He showed up in Little Rock for the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library — and Bill Clinton was, um, no Abe Lincoln.
But will he come to Springfield to honor a real Republican?
At press time, we still don’t know whether President George W. Bush plans to show up to dedicate the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
The clues say there’s a chance: Library and museum employees have had to undergo police checks; the city has announced heightened security measures befitting a visit by the leader of the free world; local conservatives seem a bit giddier than usual.
We at Illinois Times have been hoping for a presidential visit — and so has a chunk of Springfield, judging from the reaction our life-size Cardboard George has been getting around town (see pictures).
Way we figure, it’s always good for a commander-in-chief to hang with regular folks — provided he keeps a watchful eye on a certain downtown barkeep.
To help out the White House schedulers, we came up with a dozen of our favorite places. Most of them don’t show up in the slick tourism brochures, such as that superlative guide to all things Springfieldian, the Capital City Visitor.
Of course, if the prez can’t make it, our list
will still prove useful to our more adventurous visitors.
3115 Sangamon Ave.; 217-544-0838
Every burg’s got dozens of dives that serve up hash and eggs. But in Springfield, Johnny’s Restaurant at King Pin Lanes bowls over the competition. The food’s cheap and yummy, but that’s almost beside the point. What makes Johnny’s great is the added feature of being able to watch the bowlers while you butter your biscuits. And what makes Johnny’s extra-special is Judy, the quick-witted bartender who’s worked at the joint for more than 40 years. Judy says she voted for George W. because “Mrs. Bush is a classy lady.” But Judy doesn’t expect the president to saddle up at her counter any time soon. If he did, she says, “I’d probably sh*t my nickels.”
306 E. Washington St.; 217-525-0438
Why should W visit a gay bar? Or, rather, why should
he visit a gay bar when he’s not campaigning for anything? Well,
because it’s a Lincoln landmark — that’s why! Just check
out the plaque on the corner of the building: “Site of the First
Presbyterian Church in which Abraham Lincoln rented a pew 1842-1861 and
where the family attended service.” If the prez stops by on Tuesday
night, he’ll find Station House in full-swing karaoke mode. DJ Kenny
Terrill says “Summer Nights” from Grease is the most popular choice. “Oh Lord, all those
drunk people? If they don’t sing anything in the world, they try to
sing that song,” he says. Asked what he’d recommend for the
prez to sing, Terrill comes up with a good 1980s hit by the one-hit wonder
band Boys Don’t Cry: “I Wanna Be a Cowboy.” Yeehaw!
300 E. Adams St.; 217-544-5172
The president’s boozing days are history, he
says. Nearly 30 years have passed since W got slapped with a DUI and nearly
20 years since he oiled his tonsils for the last time. That’s a
shame, because Springfield’s downtown bars are hopping. On the off
chance that W falls off the wagon during his capital-city visit, he might
want to skip the trendy watering holes and blow over to Machino’s, a
dusty old saloon for the world-weary that offers the best country jukebox
in town. He could even soak up some history with his suds. Some say
Machino’s — formerly located in Thayer and then at Fourth and
Adams — was the first in the state to obtain a liquor license after
Prohibition. But the president had better come prepared to debate: Julius
Machino, the 94-year-old owner who still stops by most mornings, is a
lifelong Democrat, and bartender Mike Finley might not be too cordial.
“I’d probably punch him in the nose,” Finley says,
unsmiling. “He ought to keep his stinkin’ fingers out of Social
St. John’s Breadline
430 N. Fifth St.; 217-528-6098
Our leader would be hard pressed to find more
kindhearted souls than the ones who volunteer at St. John’s
Breadline, which serves up about 600 free meals a day, seven days a week,
365 days a year. A stop there would give him a chance to mingle with
members of Springfield’s sizable homeless population. The experience
might even cause him to rethink his decision to nix funding for several
critical federal-housing programs for the poor. But Breadline volunteers
would be far more apt to nurture the president than question his politics.
“We’d feed him,” kitchen helper Karen Merschman says,
“then we’d ask him to volunteer.”
Sun’s Up Koffee Kafe
1001 N. First St.; 217-522-5348
Sun’s Up owner Julie Kluge is easily starstruck.
She thrills at the new role her cozy hippie-themed café plays in the
local music scene. Kluge has hosted such songwriters extraordinaire as Jill
Manning and Illinois Times’ own Tom Irwin during open-mic shows now held regularly on
Thursday evenings. But Kluge has yet to see a powerful pol pass through her
doors. “I can’t even get the mayor of Springfield to come in
here,” she says. Maybe the president will beat out Tim Davlin for an
Almond Joy mocha and a stick of incense. If so, Kluge says, he’ll be
welcome, but “I’d rather have Clinton.”
