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Cajun Connection - Utica, IL. - The Truth

Cajun Connection - Utica, IL. - The Truth
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  • Cajun Connection - Utica, IL. - The Truth

    Post #1 - February 26th, 2008, 10:55 am
    Post #1 - February 26th, 2008, 10:55 am Post #1 - February 26th, 2008, 10:55 am
    I have seen countless mentions of Ron's Cajun Connection on other threads, but I have not seen a topic devoted to this place. I feel it is overdue for that "honor"

    When I moved away from the craziness of Naperville 2+ years ago, and out to the quiet of LaSalle County Cajun Connection was one of the first places I visited, and soon became a regular.

    The restaurant itself is a small home that has been converted into a restaurant. There a two main rooms with a combined seating capacity of maybe 50 people.

    The food is top notch cajun food, the best you can find in Illinois hands down. The food is made from scratch and daily. The gumbo is the best I have had, a rich dark brown broth with chunks of sausage, and large pieces of pork. I have tried most items on the menu, but I have my favorites. I enjoy the red beans and rice with sausage, the bubba shrimp, the shrimp creole, the shrimp etouffe, the alligator & the jambalaya. He has crawfish boils when they are in season, and my wife says they are some of the best crawfish she has had. Some of the menu specials I have seen have been dungeness crab, as well as some fish, and steak dishes. I rarely eat the appetizers since I load up on the basket of bread on the table, and my entrees, but we really like the fried corn appetizer.

    The owner, Ron, is always present, and takes time from running the kitchen to stop, and chat with customers, recommending items from the menu. He will tease you inf you dont try the alligator, frog legs, or other items.

    A must stop place if you are out in the Starved Rock area for a day trip, and I feel a destination point for anyone who is like myself who will regualarly drive 100+ miles round trip for some great food.

    Cajun Connection
    897 East U.S. Highway 6
    Utica, IL 61373
    815-667-9855
    http://www.ronscajunconnection.com
    Last edited by jimswside on May 21st, 2015, 7:45 am, edited 5 times in total.
  • Post #2 - February 26th, 2008, 1:17 pm
    Post #2 - February 26th, 2008, 1:17 pm Post #2 - February 26th, 2008, 1:17 pm
    You know jimswside, that I have long sung praises for Ron's too! Eating at Ron's is a total experience, the food is heavenly and Ron himself is such a delight. We have been going there about 5 years now and every visit is a treat. Several times, when we are returning from Peoria, we have called ahead and taken home a large order so we can share with friends at home. Ron has talked a few times about moving to a bigger space but I think that would take away the charm.
  • Post #3 - February 26th, 2008, 1:21 pm
    Post #3 - February 26th, 2008, 1:21 pm Post #3 - February 26th, 2008, 1:21 pm
    LikestoEatout wrote:You know jimswside, that I have long sung praises for Ron's too! Eating at Ron's is a total experience, the food is heavenly and Ron himself is such a delight. We have been going there about 5 years now and every visit is a treat. Several times, when we are returning from Peoria, we have called ahead and taken home a large order so we can share with friends at home. Ron has talked a few times about moving to a bigger space but I think that would take away the charm.


    Good to hear from you,

    My wife, daughter and I went to Ron's on Sunday for lunch. Good as always. We actually ordered the gator bites off the childrens menu for our 15 month old daughter, and she ate almost as many as I did.

    When I was chatting with Ron this past Sunday, he said his next crawfish boil will be around the 3rd week of March. I think we will definately be making another trip over there.
  • Post #4 - February 27th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Post #4 - February 27th, 2008, 12:55 pm Post #4 - February 27th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Cajun Connection, Utica

    jimswside, LikestoEatout,

    Thanks to the research by the inimitable travel planner, Amata – and I believe her research relied in part heavily upon your recommendations of Cajun Connection (CC) – I recently had the opportunity to dine there. All in all, I really love this place on all levels, and the quibbles I have, which I need to include for reliability’s and honesty’s sake, need to be considered in the context of this having been my one visit to CC.

    Bitter cold, lots of snow and ice and biting winds, good time for Cajun food...
    Image

    First thing we had was a cup of gumbo – I’ll spare y’all the picture which came out clear but uselessly dark. The gumbo was, in a word, excellent.

    Not so exotic as some things that have been consumed and written up by LTHers, the next dish was for this Jerseyman nonetheless relatively out of the ordinary: alligator. For all of us (for indeed Amata and Lucantonius were here as well), this was the first time we sampled this form of flesh. What can I say... Absolutely delicious, in part on its own merit but also because of the excellent preparation (just battering and frying but expertly done) by the kitchen. Particularly noteworthy to me was the wonderfully tender texture of the meat...
    Image
    The morsels of alligator came atop a heap of tasty fries and these two together, with a splash of Texas Pete’s hot sauce, washed down by a cold beer, were close to heavenly.

    One of the nice features of CC’s flexible menu is their offering of combo plates with all sorts of possibilities, allowing us in one visit to sample a considerable range of dishes. Amata’s combo was of jambalaya and crayfish Creole style...
    Image

    I had a combo with shrimp étouffée and fried catfish.
    Image
    The catfish was outstanding and left me with the impression that Ron and his staff could fry shoe leather, even used shoe leather, and make it taste really good. In retrospect, I wished I had ordered the catfish blackened, just for epic variation, but at the moment of ordering, we hadn’t seen the alligator yet and so I was unaware of or just not paying attention to the fact that there would be a double dose from the deep-fry vat.
    The shrimp étouffée was good, very good even, but quite rich and alongside all the fried stuff, I think a bit too much for my old system. My one complaint about the meal was that a couple of the shrimp were not up to my admittedly unforgiving standards in this regard.

    Lucantonius had a bowl of red beans and rice with some mild andouille included. I thought this was a very tasty (and enormous) bowl of food.
    Image
    From the above picture you can hopefully get a little bit of a sense of what sort of a place CC is – very informal, walls bedecked with humorous signs and such... Pleasant enough. When we were there, a Saturday evening, the joint was hopping but there was no wait. Turnover seems to be quick and people move on to hit all the bars, cafés and clubs in downtown Utica... (wink)
    One last note – the service was very friendly and properly efficient and Ron, the owner, made a point of visiting tables and making sure all was going well.

    Image
    Sorry, little fella, but I have a serious hankering for some more of this...
    Image

    As a famous cyborg once said, I’ll be back.

    Antoine (der Elsässer)
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #5 - February 27th, 2008, 1:24 pm
    Post #5 - February 27th, 2008, 1:24 pm Post #5 - February 27th, 2008, 1:24 pm
    great review, and pictures antonius. I am really glad you enjoyed your meal @ Cajun Connection.
  • Post #6 - February 27th, 2008, 1:57 pm
    Post #6 - February 27th, 2008, 1:57 pm Post #6 - February 27th, 2008, 1:57 pm
    Great report Antonius! I wish your pictures weren't so dark but I'm already tasting the crawfish etoufee! A few years ago we took a father/daughter from Serbia and the woman's fiance who is from Argentina to Ron's for lunch. They just thought it was the neatest thing on earth to be able to go home and saw they had alligator. We ordered a lot of everything and shared between the 7 of us so everyone could sample a little of everything. Ron was impressed and had a great time talking to our international guests and bringing out things for them to sample. The place is 100% Ron's personality!
  • Post #7 - February 27th, 2008, 2:00 pm
    Post #7 - February 27th, 2008, 2:00 pm Post #7 - February 27th, 2008, 2:00 pm
    Let me add to Antonius' praise of Cajun Connection. We really loved the place (the letters "GNR" were even heard, in between bites of alligator). This is a place that we never would have known about without the internet, out on a pretty empty road, US 6, a mile east of highway 138. I'm grateful to both jimswside and LikestoEatOut for singing its praises here (and elsewhere :wink: ). Though posts about LaSalle county don't get as much immediate feedback and reaction as do posts on, say, Smoque, some of us are reading along and planning to get out there someday! :)

    As can be seen from Antonius's post above, we tried to sample as much of the menu as possible. Like Antonius, I really loved the gumbo and the gator. I was less enthusiastic about my jambalaya, which seemed a little sweet, but perhaps I was just suffering from palate fatigue after all the other food. There are some tempting sounding desserts on the menu, like bread pudding, but there was just no way I could manage another bite after all of our savory food.

