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Friday, April 7, 2017 03:33 pm

Food and drinks

Where to go in Springfield when it’s time to eat Winners of Illinois Times 2016 Best of Springfield

Charlie Parker’s Diner is a local favorite and has won BEST BREAKFAST in the Best of Springfield several years in a row. Plus, kids 3 and under eat free with an adult.
Photo by Carol Weems.

 

Telephone area code is 217 unless otherwise specified.


BEST BURGER

Krekel’s Custard and Hamburgers
2121 North Grand Avenue, 525-4952

Not sure where to find Krekel’s – just look for the chicken. But it’s the beef burgers that have been Krekel’s claim to fame since 1949 – fresh, never frozen, smashed onto a sizzling hot griddle and served with a toasted bun that’s been hit with butter. Reasonably priced and available in a single, double or triple, they pair well with Krekel’s handmade shakes and delicious fries. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it can’t be the perfect meal. We love Krekel’s for understanding that and for having seven locations in central Illinois.

Finalists: The Burger Bar; Five Guy’s Burgers & Fries; Red Robin Gourmet Burgers; Arlington’s


Best Bakery

Incredibly Delicious Bakery and Cafe
925 S Seventh Street, 528-8548

Winning again this year, Incredibly Delicious provides Springfield with delicious cakes, pastries and bread. We love the aroma of freshly baked bread, especially when dining al fresco in the patio area around the ever-changing landscaping at the Weber House. Yes, that’s right – Incredibly Delicious also serves lunch. But Springfield is most impressed with the output of their talented bakers. Try the “all butter” handmade croissants (available in plain, raspberry, chocolate and almond cream) that melt in your mouth or their tarts. Illinois Times’ readers are also impressed with the handmade, stone-baked breads made with unbleached non-GMO wheat.

Finalists: Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet; Hy-Vee; Specialty Cakes; Cocoa Blue Chocolates


BEST CHILI

The Chili Parlor
820 South Ninth Street, 523-4989

Although it’s changed hands since winning “best of” recognition last year, little has changed at the Chili Parlor. And that’s something we’re thankful for because the Parlor serves up some seriously good chili (with one “I”). Readers appreciate that they can customize their orders in terms of their own standards for heat, oil and beans. Eat a bowl of the Firebrand (the spiciest version) and get your name memorialized on the wall. We dare you to try to eat multiple bowls in an attempt to break the current record. And don’t forget to try the chili burger, chili dog or the tamales. We hope that the Parlor has another 70 years of success.

Finalists: Dew Chilli Parlor; Steak ’n Shake; Cook’s Spice Rack and Chili; The Dublin Pub


Best Breakfast

Charlie Parker’s Diner
100 North Street, 241-2104

Charlie Parker’s Diner, featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and in a slew of regional and national print publications, wins again this year for Springfield’s Best Breakfast. Charlie Parker’s has just about perfected the diner breakfast while keeping costs reasonable. Maybe that’s why it won the Hometown Breakfast Battle between 135 restaurants from across the country. And as to ambience, where else can you dine in a Quonset hut formerly used as a maintenance shed and a bait shop? Don’t forget kids 3 and under eat free with an adult.

Finalists: Le Peep; DJ’s Café; Hamburger Dan’s Sunrise Café; Sgt. Peppers Café


BEST CHEAP DRINK
COLDEST CHEAP BEER

Curve Inn
3219 S. Sixth Street, 529-5806

With its large beer garden and eclectic menu of live music, there’s more to the Curve than cold and cheap beer. But, if that’s what motivates you, the Curve Inn should be your preferred destination. Whether on tap or in bottles, the Curve has you covered. Looking beyond beer? Don’t forget “Sunday Fundays” during the NFL season with free food and $2.50 bloodys and $1 domestic drafts. Readers like $.25 wing night on Mondays and $1.25 burgers on Tuesday. Looking to stretch your dollar and have some fun? The Curve Inn is your place.

