RESTAURANTS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Rather than name a single winner in this eatery category, we thought it would be more fun to alert readers to several delightful out-of-the-way discoveries nominated in our Best of Springfield survey.
2406 W Jefferson St, 698-9256
Tucked away on Jefferson, this place is easy to pass until you go there once. Then you’ll never pass it up again. A haven for hunters, wannabe hunters, or non-hunters who just love good food, Westwoods Lodge has a menu that looks like it came out of your camp nightmares, but worry not. The “Pinecones”? Tasty deep fried mashed potatoes. “Acorns”? Whole mini-potatoes with garlic and pamesean. Their take on the horseshoe, the “Snowshoe,” comes with all kinds of unique options. We recommend the brisket sandwich and, if you can handle it, their Bear Track Dessert, which is a deep-fried cheesecake topped with honey, cinnamon, sugar and whipped cream. Be still our beating hearts.
Star 66 Café
3752 Camp Butler Rd., 523-0611
Who knew a tiny restaurant next to a gas station would be such a favorite? Then we went and figured out exactly what people were talking about. This word-of-mouth café isn’t just for truckers on a road break. Often packed, especially on Sunday mornings, Star 66 carries tasty classic comfort dishes delivered to your table by fast and skilled servers. In fact, their service is what our voters spoke of most in their comments. “When I’m hungry, I don’t need anything fancy. Just truly delicious food and good people.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
6141 Main St, Salisbury, 626-2022
Though Morning Star is only 12 years old, its rustic quality brings you to another time altogether. Owner Pat Adamski says this was her goal. Returning to Springfield after living in Israel, Pat was ready to follow her dream of opening a tea room, and, with her parents Bill and Georgia, purchased a 100-year-old barn and used its pieces for the parts of the café. Yes, that’s a 100-year-old door you’re pushing open to get your sandwiches and pies. Well known for her chicken salad and olive nut sandwiches, broccoli salad, and delicious desserts, Pat’s favorites are the crépes. The spinach chicken mushroom crépe? with Swiss cheese sauce is her top pick. Trust us, there’s nothing on the menu that will disappoint you.
310 E Ebony St, Thayer, 965-9860
The more things change, the more they stay the same, and though Maggie’s in Thayer has seen a few different owners in its day, its most famous menu items have been in place since the 1930s. Opened in 1929 by Maggie Enrietta, Maggie’s current iteration still serves its famous fried chicken, spaghetti and house dressing that has kept the American-Italian style family restaurant in business. Owner Josh Snodgrass stays true to the restaurant’s roots when asked about his favorite – he picked the fried chicken, but in the spirit of modernity, he is also a big fan of their horseshoes. Attracting locals and visitors from the surrounding areas, Maggie’s is as much of a mainstay as its menu favorites.
994 Ann Rutledge Rd, Williamsville, 566-2067
Started in Georgia in 1964, the 24-hour Huddle House now has over 430 locations. The one that causes our locals to pull over within minutes of starting a road trip is in Williamsville. Known for its breakfast delights like pecan waffles and the intimidating “Smothered Southern” (biscuits, hashbrowns, bacon or sausage, topped with gravy, re-topped with cheese), they also have a huge lunch and dinner menu with down home favorites like ribeye and country-fried steak. You can get everything to go, too, that is if you can handle waiting to eat it all.
112 W Main St, Williamsville, 566-2800
The Blucat Café in Williamsville may be aesthetically lovely and interesting, but it’s more than just a pretty face. The breads are all made in-house, the menu offers delicious homemade takes on classics like corned beef and the ubiquitous horseshoe, and the pies are outstanding. Plus who doesn’t like dinner and a show? Live music makes an already winning restaurant experience even more so. A reader writes: “The Blucat Café is phenomenal! Great food, music and Jill Manning, the owner, is friendly and makes sure her customers are happy. She’ll even make something special. The homemade bread is fab!”
The Creek Pub & Grill
1081 Jason Pl, Chatham, 483-8282
Get ready for new things, Creek-lovers. The Creek is, as we speak, readying to roll out their new menu, with more dinner options and a few healthier items, available right around Halloween, perhaps as you read this. With its numerous flat screen TVs and game room, The Creek is a great place for families, particularly on half-priced pizza night every Monday. Says manager Kevin Daugherty, “It gives Chatham another option without having to drive to Springfield. We get regulars from Auburn and Divernon who want a good place to eat, but don’t want to bother with the hustle and bustle of traffic in Springfield.”
BEST DANCE INSTRUCTOR
TurnOut Movement Arts Studio
1820 Stevenson Dr., 816-3888
Opening her own studio in her second year of grad school, Tracey Sims initially started as a hip hop instructor. Over time, she came to offer all aspects of dance, including the class that you let us know touched you most: her Gettin’ Down dance class for kids with Down Syndrome. Inspired by her boyfriend’s brother, who has Down’s, Sims decided to do her master’s in Movement Therapy final project on teaching dance to other people with the condition. “I’d done so much work and research… it made it easy to do it as a class at the studio.” Our voters were very thankful. “The Turnout Dance Studio, under the direction of Miss Tracey, gives my handicapped daughter a chance to be like all kids. Tracey is a positive influence and a great role model for the students as well as the young people she has working with her.”
Runner-up: Janet Cripe at Dance Creations
BEST THEATRICAL PERFORMER
You’ve seen him on TV – the reserved weatherman on the Channel 20 news. But Gus Gordon gets to be an entirely different person on stage, and his passion for acting has earned him the title of “Best actor” many years in a row. From his first acting role in his high school production of A Christmas Carol, Gordon was hooked. Acting, he says, helped him gain confidence and find his standing in the social structure of high school. “I wouldn’t be doing what I do today, as a weatherman, unless I’d taken that first step and auditioned for a show,” he says. But the modest meteorologist is quick to heap praise on his fellow Springfield actors, of whom he says there are “so many others worthy” of being called “best.” Gordon’s next on-stage performance will be around Christmas, when he will star in the new musical, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!). Until then, his fans will have to settle for watching him “perform” the forecast.
Runner-up: Mary Kate Smith
BEST LOCAL BLOG
Founder Kim Leistner Little will celebrate the fifth anniversary of SpringfieldMoms.org this November. Her initial newsletter sent to 30 friends at the start has grown to a thriving enterprise that draws 10,000 hits a month. “The intention is for people to get with us when they’re pregnant and stay with us,” she explains. “When we started we focused on kids from birth to pre-school, but now we’re from birth to college; most from birth to age 13. The page was redesigned since readers voted it Best Blog in 2008. Among the additions, a “Mom’s Faves” page, Featured Events listed at the home page, a What Do You Think? poll, and coupons aplenty. From a one-woman show, Kim has added four paid staffers and a volunteer advisory board. Plans to franchise SpringfieldMoms.org are in the works.
Capitol Fax Blog and Blog Free Springfield finished second and third in the voting.
Runner-up: Capitol Fax Blog