    Lucantonio was uninterested in hearing about a children's menu, instead asking for red beans and rice with sausage. That was a good choice, but if he had deigned to check out the kids' offerings he would have found the unusual options of frog legs, gator, and crayfish along with the predictable chicken fingers, etc.

    Cajun Connection does not take reservations, except when they have a special event like Mardi Gras. Also, note their limited hours:

    Thursday 4pm - 9pm
    Friday 4pm - 9pm
    Saturday 4pm - 9pm
    Sunday Noon-6pm

    I'm sure we'll be back soon, both for some more good Cajun food and for further exploration of the beauties of Starved Rock.

    PS. LikestoEatOut posted this video link elsewhere. I played it for Antonius and said, "We need to go here!"
    http://will.atlas.uiuc.edu/index.php/pr ... 6-02-23-a/
  • Post #8 - February 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm
    Post #8 - February 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm Post #8 - February 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm
    amata, glad you enjoyed your meal as well, I love the kids menu, where else can you order your child a menu item that as a parent you actually want to sneak a few bites of(alligator bites, catfish nuggets, popcorn crawfish). :)

    I am not a desert eater typically, but my wife loves the pecan pie.
  • Post #9 - February 27th, 2008, 2:24 pm
    Post #9 - February 27th, 2008, 2:24 pm Post #9 - February 27th, 2008, 2:24 pm
    Was just looking at a map last night (and this thread), trying to figure out just how far a drive it is between Deerfield and Utica. Now, with this additional information from the "A" team, I'm feeling more compelled than ever to make the trip and give it a try.

    Thanks, for the reports, one and all! :)

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #10 - February 27th, 2008, 2:31 pm
    Post #10 - February 27th, 2008, 2:31 pm Post #10 - February 27th, 2008, 2:31 pm
    Hey Ronnie,

    Utica is about 90 miles from Chicago -- well, you probably already calculated that! We were staying at Starved Rock Lodge for two nights, which was very pleasant.

    We planned our trip down there so that we could hit Steve's Shish Kabab and check out their new location for lunch. But the other temptation, halfway to Utica, is Amanecer Tapatio in Joliet...
  • Post #11 - February 27th, 2008, 2:39 pm
    Post #11 - February 27th, 2008, 2:39 pm Post #11 - February 27th, 2008, 2:39 pm
    The I-355 extension down to I-80 makes the drive a little easier, especially with I-55 construction starting March 1st.

    If anyone is ever headed out to Ron's Id love to come out to meet you, and have a good meal.
  • Post #12 - February 27th, 2008, 7:59 pm
    Post #12 - February 27th, 2008, 7:59 pm Post #12 - February 27th, 2008, 7:59 pm
    I just shouted out to my family "Hey..... time for a road trip!" Now I've got to close the deal.
  • Post #13 - February 27th, 2008, 9:58 pm
    Post #13 - February 27th, 2008, 9:58 pm Post #13 - February 27th, 2008, 9:58 pm
    Amata wrote:Hey Ronnie,

    Utica is about 90 miles from Chicago -- well, you probably already calculated that! We were staying at Starved Rock Lodge for two nights, which was very pleasant.

    We planned our trip down there so that we could hit Steve's Shish Kabab and check out their new location for lunch. But the other temptation, halfway to Utica, is Amanecer Tapatio in Joliet...

    Thanks, Amy, for the info. I definitely foresee a weekend trip for us, probably sometime in April. It's clear we'll have some tough choices to make in both directions.

