Round out your road trip with this collection of quintessential Route 66 eateries in Illinois.
It has inspired everything form rock ‘n’ roll songs to blockbuster movies: Route 66. The Mother Road, as it’s known, was established in 1926 – truly the classic American road trip. Travelers are hitting the road once more in search of iconic roadside attractions like Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, "Our Lady of the Highways" Virgin Mary statue, Pink Elephant Antique Mall, Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum and original drive-in movie theaters. Best of all, there’s classic cuisine to sample all along the way.
Romeoville: Farm-fresh Eating
About 45 minutes southwest of Chicago, Romeoville was once a major exporter of rock material; in fact, the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield is made of Romeoville limestone. Today, this largely residential community brings in hungry Route 66 travelers to chow down on home-style fried chicken and corn fritters covered in powdered sugar at White Fence Farm Restaurant. Marvel at hundreds of antiques, feed the goats outside and take a selfie with the rooster statue.
A Route 66 interpretive sign in Romeoville
Springfield: Land of Lincoln
State capital Springfield was home to Abraham Lincoln for two decades. Must-see landmarks include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Old State Capitol (where Lincoln served in the Illinois legislature) and Lincoln’s Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Springfield also claims to be the home of the first drive-thru restaurant, Maid Rite Sandwich Shop. Quintessential eats to try in Springfield include batter-dipped, fried hot dogs called "Cozy Dogs" at the aptly named Cozy Dog Drive In; modern-meets-retro at Route 66 Motorheads Bar and Grill; and the cozy Irish pub-style atmosphere at D’arcy’s Pint, known for the signature Horseshoe plate of thick toast covered in French fries and cheese sauce. Take a photo in front of Mahan’s Filling Station, an old gas station with that classic retro feel.
A statue of Abraham Lincoln at his tomb in Springfield
Litchfield: Original Route 66 Landmarks
About halfway between Springfield and the Mississippi River along Illinois’ western border, Litchfield lays claim to original Route 66 landmarks. First on the agenda is the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center. Outside is a postcard-worthy 1940s building with old neon signs; inside is an abundance of antiques and memorabilia. Opened in 1924, Ariston Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66 and has a diverse menu with something for everyone in your crew. For dessert, try the homemade cookies, pie or donuts at Jubelt’s Bakery & Restaurant.
A hearty breakfast of French toast, bacon and eggs at Jubelt’s Bakery & Restaurant
Hamel: A Historical Hamlet
Tiny Hamel has just over 800 residents, but it’s worth a stop to eat at Weezy’s Route 66 Bar & Grill. Since the late 1930s, this roadhouse, located at the busy crossroads of Route 66, Illinois Route 140 and Illinois Route 157 has been serving classic American food like hamburgers, hot dogs and hearty breakfasts. Nearly every square centimeter of the interior is covered in vintage curios and quirky collectibles, making it both a classic dining experience and a museum of sorts.
This route offers several air travel options: O’Hare International (ORD) and Midway International (MDW) airports in Chicago; connecting flights to Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (SPI) in Springfield; or St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) across the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri.