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Mar 22, 2010 07:38 PM

Brunch on the way to Champaign

We are driving from West Chicago to Champaign next Saturday, and we were wondering if there is a good place to stop for brunch or lunch along the way. Our route takes us along 57-S so any place that's not too far from an exit would be great. We are from NY so any unique Midwest type place would be an added bonus. Thanks!

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  1. I assume your route will take you via I-355 south to I-80 east to I-57 south. You should be aware that this forum (Chicago Area) generally covers only the area along I-80 and north; once you head south on I-57, you will be in the area covered by the Great Lakes forum, formerly by the Midwest (now the Midwest General Archive) forum.

    There really isn't a whole lot along I-57, but it's only about a 100-mile stretch. The only sizable town you go by is Kankakee. Based on forum posts, there don't seem to be all that many places to eat in Kankakee. You might want to check out this discussion in the Midwest General Archive, which is the only sizable one:

    Kankakee/Bradley/Bourbonnais, IL -

    However, there are a lot more places in the Chicago area (Wheaton, Naperville, Downers Grove) before you hit I-80. Even here, though, a lot of restaurants just aren't open for lunch on Saturdays, so you'll need to make sure they are.

    One very nice restaurant open for lunch on Saturdays is located in the Hilton in Lisle/Naperville. It's called Allgauer's and it has quite a local following (IOW it's not just a hotel restaurant).

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      You must be from the north suburbs. Saying the Chicago area ends at I-80 on the south end would be like saying the Chicago area ends at Lake-Cook Road on the north end -- each is roughly the same distance from ground zero (State/Madison). Best to say it includes the entire 8-county Chicago SMSA, which includes two counties in Indiana...

      1. re: markh

        You're absolutely correct. However, I intentionally used the word "generally" as a way of implying that I-80 is not the precise boundary for the Chicago area. (I guess I assumed - obviously erroneously - that an elaborate discourse specifying precise boundaries was not needed!) The fact is, the suburbs of Chicago continue to expand outwards from downtown, and this occurs in all directions, not just to the south. 10-15 years ago, there was still quite a bit of open land north of I-80, in places like Homer Township; today, most of that land has been filled in by development (hastened, no doubt, by the building of I-355 and its recent completion to I-80). Expansion now finds much recent development in places like New Lenox and Frankfort, for several miles south of I-80, and I'm sure that it will extend even further in another 10-15 years, regardless of whether or not the airport is built at Peotone. I-80 was just an easy landmark to use as a *general* reference, even though there are homes and suburbs in the Chicago area south of there.

        All of that being said, once the OP gets past Frankfort, most of the land is rural and most of the length of that trip, including the populated Kankakee-Bourbonnais area, is not considered part of the Chicago Area and is covered by topics in the Great Lakes forum (and the Midwest forum, before it) rather than the Chicago Area forum.

        Fair enough?

    2. I really have no idea of what you have in mind, so feel free to sumarily dismiss this:

      K & H Truck Stop restaurant. 1043 S Crescent St. Gilman, IL 60938-6133. Phone: (815) 265-7310.

      Gilman is about the mid-point on I-57 between the far southern suburbs and Champaign. If you want a simple breakfast or lunch, reasonably priced, with good friendy service and in a clean environment you will do fine here. We always enjoy the homeade soup and pie, so maybe that's a part of the midwestern bonus you have in mind. There is a counter and a very comfortable dining room. Did I mention it is clean?

      Take exit 283, turn left at the top of the ramp, continue east across the railroad tracks to the four way stop. It is on your left just past the stop. Easy on and off from the interstate.

      And, good news. There are some very good dining options in Champaign-Urbana. Surprisingly good.

      1. It isn't a long drive from Chicago to Champaign so I would recommend that you push on till you get to Champaign an have brunch/lunch there. Aside from fast food there really isn't much else that you will pass. BTW, what do you consider "unique midwest" cuisine?

        1. Thanks for all your suggestions. I'm thinking now maybe I should just eat brunch in Champaign. Given the lack of options, I wonder if it's a good time to try a chain primarily in the Midwest such as Bob Evans. In my visits to Chicago I've tried Steak n Shake, Portillo's, Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, so I'm definitely up for chains!

          3 Replies
          1. re: krystle920

            NOT Bob Evans! :)

            My go-to place for breakfast and brunch anywhere I'm not aware of local offerings is Original Pancake House. They have a location in Champaign.

            1. re: krystle920

              There are plenty of good non-chain restaurant options in Champaign, though Sunday brunch is more common than Saturday brunch. What time of day do you think you'll be arriving, and what type of food are you interested in having?

              1. re: krystle920

                I would go for a local option over a chain. Champaign has a couple "classic" diners like Mary Anne's (go to the Kirby St location for a more authentic experience). Champaign is a college town and has great dining options that are geared towards students (Mexican, BBQ, Sandwiches) so you may want to stick with those. I'm not sure how representative this is of the Midwest but if you want a true Champaign experience you should visit a place like La Bamabas around the time the bars close. Incidentally, Champaign has one of my favorite deep dish pizza places, Papa Dell's so you could give that a try.

              2. Aunt Sonyas had pretty good food while I was going to school in Champaign-but I haven't been there in a while. They used to have great biscuits and gravy....

                1 Reply
                1. re: sderouin

                  Skip Bob Evans...Champaign has lots of good non-chain places, and they deserve your business.

                  Sadly, Aunt Sonya's is long gone and that site is part of the Hilton Garden Inn complex. Anyway, as a former Champaign resident for almost 20 years (until last summer), I echo the notion of stopping there. I am not aware of any Sat. brunch, but Saturday lunch has many choices:

                  Original Pancake House (not IHOP) is very good, and right off the University Ave. exit of I-57.

                  Some info:

                  Most all menus in town on one website:

                  If you are willing to take a slight detour to I-74 and head about 1 or 2 miles down to the Neil exit, downtown Champaign has many choices....Farren's (gastropub), Escobar's (Lation fusion), and several coffee places that also serve sandwiches, recommended are Aroma, Pekara Bakery, and Cafe Kopi. Across from Cafe Kopi is the Esquire, been there for decades and a friendly Cheers-type place with sandwiches and burgers. Also off the I-57 Curtis exit is a shopping development called Village at the Crossing, I believe. Jupiter's there does a great thin crust pizza, and there is good Chinese and other options in that center. Lots of choices. Hope that helps.