Finalists – Best Cheap Drink: The Blue Grouch Pub; Boones Saloon; The Dublin Pub; Weebles Bar & Grill
Finalists – Coldest Cheap Beer: The Blue Grouch Pub; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Weebles Bar & Grill; The Burger Bar; The Dublin Pub; George Rank’s



Best BBQ

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill
2660 S. Dirksen Parkway, 528-6410

Along with pizza and chili, Springfield loves to debate who has the best BBQ. This year, the award goes to Smokey Bones. Whether it’s St. Louis-style ribs or Texas-style beef brisket, all of Smokey Bones’ BBQ is smoked on-site over 18-inch hickory logs. And all the “Q” is served with a variety of distinct sauces sure to please the most finicky eater. Make sure to sop up the excess with some of their delicious garlic bread. In the mood for something else? Smokey Bones has you covered with a variety of more traditional items.

Finalists: McCormick’s Smokehouse Restaurant; Hickory River Smokehouse; Twyford BBQ; Clay’s Popeye’s BBQ



BEST DONUTS

Mel-O-Cream
217 E. Laurel Street, 544-4644
1953 W. Monroe Street, 546-4651
525 E. North Grand Avenue, 528-2303
3010 S. Sixth Street, 529-7708

Mel-O-Cream, one of Springfield’s best known establishments, has been producing delicious donuts for 80 years here in the capital city. Whether you like cake donuts, old-fashioned donuts or cream-filled donuts, Mel-O-Cream has something for you. The cream-filled donuts are particularly delicious with a perfect balance of sweet, but yet not too sweet, cream filling. The earlier you get there the better, as they tend to sell out of the most popular donuts. Newcomers have arrived in Springfield to try to steal the spotlight away, but our readers have clearly declared Mel-O-Cream simply the best.

Finalists: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts; Dunkin’ Donuts; Casey’s General Store; Schnucks Bakery


BEST COFFEE HOUSE

Grab-A-Java
1702 South Sixth Street,
523-5282

We remember when coffee choices were as simple as cream and sugar. But no matter the choices, Springfield knows that the only thing that counts in the morning is taste and flavor. And that’s why Garb-A-Java gets the nod for another year. Its dedication to the craft of brewing the perfect cup has earned it our readers’ respect – not just for its many varieties, but also because of the ease its drive-through offers. You’re virtually guaranteed to find your preferred brew (or Chai, tea, smoothie or freeze) here. Need something more? Make sure to pick up some freshly baked scones, muffins or cookies to help get you moving in the morning.

Finalists: Wm. Van’s Coffee House; Bunn Gourmet; Custom Cup Coffee; Café Andiamo


BEST FOOD TRUCK

Cooper’s StrEatside
Locations Vary, call 415-3852

Despite some resistance from brick-and-mortar restaurants, food trucks have made an impact on Springfield’s dining scene. For the second year, Illinois Times’ readers gave the nod to Cooper’s StrEatside as Springfield’s Best Food Truck. It’s not surprising, given that its owner trained at the legendary Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. While we’re fans of the Bahn Mi Pork Sandwich (marinated grilled pork chop, pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and spicy mayo), our readers are particularly fond of the Breakfast Taco and the Fresh Cut Fries (add some garlic for an extra pop, but be sure to bring your breath mints). Judging from the lines every time we see the truck pop up all over Springfield, we’re betting on its continued success.

Finalists: Chadito’s Mexican American Grill; Twyford BBQ; Gilly’s BBQ; Brighter Life Foods-Farm Kitchen


BEST GYROS

Gyros Stop
2907 South MacArthur Blvd, 698-6463
2345 West Monroe,
546-3442
4127 Wabash, 546-8830

Gyros Stop wins this category for a stunning eighth year. With a huge array of options (including a deep-fried gyro), Gyros Stop is the place to go when you’re hankering for some Greek comfort food. But there’s plenty more than gyros here, like the classic Greek souvlaki (shish-ka-bob), spinach pie, falafel and even burgers and horseshoes. If you’re inclined for something a bit lighter, then opt for one of their many salads. No matter what you get, make sure to ask for a side of tzatziki, a Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce. Gyros Stop has about perfected the dish.

Finalists: Yanni’s Gyros; Zach’s Wraps; Chi Town’s Finest


BEST HORSESHOE

D’Arcy’s Pint
661 West Stanford Avenue, 492-8800

Springfield’s culinary claim to fame is the Horseshoe, and the standard by which all others are judged is D’Arcy’s. For yet another year, it’s garnered the city’s “best of” award. Ask your friends where they’d take an out-of-town visitor for their first horseshoe, and D’Arcys is almost always the first name that you hear. But don’t forget the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (available grilled if you’re feeling healthy) – generously sized and well-seasoned, this is pub food at its best. Weather permitting, diners can enjoy socializing in the outdoor beer garden. For the history buffs, D’Arcy’s has repurposed the ice cream counter from the former Sugar Bowl from yesteryear. Nicely done.

Finalists: The Dublin Pub; Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill; Ritz’s Lil Fryer; Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery, Top Cats Chill & Grill


BEST ICE CREAM/FROYO

Cold Stone Creamery
124 South Sixth Street, 523-6666

Who doesn’t love frozen desserts? Especially when they come from Cold Stone. Cold Stone ice cream is churned on premises every day. For that reason and for many more, Cold Stone is the place to go, according to Springfield. Whether you feel like a scoop of ice cream with delicious toppings mixed in or the ever popular waffle cones, sundaes, smoothies or milkshakes, Cold Stone has it all and more. Have a special occasion coming up? They can do an ice cream cake for you. There really is something for everyone – including those who require gluten-free or lactose-free dishes.

Finalists: Baskin Robbins; Cherry Berry; Dairy Queen; Scoop Du Jour Ice Cream Parlor


BEST DEEP DISH PIZZA

Nancy’s Chicago Pizza
2301 W. Monroe Street, 679-0456

Deep dish pizza is relatively new to Springfield. Although a Chicago favorite, until recently we’ve had only pale imitations. Which is why Springfield has embraced Nancy’s Chicago Pizza. If you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out. Nancy’s stuffed deep dish pizza offers the perfect ratio of bread to cheese with just the right amount of sauce to round it out. Not only is it delicious, but it is sturdy enough to dig into with your hands instead of using a knife and fork. In a hurry? Don’t forget to order ahead – perfection doesn’t come quickly. Delivery available.

Finalists: DiCarlo’s Pizza (Virden); Godfather’s Pizza; Bella Milano; Rosati’s Pizza


BEST THIN CRUST PIZZA

Gabatoni’s Restaurant &
Cocktail Lounge
300 East Laurel, 528-9629

With so many options for thin crust pizza, we’ve seen spirited debates over Springfield’s preferred purveyor of this everyman’s favorite. Yet again, the award goes to Gabatoni’s. Dishing up delectable goodness for over 60 years, we aren’t surprised that they win again. While the collective favorite seems to be the EBA (everything but anchovies), we love that Gabatoni’s menu goes well beyond pizza. Thinking about going on a weekend night? Make sure to place a reservation. It’s popular for a reason.

Finalists: Bernie & Betty’s Pizza and Fine Food; Antonio’s Pizza; Dillon’s Pizza; Nancy’s Chicago Pizza


BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT
BEST COCKTAIL MENU


Osaka Japanese Restaurant
1665 Wabash Avenue, 726-8037

For yet another year, Osaka has earned the top honors for Best Japanese Restaurant in Springfield. And, this year, it adds recognition for the Best Cocktail Menu. Perhaps it’s the hibachi table, where you might find yourself having a fried bit of goodness launched by the chef into your mouth like a trained seal. Or perhaps it’s the more traditional and restrained Japanese dishes and sushi. Or it’s the exhaustive list of exotic drinks guaranteed to help transport you to the Far East. We’re fans of the Monday Martini Special ($4) and the Wednesday Wine Special ($3). In the mood for something more exotic? Osaka’s bar tenders won’t let you down.