    I'll be sure to report back.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #14 - February 28th, 2008, 5:38 am
    Post #14 - February 28th, 2008, 5:38 am Post #14 - February 28th, 2008, 5:38 am
    I'm with jimswside, anytime someone is going, especially on a Sunday afternoon, give me a shout out and we'll be there! It's an hour and half for me out in western Batavia but worth the drive!
  • Post #15 - March 19th, 2008, 1:59 pm
    Post #15 - March 19th, 2008, 1:59 pm Post #15 - March 19th, 2008, 1:59 pm
    One of my very favorite places, hands down. Was in Utica this past weekend, had the Catfish Acadian which was a fried filet of catfish smothered with your choice of either shrimp or catfish etoufee served over rice with that yummy Bubba Shrimp. Anyway, I hadn't seen anyone mention this, but he has awesome boudin sausage and you can buy it frozen to bring home to continue the love...if you call ahead, you can also get one of the whole pecan pies to bring home as well.
  • Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 7:55 am
    Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 7:55 am Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 7:55 am
    rosie wrote:Anyway, I hadn't seen anyone mention this, but he has awesome boudin sausage and you can buy it frozen to bring home to continue the love...


    I read through the whole thread wondering if anyone was going to mention the boudin. Ron's is very good, and I think you can order "boudin balls" now (the meaty rice dressing is battered and fried instead of stuffed into a casing). Beware the "hot" boudin. Extremely spicy. I took home a batch of frozen, and it was bordering inedible hot for some eaters (although it could've been the batch).
  • Post #17 - March 26th, 2008, 3:30 pm
    Post #17 - March 26th, 2008, 3:30 pm Post #17 - March 26th, 2008, 3:30 pm
    crrush wrote:Ron's is very good, and I think you can order "boudin balls" now (the meaty rice dressing is battered and fried instead of stuffed into a casing).

    Yes, indeed! Here's a "fry basket" from Ron's: alligator, corn, boudin balls and shrimp, all resting on a bed of fried potatoes. It seems that Ron likes to deep fry things and he's quite good at it.

    Image
  • Post #18 - March 27th, 2008, 6:18 am
    Post #18 - March 27th, 2008, 6:18 am Post #18 - March 27th, 2008, 6:18 am
    Rene G wrote:
    crrush wrote:Ron's is very good, and I think you can order "boudin balls" now (the meaty rice dressing is battered and fried instead of stuffed into a casing).

    Yes, indeed! Here's a "fry basket" from Ron's: alligator, corn, boudin balls and shrimp, all resting on a bed of fried potatoes. It seems that Ron likes to deep fry things and he's quite good at it.

    Image


    thanks rene, now I am going to be craving some fried corn, shrimp and gator all day, and I am stuck with a sandwich from home for lunch. :)
  • Post #19 - March 27th, 2008, 8:31 am
    Post #19 - March 27th, 2008, 8:31 am Post #19 - March 27th, 2008, 8:31 am
    Thanks for the photos! Monday I had to experience the cruelist thing.... driving right by Ron's on a day he is closed. :(
  • Post #20 - March 27th, 2008, 8:49 am
    Post #20 - March 27th, 2008, 8:49 am Post #20 - March 27th, 2008, 8:49 am
    We are thinking about taking advantage of the one predicted non-rainy day of Sparky's spring break and heading to Starved Rock and Mattheison to look at waterfalls next Tuesday. I can't tell you all how grateful I am that we won't have to eat at Denny's on the way home...and I was just telling the 'spouse the other day how much I wanted to try boudin!
  • Post #21 - March 27th, 2008, 8:55 am
    Post #21 - March 27th, 2008, 8:55 am Post #21 - March 27th, 2008, 8:55 am
    Hi,

    Unless they have changed their hours, I don't think Cajun Connection is open on Tuesday.

