and potato salads as well as the old timers stuff and of course a bowl of greens. The soup that night was a beef, bean concoction that was a little sweet for me but you don't wanna fill up too much at the salad bar.
View from the table in the dining room
The fried chicken came out after 25 or so minutes and as seen in Jim's photos above, it's identical to Rip's. You have the option to get your hash browns "Al's style" which comes with onions, mushrooms and cheese and they were excellent while the fried chicken was better than that. Crispy, super crunchy exterior, some of the best batter on a chicken you can get. As I snapped this pic the owner came up and asked "hey your not that guy who takes pictures of food and posts them on that site are you?" I said no I think that's him and pointed across to jimswside. He and wife were very thankful for the reviews/rec's and rightfully so, their chicken is great. The Saturday special of prime rib is their big seller we were told. Soon enough. Helluva find here Jim. Thanks for sharing.
Fried Chicken from the Cherry Supper Club
After we ate we had some old fashioned's at the bar and the owner was telling us how his son was the chef and him and the wife look after the place during winter when he heads off to Florida. His wife cant and wont go with because she's got her horses he told us. "Cant ever leave the damn things". He told us his son had worked all over the country in kitchens of all sorts including Ponderosa
(gotta pay your dues I guess and those bills too) but man, I wonder if he once worked at Rip's. It's almost identical chicken except Rip's might be a little more heavily seasoned. If Rip's has a line out the door as it most always does, Cherry Supper Club is right down the road and there's other food options aside from the sensationally stellar fried chicken too.
The bar at Cherry Club
Lanuti's, Lanuti's, it's myyy kind of bar. Lantui's has that old school atmosphere, that's for sure. I was first put on there thru the Central IL Turtle Crawl thread
and despite a new owner, different from those featured in the pic upthread, they seem to be doing the same as they always have. Open and running Wed-Sun.
Sinatra playing on the speakers outside and then inside, the three stooges on the flat screens, which are about the only things that have changed at this tavern since the 40's. I met up with jimmyswside for a drink which turned to four before we headed over to the Cherry Supper Club for dinner down the road. As far as fried chicken goes, I have not had Lanuti's but I think it's been determined who's is best as Rip's Tavern
across the street had a full house as they always do while Lanuti's had just a few old timers in for an early dinner. They actually have been busy with people eating on previous visits to the bar. I still plan to try their family style fried and I'd also like to try their tenderloin sandwich which they label "Lanuti's own".
The view at da bar
Marty, the current owner was bartending when we rolled in around 4p on a Sunday. Great guy, he made us feel right at home as if we were regs. It was quiet at first but things started picking up before we left. Marty's family used to own the Ladd Lanes bowling alley down the road and he bought Lanuti's from the original family of owners who are also neighborhood family friends. He said he hasn't changed a thing and the bar is mostly the same as it was in the 40's. It sure does seem that way with all the old Schitz stuff still around as well as the classic old fashioned bartenders uniform which he was in. I asked what the most popular drink was these days and he told us it was what we were drinking, the $1 drafts of High Life. They do sell alot of their ice cream drinks w/ alcohol too. After we ate at Cherry Club it rained so hard we decided to let it pass thru and when it did I was hungry again like I always am. We went back into Lanuti's so I could try some ravs and spaghetti while placing an order of 1/4 dark from Rip's to go.
Homemade Ravioli is mentioned on the menu
As you can see from this pic above and the one at the top they switch up their neon in the windows now and then. Sometimes replacing the chicken with a ravioli one. I think the turtle neon on the other side always stays. Thru LTH I knew "ravs" were a popular Central IL eat and were really tortellini and Marty the owner confirmed this. He said he's never known them any other way. A lifetime Valley guy. I gave the spaghetti/ravioli combo a try to compare how it was to Cherry Supper Cubs. I liked it for the homey taste. It was like my grandma would of made for us as kids. The huge plate was $10 with bread and salad and I ended up taking more than half back to the hotel and finished it off later that evening. Good people, great chat, cheap drinks and an endangered atmosphere for a bar are the biggest reasons to stop here. One day I'll say screw it and try the turtle and a mixed ice cream drink, just to be able to say I have.
Ravioli/Spaghetti combo from Lanuti's
Some quotes below on some Central IL rec's from the Chicagoland fried chicken
OK, this Restaurant is just a tad beyond LaSalle County… in Marshall County.
Currys Restaurant & Tavern
PO Box 37, Camp Grove, IL 61424
It's a small mom and pop place with a bar and maybe 8 or 9 tables. Some friends took me here a few years ago, and I had some of the FINEST Fried Chicken I have tasted in years!
I saw a sign for Camp Grove and remembered your rec. Unfortunately it was Monday and almost all the supper club/fried chicken joints and most other sitdown places in the Valley are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
I'll add another to visit while in LaSalle County... . Maples Supper Club
1401 Shooting Park Rd
Peru, IL 61354
Another great place for Fried Chicken... PLUS a great buffet ! http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3714390338/maples-supper-club-peru
I also spied quite a few spots that looked like they deserved a shot at the crown. I snapped pics of them so I wouldn't forget about 'em and I'll post them on here case anybody wants to give them a try. The first one pictured is a bad pic but it's called JT's and its across the street from Cherry Supper. Notice the neon chicken sign in the window.
JT's Bar & Grill (Cherry, IL)
The Big House Tavern (Peru, IL)
Corral Inn Tavern (Cedar Point, IL)
jimswsides old (RIP) favorite Cap'n Jack's, you never know when the rest will close...
It's not all fried chicken in Central IL either. There's some wonderful old towns and great state parks extending all along the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway
. It's supposed to be a real treat during the Fall.
Matthiessen State Park. An old steam boat mural, an old abandoned steamboat along the river
The Village of Hopewell
Ray's Place on the River
108 N Front St
Hennepin, IL 61327
Cherry Supper Club
120 N. Main St
Cherry, IL 61317
302 N Main Ave
Ladd, IL 61329