Finalists Best Japanese Restaurant: Happy Sushi; Mimosa; Kiku Japanese Steak & Seafood House
Finalists Best Cocktail Menu: Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Driftwood Cocktail & Eatery; American Harvest Eatery; Always After Five; Indigo



BEST SUB/SANDWICH SHOP

Head West Sub Stop
1124 West Jefferson, 793-9101
3311 Robbins Road, 726-9202
2432 Denver Road, 744-7990
1281 Toronto Road, 585-7990
530 East Capitol Avenue,
789-9101
7032 Kings Mill Court, Chatham, 670-0111
450 State Street, Rochester,
498-1182
3325 S. Sixth St. Rd., 679-2477

Springfield has seen quite a few new entrants in this category. Yet, once again, Head West has come out on top. Our readers like the slightly sweet bread that holds together the generously sized sandwiches, as well as the reasonable prices. The verdict is out on whether to toast the bread or not, but Springfield’s certain that Head West is tops in this category. Head West serves up a great product in a “chill” environment. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra Italian dressing.

Finalists: Monty’s Submarines; Penn Station East Coast Subs; Jimmy John’s Sandwiches; Firehouse Subs


BEST THAI RESTAURANT

Magic Kitchen
115 North Lewis Street,
525-6975
4112 North Peoria Road, 525-2230

For yet another year, Magic Kitchen earns top honors as Springfield’s best Thai restaurant. Although our readers appreciate its BYOB policy at the Peoria Road location, it’s really the food that elevates Magic Kitchen to the top. Of course there are your classics like Pad Thai and a variety of Thai Currys. But don’t miss some of the other, lesser known, dishes like Thai noodle soup and Tua Nawk Si Kai (bean sprouts, green onions, tofu and egg served with a spicy sauce.) We like that you can custom order your level of spice for most of Magic Kitchen’s dishes. On busy nights, we also like the tailgate feel at the Peoria Road location as diners wait their turn for Springfield’s best Thai food.

Finalists: Little Saigon; Thai Kitchen; Mekong Café; Taste of Thai


BEST FINE DINING
BEST WINE SELECTION
BY GLASS


Cooper’s Hawk Winery
& Restaurant
2501 Wabash Avenue,
321-9100

Cooper’s Hawk wins again, but this year for fine dining and wine selection instead of best date venue. No matter the category, Springfield has clearly embraced Cooper’s Hawk. Whether your visit consists of lingering in the tasting room while sampling house-made wines or continues on for dinner, Cooper’s Hawk serves up quality offerings in an upscale environment. If wine isn’t your thing, there’s a full bar with a wide array of drinks to satisfy everyone. Cooper’s Hawk offers a wide expanse of menu items – ranging from sandwiches and burgers for the more informal to pastas and steaks for dates when you want to go all out. And, for the gluten-free crowd, there’s a separate menu with an unexpectedly wide array of selections.
Finalists – Best Fine Dining: Bella Milano; American Harvest Eatery; Maldaner’s; Nick & Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse; Augie’s Front Burner

Finalists – Best selection Wine by the Glass: It’s All About Wine; Danenberger Family Vineyards; Sheedy Shores Winery; American Harvest Eatery; Indigo


BEST BEER GARDEN
BEST BEER SELECTION
BEST OUTDOOR DINING


Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery
500 South Sixth Street,
670-0627

With its geographic expansion to Peoria, we have no doubt that Peorians will also be awarding Obed and Isaac’s high accolades. Who else has an enclosed dog run where man’s best friend can cavort while its owner plays bocce ball and wets the proverbial whistle with craft beer brewed on premises? Need something more substantial? There’s a full menu offering tasty morsels like goat cheese stuffed dates, pierogies, a beer and whiskey burger and Cajun shrimp and andouille sausage. Our readers love the congenial atmosphere and the owners’ commitment to historic preservation.

