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STL to MKE: 55 to 39 to 43: anything great?

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We're driving from St. Louis to Milwaukee via 55, 39 and 43 for Thanksgiving. We anticipate making this drive a lot as we just moved to STL and my husband's parents are in Milwaukee. We're planning on stopping at the Holy Land Diner in Springfield, IL tomorrow for lunch, but we'd like to know what else there is along the way.

Not just restaurants, but we do want those of course - but we're willing to leave the highway to find pie, corn dogs, great ice cream, little cheese shops, candy places, ANYTHING. We'll end up having a lot of time to explore this route. We won't stop for a fancy meal (takes too long on a 6-7 hour drive), and we will usually have a small child with us, and we eat everything except Indian food.

Suggestions would be awesome.

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  1. This has nothing to do with food...but my favorite part of that drive is when we pass the huge wind farms...they are so gorgeous in my opinion. We do that drive often as my husband is from Milwaukee as well...we usually don't stop to eat as that is what we do our entire time up there! Have a safe trip....

    1. Although it is close enough to Milwaukee that you might not want to stop at this point, The Brat Stop in Kenosha is the best place I can think of along the road for a good charcoal-broiled bratwurst.

      Roadside cheese and sausage shops are hit & miss in this part of the state. I never really saw much in them that I couldnt get in a grocery with a really good cheese section such as Sendik's or V Richard (with the possible exception of cheese or summer sausage in the shape of the State of Wisconsin, footballs, or beer bottles). That being said, the Mars Cheese Castle is kind of cool, and I remember getting some really good cheese bread there that I hadnt seen anywhere else.

      (When I was little, I really thought that they didnt sell cheese in grocery stores in Illinois, so that was why there were all these cheese shops between Milwaukee and Chicago. This notion was bolstered by the fact that all sorts of places south of the Wisconsin/Illinois border advertised that they had 'yellow oleo' for sale. For a long time, you could buy white margarine in Wisconsin, but not yellow because it might be mistaken for butter.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Fydeaux

        I would stop in Springfield, Illinois and have a horseshoe sandwich. A local special which is a meat (usually ham, hamburger, or many other choices, on toast with french fries on top covered with a rich cheese sauce. I cover mine with catsup but most other's don't. My favorite place is Charlie Parker's on North Street, which is on the South side of town...Just off 55 North to 6th street on to Stanford and off to the right on North street...in an old quansit hut...but great food...featured on the food channel last year...enjoy Illinois capitol city...deww

        1. re: EWW

          D'Arcy's Pint is right by Charlie Parker as well and has great pub food----three or four times better than it has to be. (Full disclosure: a co-worker's wife works there, ask for Karen). They have horseshoes and excellent burgers, they also pour a proper Guinness.

          I second the mention of Ron's Cajun Connection below.

          There is also a cajun diner in Rochester called Gambino's about five miles off I-55.

          Tanner's Orchard north of Peoria has some pretty nice baked goods and scads of excellent jams, jellies, preserves etc. Probably 20 minutes of off I-39.

      2. If you really want a corn dog...stop in Springfield at the Cozy Dog Drive In on Old 66.

        http://www.cozydogdrivein.com/

        In Bloomington/Normal where I-55 meets I-39, I would suggest Destihl in Normal near the mall (not far off I-55, but past the I-39 Interchange) or Medici in Normal which is "uptown" Normal near Illinois State University. There's also a number of restaurants and shops Uptown...if you like Chicago Style food, there's a place called Boo Boo's Doghouse

        http://www.destihl.com/ <-Destihl
        http://www.medicinormal.com/ <--Medici

        Farther up I-39 there's a little town called Utica where Starved Rock State Park is. Surprisingly, there are some hidden gems. First off, if you need to stop overnight, Grizzly Jack's Lodge has an indoor waterpark. There's also a cajun place called Ron's Cajun Connection that is fabulous. I know people that road trip from Chicago just to eat here.

        http://www.ronscajunconnection.com/