In this post we’re going to take a little detour about 40 minutes from downtown, to Southern Illinois! I now live close to St. Louis proper, but I grew up on the Southern Illinois side with the wonders of Sacred Grounds, Lotawata Creek, and King Louie’s. All of these establishments are worth a jaunt across the river.
Sacred Grounds, true to it’s name, is sacred to me as my first foray into coffee and coffeehouses. I was born into a house devoid of coffee drinkers, but at sixteen the aroma began to tantalize me. With no coffeemaker at home, Sacred Grounds was my coffee temple in the somewhat college town of Edwardsville, Illinois. Here I experimented with the different blends, latte’s, and cappuccinos they had to offer, while absorbing the atmosphere created by the exposed bricks and featured local art pieces. From mornings quietly sipping the bottomless cup of pecan blend waiting for my shift to start at chain restaurant nearby, to spending evenings playing board games with my friends, honey latte in hand, while laughter rang through the air, some of my best high school memories are contained in Sacred Grounds walls. Nearly twenty years later, I still enjoy rare visits to enjoy my latte, while my daughters enjoy hot chocolate or a flavored milk steamer. The coffeehouse vibe still makes me feel at home every time.
Lotawata Creek Southern Grill is the furthest trek I make to Fairview Heights, but the food is that good! This one again brings back high school memories as it opened my freshman year of high school. Word quickly spread of buckets of onion rings and the summer camp decor. Not being a huge onion ring fan (I just take the breading off and eat it) I wasn’t impressed, but my parents really wanted to go. I ordered the stuffed mushrooms and a platter came to me full of about 10 mushrooms the size of my fist stuffed with cream cheese deliciousness and a bowl of creamy horseradish sauce for dipping! The portion size for this appetizer are so large (just like all the other menu items) that you could share it, but I refuse. I take half home and nobody better touch my leftovers! Besides, you’ll be pretty full from the small loaves of bread and sweet butter they bring you while you wait for your food. They are also known for Southern fare, incredible burgers and my daughters love the kids ribs, but I’m always in it for the mushrooms!
KING LOUIE’S DRIVE-IN
Speaking of great fried mushrooms, King Louie’s in Wood River has some of the best fried mushrooms in the area served with homemade buttermilk ranch. This greasy spoon, true gem of a dive has been serving up juicy made to order burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs for decades. And how many fast food joints offer fried cauliflower and tamales! When I’m nearby, I can’t wait to get some loaded potato planks and their blend of root beer for my kiddos! I usually go inside or call ahead as the food does take while, but King Louie’s still operates as an old time Drive-in, not drive through if you want to have a true experience.
Southern Illinois is chock-full of independent restaurants that deserve a trip, but today I have shared my favorites from my youth that have shown staying power and fill me with nostalgia. Try one out and let me know what you think!