Carlinville/Litchfield Illinois, seriously
I am looking for a decent place to eat in or near either Carlinville or Litchfield, Illinois. These towns are on 55 between St. Louis and Springfield. I realize this is an odd request, but I'm going to be there one way or the other and would love some help in entertaining myself.
Definitely, go to the Ariston. I've enjoyed the restaurant since 1948 (no, really...but I was 3 years old then). It is one of the originals on Route 66, and is still popular with those who live in the area AND with those down the Mother Road. Be sure to look at the guest book...you'll see almost daily visitors from all over the world who have signed their names.
The menu has quite a variety of dishes to choose from...you'll find some great dieserts, too. Whenever we are visiting from Portland, OR (about 4 times a year) we have supper there with friends and family...a great place to have conversation over dinner. Linen napkins and white table cloths, but still with a cozy casual feel. Dress up or dress down...you'll enjoy the tasty meal.
Carlinville doesn't really have much to offer. Plenty of bars but not very many restaurants. Litchfield has a few good places. El Rancherito [located in the plaza next to Wal-Mart] offers yummy Mexican plates. They have quick service and nice staff. Jubelt's is located next to The Ariston on Old Route 66. They have good sandwiches and soups. The Ariston is fairly popular but a bit too pricey for regular All American food. I don't like going there b/c the owners are too mean/strict w/ their staff. Not a real friendly environment.
We always stop at the Ariston whenever we can driving along I 55. It has been owned by the same family all along. They have a great salad bar(kalamata olives, brussels sprouts, home made soups) and delicious home made potato chips. I would call it moderately priced. Our service has always been great and everyone very friendly. The only downside is they are only open for dinner. We were just there last week and had friends with us-they were thrilled to know about it because they travel I 55 frequently.
I can't even imagine what you meant about the owners being too stern with their staff and not a friendly environment. There are those working there who really like working there, and have been there for years. I love the Ariston, and the friendly waiters who seem very relaxed to me!
Try Taylor's Chili Parlor. It is recognized far and wide as having excellent Mexican style chili. A google search will reveal many articles naming it. Personally, I'm not a huge chili fan, but absolutely love their butter bean soup. Very rich, full of flavor.
As far as the chili goes, my brother, while living in Germany, would request Taylor's chili for Christmas gifts (shipping cans of chili ain't cheap!), and my other brother will still stop by whenever he's remotely in the area. My whole family is addicted to the stuff.
Taylor's Chili Parlor
218 W. Main St.
My suggestion may be a bit far for you, but if you want a dining experience, head west from Carlinville on route 108 about forty miles to Kampsville. The restaurant is just across the Illinois River Ferry on the left. All flood levels are marked in the building, and renovations only occur after a flood. When we were there last, they needed a flood. By small town standards, the food was quite good. My niece from Greenfield drove us about twenty-five miles for what she termed the best food in the area.
I ate at the Ariston a few years ago and found it chowish enough to plan on returning, although I've never been back up that way. It had a "real" feel to it; an old Route 66 restaurant (not really a diner), with a menu loaded with comfort food. Be sure to check out some of the old menus framed on the wall. They didn't offer beer but you could get a Bud.
AB used to just be regionally not globally dominant.
I would follow the Route 66 recommendation and head for Litchfield to the Ariston Cafe for some generally good all American food...and some pretty decent Mexican dishes as I recall. Zubelts bakery is nearby and has some pretty good soups, etc. A bit further south at the Mt. Olive exit is the Crossroads Restaurant that has been recommended by my fellow lawmen as a good "grub" spot. As far as upscale dining, you might be a bit limited unless you head back to Springfield. Let me know if you have a bit of time before going and I will keep researching with my fellow chowhounds.
I have been to Carlinville and Litchfield with the Route 66 Club of Illinois. They did a tour along the old route and everywhere we stopped was a street fair.
What you may want to do is get a guide book for route 66. There may be a landmark diner or other place of note along the section you are visiting. I did it all the way to Arizona. It took an otherwise tedious trip and made something interesting. Our favorite was sleeping in poured concrete teepees in New Mexico.
Linked below is the Illinois Route 66 Association, if you scroll down there are links to both communities you referenced.
Once you understand the Rt 66 phenomena, you will understand there are ghost roads throughout the USA. Specifically, there are the old main routes with motels and fast food lining them, which lost their customer base when the interstate was laid out on the edge of town. Often they are the "business route" or the slow road we don't take in favor of the highway.
WEll go forth and make lemonade from a lemon!
I've been to Carlinville a few times, but never had much to eat there. The one time we had a couple hours to kill between meetings, we drove around the town square looking for something that looked interesting and open, but had no luck. Lots of bars, though. We ended up at Dairy Queen.
Sorry I don't have anything to offer.