Finalists – Best Beer Garden: Curve Inn; Boones Saloon; Crow’s Mill Pub; Weebles Bar & Grill
Finalists – Best Beer Selection: Craft Beer Bar; Engrained Brewing Company; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Brewhaus
Finalists – Best Outdoor Dining: The Dublin Pub; Papa Frank’s; Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Maldaner’s Restaurant



BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

Chesapeake Seafood House
3045 East Clear Lake Avenue, 522-5220

Once again, Chesapeake has earned Springfield’s admiration as its best seafood restaurant. Located in an 1850s mansion, its menu is a pleasing throwback to classic dishes. For the traditional crowd, there are oysters on the half shell, chowder and surf and turf. But for the more modern, there’s the Bourbon Salmon (marinated in a sweet bourbon sauce) and the tilapia. Not into seafood? No worries, there are plenty of steaks and pastas to please pretty much any palate. And don’t forget to visit the website to print out some coupons and see the daily specials.

Finalists: Red Lobster; Old Luxemburg Inn; American Harvest Eatery; Indigo; Bella Milano


BEST PLACE FOR STEAK

Texas Roadhouse
2540 W. Iles Avenue, 698-5700

Craving a hot fresh steak cooked to perfection? Texas Roadhouse is your place. Texas Roadhouse has beaten out all the other competition and claimed the coveted spot for best steak in Springfield. They offer a wide variety of hand-cut steaks, suitable for everyone’s appetite. If you are feeling particularly hungry, Texas Roadhouse offers a Porterhouse T-Bone that weighs in at 23 ounces and that’s sure to satisfy your appetite. Or for the less ambitious eater, Texas Roadhouse offers a Dallas Filet that weighs in at 6 ounces. To accompany your steak, Texas Roadhouse offers delicious house-made sides. We’re fans.

Finalists: Alexander’s Steakhouse; Old Luxemburg Inn; Longhorn Steakhouse; Nick & Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse


BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

China Star
1899 E. Sangamon Avenue,
789-0800

Springfield is no stranger to Chinese food and voters have decided that China Star takes the “star.” China Star offers a wide variety of delicious dishes sure to please everyone’s palates. They also offer generous portions, so plan on taking some home. For those who like a little or a lot of heat to their dishes, China Star has a wide range of spicy dishes, including the classic General Tso’s Chicken and Sesame Chicken. You won’t find a bad dish in the house.

Finalists: Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet; Hunan Chinese Restaurant; Tai Pan Chinese Restaurant; Sunny China House



BEST WINERY

Danenberger Family Vineyards
12341 Irish Road, New Berlin, 488-6321

Although wineries seem to be popping up all over the place, Springfield has embraced Danenberger Family Vineyards as the best of the genre. We appreciate that their wines are made on premises. But we also appreciate the incredible facilities – pretty much the perfect place to enjoy a few glasses of Illinois’ best wine. Susan Danenberger, owner and proprietor, takes pride in her product and in making sure that all visitors feel welcomed and made at home. Going with a group? Make sure to call ahead and reserve the gazebo or the depot for a nominal fee. Trust us – it’s worth it.

Finalists: Hill Prairie Winery; Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants; Walnut Street Winery; West of Wise Winery



BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

Xochimilco
2941 West Iles Avenue, 546-3116
3210 Northfield Drive, 544-9206

Once again, Xochimilco wins for best Mexican restaurant. So what is it that fosters such loyalty? We hear about Xochimilco’s fresh ingredients and authentic recipes like Chilaquiles. And the Carnitas (seasoned, slow-roasted pork chunks served with rice, beans and tortillas) manage to pack in an intensity of flavor that’s reminiscent of trips south of the border. If you can’t find something on Xochimilco’s menu, you are too picky. Our readers say it’s the consistently excellent quality of the dishes and service that have earned their business.