    Thursday 4pm - 9pm
    Friday 4pm - 9pm
    Saturday 4pm - 9pm
    Sunday Noon-6pm

    My first visit I came after 6 PM on Sunday. They were tossing all the gumbos and such into the garbage. I watched mournfully because I was perfectly willing to pay for it, but they stick to their hours.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #22 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am
    Post #22 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am Post #22 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am
    Thanks for the heads-up, C2 (should have been reading more carefully) Oh, well...maybe the weather report will change and we'll go on Thursday....
  • Post #23 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am
    Post #23 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am Post #23 - March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am
    Cathy, you are correct.

    hours & days are still the same. Closed Mon. - Weds.
  • Post #24 - March 29th, 2008, 1:45 pm
    Post #24 - March 29th, 2008, 1:45 pm Post #24 - March 29th, 2008, 1:45 pm
    Mhays wrote:We are thinking about taking advantage of the one predicted non-rainy day of Sparky's spring break and heading to Starved Rock and Mattheison to look at waterfalls next Tuesday. I can't tell you all how grateful I am that we won't have to eat at Denny's on the way home...and I was just telling the 'spouse the other day how much I wanted to try boudin!


    Ron's is the very obvious place to go to, when headed to Starved Rock IMHO.

    Ive been down there about 3 times, maybe.. and to Ron's twice (wasnt aware
    of it the first time down to Utica). The Cajun food is good - IMHO not *great*
    neccesarily, but very good. The fried stuff is top-notch - they do a wonderful
    job with it, and the fried gator is especially worth it. But a couple of the
    other Cajun items.. they were solid, but I felt I had had better (at Lagniappe
    on the far south side, for example). I havent tried their boudin.

    However, one thing - if you go, make absolutely sure not to miss their
    pecan pie. Even now, maybe 10 months later, that is the single most
    memorable part of my meal I think - just sensationally good pecan pie.
    (They also did a pretty decent Bananas Foster bread pudding or
    something.. Ron is smart, when we ordered it he switched off all the
    lights in the entire room, half the restaurant plunged into darkness,
    and then proceeded to flambe it table-side.. as soon as the lights came
    up he got 3 more orders for it :-) It was a very good Banans Foster
    puddin too.. but the pecan pie IMHO put everything to shame.

    If you find Ron's closed... the first time we were at Utica and unaware
    of Ron's, we had eaten at Duffy's Bar in Utica. Decent enough place,
    solid bar cheeseburger IIRC.. but, for some reason (maybe its just
    me), I thought they had maybe the best fries I had tried, ever! The last
    time we were set on Ron's, but made sure to stop at Duffy's just to
    pick up a couple fries to go on the way to the park, and even as
    takeout in the car they were pretty terrific. You could do worse
    than this place (if only so you could independently confirm that
    Iam insane, and the fries really arent *that* good :-)

    Even if neither of these options work, BTW, you ought not to be
    reduced to Denny's :-) Search the "I-55" thread on LTH, there ought
    to be some good options there IMHO. Ive personally always wanted
    to try Ripp's in Ladd from reading about it, and IIRC its not very far
    away, but have never made it there so far.

    c8w
  • Post #25 - March 29th, 2008, 3:22 pm
    Post #25 - March 29th, 2008, 3:22 pm Post #25 - March 29th, 2008, 3:22 pm
    Actually, worse, I think we wound up at Chili's and the meal was downright offensive...but we were tired, hungry, dragging a 6-year-old who wasn't happy about fishing all day and were covered in worm guts and lake slime...it was the biggest signage in the area. This time, we'll do better, I promise...we're certainly never doing Chili's again!

    It was on this trip that I discovered homemade empanadas are excellent hiking food; I froze them and by the time we were ready to eat, they'd thawed to nicely chilled. Maybe this time I'll try Cornish Pasties - we can throw away the (worm-guts covered) crusts to avoid contamination just like the Cornish tin miners did....
  • Post #26 - April 30th, 2008, 11:54 am
    Post #26 - April 30th, 2008, 11:54 am Post #26 - April 30th, 2008, 11:54 am
    Ron is having a crawfish boil this Frida(live music Friday), Saturday, and Sunday while supplies last. I see a trip over there for an early dinner Saturday in the cards.

    www.ronscajunconnection.com
  • Post #27 - May 4th, 2008, 7:28 am
    Post #27 - May 4th, 2008, 7:28 am Post #27 - May 4th, 2008, 7:28 am
    Another top notch dining experience @ Cajun Connection last night for dinner. We arrived @ 4:10, and the place was already packed(they open @ 4:00). The word of one of Ron's famous crawfish boils was out. We started out with a bottle of Budweiser for myself, and water and apple juice for my dining companions(wife, and daughter), and munched on the bread basket. I ordered jambalaya, and bubba shrimp with a cup of gumbo. My wife ordered the 4 pounds of crawfish, and we got some popcorn shrimp for the little one.

    The gumbo, always the best north of New Orleans, and one of the better batches I have had at Ron's in a while. The right mix of pork, sausage, and rice in a rich flavorfull broth. I added some hot sauce and gumbo file(sasafrass leaves) to mine for some added kick. The cup was gone in minutes. Then came the food. the bubba shrimp top excellent as always, ad the jambalaya was excellent, alot of chunks of tender pork, and great flavoring that is always expected. the 4 pounds of crawfish were the star of the meal. A generous 4 pound portion served with red potatoes, and corn for $20.00, thats right $20. We both dug into the crawfish at a steady pace, the meat was juicy, and flavorfull, not a bad crawfish in the batch. My 1-1/2 year old daughter even enjoyed the crawfish meat(but then again she loves lobster, shrimp, and crab, so it didnt surprise me). We took home approx 1 pound of the crawfish.

    Total bill for the food and multiple Budweisers I drank. $48. add $10 for tip, and the meal was $58. Not bad for basically all the crawfish we both could eat, soup, 3 other entrees, and drinks. Gotta love it. By the time we left there was a line of about 20 people out the door to get some crawfish.

    Once again Ron, and his staff hit the high bar that I set for them, their food is great, not just good, and I count myself as lucky to live only 20 mins. from this treasure, it is truly one of my favorite restaurants in all of Chicago, or the country.

    Unless Ron has run out of crawfish today is the last day of this weekends crawfish boil.
  • Post #28 - July 7th, 2008, 10:47 am
    Post #28 - July 7th, 2008, 10:47 am Post #28 - July 7th, 2008, 10:47 am
    crawfish boil this weekend: July 11th & 13th @ Rons in Utica.

    The crawfish, and the gumbo are worth the trip by themself. Last boil was $20 for 3 pounds of the mud bugs.

    www.ronscajunconnection.com
  • Post #29 - July 13th, 2008, 8:09 am
    Post #29 - July 13th, 2008, 8:09 am Post #29 - July 13th, 2008, 8:09 am
    The mud bugs were in ample supply @ Cajun Connection last night. Crawfish as big as I have ever seen them, perfectly boiled with a chunk of corn, and a red potato. I ordered 4 lbs. for $20.. thats right 4 lbs. I had the gumbo as usual, and the gumbo was as good as it has ever been, and I did a first, bought 2 cups to take home. My wife had the crawfish etouffe, and fried shrimp. The etouffe was also one of the better versions I have had there. It is noce to see a place hold consistant, or even strive to be better.

    I feel bad for anyone who loves crawfish, or cajun cuisine, who missed out on the latest crawfish boil.

    I count myself as being lucky to live 15 mins from Cajun Connection, but distance would not deter me from being a regular. Driven by a love of great food I routinely drive the 70+ miles each way to try places like Smoque, Honey 1, Pricillas, Seramamis, Sun Wah, Katy's, Fabulous Noodles, CoalFire, Amanacer Tapatio, etc. For what Ron does he is on par, or even better than some of these great places I have visited.
  • Post #30 - July 13th, 2008, 8:23 am
    Post #30 - July 13th, 2008, 8:23 am Post #30 - July 13th, 2008, 8:23 am
    Jim,

    GNR nomionation time is coming up very soon (hint hint).
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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