1451 Taylor Ave., 217-620-1013
For a taste of home, the president should motor east
and roll up on PT’s B-B-Q, the erstwhile snow-cone booth parked by
the belching smokers. The long, patient line that forms every single clear
day testifies to Chef Perry Hines’ finesse with the flame. The most
popular item, he says, is rib tips — the savory meat and gristle from
the end of the bone. Slabs may be ordered dry or “wet,” doused
in homemade barbecue sauce. Most of the sides — macaroni and cheese,
spaghetti, greens — are also homemade, as are the peach cobbler and
Sam’s Italian Pizza
731 E. North Grand Ave.; 217-522-9111
It can be tough to find a seat in this cozy diner,
especially at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, when Republican heavyweight Claudio
Pecori holds court. Everybody who’s anybody, as far as the GOP goes,
shows up to nosh with Pecori, who has a table that stretches down the
middle of the restaurant. It’s beyond reserved; the owner creates a
specialty every week for Pecori and pals (last week it was pasta fagioli,
specifically ditali with
pintos, broccoli, and carrots; state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was guest
of honor). Still, Pecori could certainly find seats at the table for Bush
and his entourage. “I would be more than happy to do that,” he
2901 S. MacArthur Blvd.; 217-787-2996
Penny Lane is Springfield’s one-stop shop for
all things countercultural and taboo. Here, patrons can stock up on peace
pipes and dugouts, biker jackets, S/M collars and sex toys, Zippos, and
flasks. Springfield’s only head shop has lured several B-list stars,
such as comedian Carrot Top, as they tour the country. “The last time
a limo pulled up here,” store manager Harvey Utterback says,
“Bridget the Porn Midget got out.” Bridget, you may have
guessed, is a featured guest on the Howard
Boyd’s New Generation Restaurant
1831 E. South Grand Ave., 217-544-9866
If we want W to linger in Springfield (maybe you do,
maybe you don’t, just play along here), we should hijack his caravan
and transport him to Boyd’s. Whether it’s some secret
ingredient they put in the cornbread, or just the euphoria of a feast
reminiscent of Sunday dinner at Mother’s (without the side serving of
catty comments like “I hope that outfit was on the clearance rack . .
. ”), there’s something positively addictive about the food at
Boyd’s, where choosing among the scrumptious sides presents a
conundrum. So what would Bush choose? The boiled okra or the always-perfect
al dente greens? “He’s have ’em both,” says
owner emeritus Albert Boyd, “because he wants to be a
Museum of Funeral Customs
1440 Monument Ave.; 217-544-3480
The prez might be tempted to visit Oak Ridge Cemetery
to see our resident president’s current digs. But he ought to stop
shy of the cemetery gates and proceed to the Museum of Funeral Customs
— one of only two of its kind in the country. Inside, he can see a
replica of the black coffin with silver studs and stars used for Abraham
Lincoln. Museum director Jon Austin says Bush might even learn a thing or
two: “If the president has not dealt thoroughly with grief,”
Austin says, “visiting a museum like this could help him better
understand how a loved one’s remains are prepared for burial.”
At the very least, he could scarf down a candy coffin — available in
milk and dark chocolate at this splendidly morbid museum’s gift shop.
525 S. Pasfield St.; 217-525-3663
So what if W were to fall under Springfield’s
spell and decide to stay more than a day? Aren’t all of the nice
hotel suites already booked by bigwigs? Well, of course they are! But no
worries — we found A-plus accommodations at Pasfield House, a B&B
owned and operated by a well-known member of the Illinois GOP, Tony Leone.
The fact that all five suites in the historic home are rented out to
(Republican) state legislators doesn’t matter. “There’s a
hierarchy in politics, and I’m sure all the current residents would
gladly yield to the president and his entourage,” Leone says. If W
visits, he can check out Tony’s “Plastic Abe”; Cardboard
George already has (see cover).
A&W Restaurant (Air
3300 J. David Jones Parkway, 217-523-0084
On his way out of town, the president might catch a glimpse of the A&W root beer stand near the airport and tell his driver to pull over. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia for his childhood and simpler times in general, our commander-in-chief could dispatch one of his Secret Service guys: “Go in and get me a root beer float and some of those fried cheese curds,” W could say. “I’m gonna sit out here and watch the planes take off and land.” Fried cheese curds — wouldn’t that be the perfect way to end anybody’s visit to Springfield?