Finalists: Casa Real; AZ-T-CA; La Fiesta; Cancun


BEST SUSHI

Happy Sushi
846 South Grand Avenue,
528-9799

Happy Sushi is a tiny “hole in the wall” that’s inspired some fierce loyalty. There can’t be but four tables in the place, and ambience is a word best left out of any description of Happy Sushi. But people stream in and out all day long. And that’s because of Hiro’s wonderful sushi. Portion sizes are generous for the price, and Hiro adds a nice garnish that adds to the presentation. Come to Happy Sushi more than a few times, and it’s virtually guaranteed that Hiro will remember you. Great sushi and service – that’s why Springfield’s voted Happy Sushi number one this year.

Finalists: Osaka; Mimosa; Stop and Roll Sushi; House of Hunan


BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Bella Milano
4525 Wabash Avenue, 547-0011

Despite some very stiff competition, Bella Milano edged out its peers for another year as Springfield’s best Italian restaurant. We’re fans of their addictive homemade salad dressing and the hearty and tasty bread. Not able to swing a dinner out of the house? No worries, as Bella does a banging takeout business. Whether you’re looking for pizza, pasta or a more traditional dish, Bella doesn’t disappoint.

Finalists: Saputo’s; Gabatoni’s Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge; Olive Garden; Mangia Pasta Steak & Seafood


BEST HANGOVER FOOD
BEST LATE NIGHT EATS


Steak ’n Shake
3184 South Dirksen Parkway,
529-5823
1580 Wabash Avenue, 787-0392
4211 Conestoga Drive, 698-9439

Although we don’t condone excessive drinking, it happens to the best of us from time to time. And, when you wake up with the inevitable hangover, the wise move is to avoid the hair of the dog and instead head for some comfort food. Steak ’n Shake has you covered. Not in the mood for lunch food? Make sure to try some of the breakfast offerings. We’re partial to their good burgers and fries (ordered well done, with a side of cheese) rounded out by a milkshake. Spent most of your money the night before? Don’t fret – Steak ’n Shake has multiple meal deals for under $4.

Finalists Hangover Food: Charlie Parker’s Diner; Star 66 Café; The Dublin Pub; Abe’s Takeout
Finalists Late Night Eats: Dublin Pub; La Bamba; Stop and Roll Sushi; Star 66 Cafe



BEST WEDDING CAKES

Specialty Cakes
1560 Wabash Avenue, 405-4399

We can imagine few things more important, or emotional, than nuptials. And, what’s a wedding without a cake? When it comes to this important decision, Springfield has clearly decided that Specialty Cakes has earned its trust. Readers appreciate that no-cost consultations are available. But most importantly, voters appreciate that creativity and artistic license have not displaced the fact that wedding cake has to taste delicious. Don’t forget that they offer much more than wedding cakes. Specialty Cakes can accommodate all of your baking desires.

Finalists: Incredibly Delicious Bakery & Café; Batter Matters; Sue Bull


BEST WINGS

Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill
2406 W. Jefferson Street,
698-9256

If you are looking for wings, Westwood’s is where it’s at, according to our voters. They offer traditional bone-in or boneless (breaded or grilled) wings, along with over 15 different kind of sauces. We’re fans of the traditional buffalo and sweet bbq, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can try out the buffalo parmesan garlic or the six pepper sauce. If wet sauces aren’t your thing, don’t worry, as Westwood’s offers several different dry rubs instead. Westwood’s offers their wings in several different portions designed to satisfy the single diner or larger party. Looking for something more substantial? Let Westwood’s do the cooking for you - they offer a Tailgate Special of 50 wings.

Finalists: Buffalo Wild Wings; Coz’s Pizza and Pub; Wings Etc. Grill & Pub; Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill

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