We ate well in Springfield.
As I mentioned in my last post about chasing the Lincoln ghosts, I had the opportunity to join Sara of Travel With Sara on a road trip to Springfield, Illinois last week. The Springfield Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau graciously invited Sara to visit and provided our lodging, activities, and restaurants.
This was our first time in Springfield, so we left the restaurant choices in the bureau’s hands.
Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery
This microbrewery and restaurant is located in renovated homes from Lincoln’s era. The original home owners were actually the Lincolns’ close friends.
The inside of the restaurant features elegant rooms decorated in various themes. It’s almost like Jay Gatsby opened a restaurant inside his mansion and charged affordable prices.
We saw people enjoying the outdoor seating whenever we passed by the brewery. There’s something about watching people enjoy food and libations al fresco that always makes me feel cheery.
Fish and chips is one of my favorite treat meals. I ordered the single portion which included a decently-sized fillet on top of a big pile of battered fries. The fish was coated in a shatteringly-crisp beer batter that wasn’t too greasy. I doused everything in lots of malt vinegar. The side salad with balsamic dressing helped cut the fried foods.
For dessert, Sara shared her bread pudding with me. I lean towards salty flavors, so one bite of a dessert is typically enough, but I found myself finishing everything she left on her plate.
Cafe Moxo is a popular downtown lunch spot. The line was long but moved quickly. If you arrive during a weekday lunch rush, try to decide what you want to order before you get in line. The line really does move that quickly! I didn’t want to hold up the line so I ended up blurting out Light As A Feather Heather, the first sandwich that came to mind.
“What kind of sandwich is that?” Sara asked.
“I have no idea,” I replied, and I really didn’t.
We easily found a table in the back room and it was peaceful in contrast to the busy front counter. The cafe must do a brisk take-out business for downtown employees. Our food quickly arrived quickly. We both chose the bag lunch option for $10 that included a whole sandwich, chips or pasta salad, beverage, and cookie.
My sandwich was composed of salad greens, cucumber, tomato, shaved red onion, brie cheese, and creamy dill spread. I liked that the cheese and spread provided satisfying richness. The pasta salad was so light and refreshing that we schemed about how we could recreate it at home throughout the entire trip.
Cozy Dog Drive In
Sara and I got our kicks on Route 66 in the form of Cozy Dogs.
I’ve seen the western portion of Route 66 featured on many blogs and television shows, but did not know it began in Illinois. This drive in’s claims to fame are that it’s located on Route 66 and invented the corn dog. Cozy Dogs first appeared at the Illinois State Fair in 1946, and the Drive In was relocated to its current location in 1996. The interior looks like an old-fashioned diner, featuring festive, pink tabletops and memorabilia.
Sara and I ordered two Cozy Dogs, two small orders of fries, cheese sticks and a soda and were surprised when our order did not top $10.
The server explained that their burgers are made from local beef and their fries are cut in-house each day.
Our freshly-dipped and fried corn dogs were a treat. The batter had an interesting seasoning that I couldn’t put my finger on. Too bad I was too full to go back for seconds.
Mary Todd Lincoln Loved Food
One my favorite pieces of knowledge I gleaned in Springfield was from a National Park Ranger at the Lincoln House who said, “Mary Lincoln thought of cooking as a hobby, not a chore.” She added that Mary was known for starting as a terrible cook but kept practicing until her skills became a source of pride.
Right before the Lincoln family moved to Washington upon Abraham’s inauguration, Mary had bought a new stove which is still displayed in their home. This model was the hottest model back in Mary’s time and our tour guide said she was sad to leave it behind.
The photo to the upper right shows Mary’s original cake platter. She often baked cakes for family and visitors and is especially known for her white cake made with ground, blanched almonds and egg whites.
I found this Mary Lincoln tea towel in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum & Library gift shop. If I hadn’t visited Springfield, I would never have known Mary Lincoln tea towels were a thing, nor how badly I needed one.
The only thing I regret about our Springfield food adventures in not having enough time to try more restaurants. We fit in as much as possible within 36 hours.
There’s so much to eat in Springfield. Next time I’ll try an iconic Horse Shoe Sandwich or pop into a chili parlor. For now, I’ll settle for baking Mary Lincoln’s cake and plotting my return.
Thanks again Springfield Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau for hosting us!