Road trips often include hours in which you are stuck sitting in traffic. We flew to Chicago several weeks ago and rented a car. It wasn’t necessarily suprising to us that we got stuck in traffic between O’Hare and downtown Chicago. Nevertheless, I started to look at the signs for restaurants and wondered if it wouldn’t be a good idea to get off, find something to eat, and wait for some of the traffic to clear. When you aren’t from the area, finding a neighborhood where you will feel safe stopping can be tricky, though. We didn’t end up stopping in Chicago.
Our travel was booked through Priceline. We got a good deal but, as they say, you get what you pay for. The neighborhood architecture was far from charming: it looked like the building across the street was a recently-closed Kmart. Our Red Roof Inn did not offer anything more than coffee for breakfast, but IHOP was right next door.
We stayed for a few days, so we tried a couple of non-chain restaurants. Two you might try if you find yourself near Lansing, IL:
Round the Clock Restaurant:
“Lunch” includes everything (soup or salad + rolls + entree + choice of side + dessert), and they are in generous portion sizes. I chose the gyro with sweet potato fries + salad. When the waitress came to tell us that dessert was also included, I had her box up a piece of cheesecake.
Saturday’s special was 4 for $4. We each knew, just looking at the menu, that 1 thing from each of the 4 categories was going to add up to too much, but economically it made sense to order the special rather than a regular entree or a la carte.
Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop:
I especially liked the decor. They have different-styled seating areas to suit your purpose. It was nice to have cajun food as an option.
Anna and Joel volunteered to host the first tasting of 2017 in their home. The cold and the falling snow outside was perfect weather for a late-morning coffee tasting.
My husband had to drive to Ambler to purchase some locally-roasted beans. Our newest supplier is only open Thursday and Saturday mornings. It is worth following their schedule, because the “farmer’s market” that also sells their beans adds $6/lb to the price they charge.
While he was purchasing a pound of Aged Sumtra, I caught a ride with our neighbors. When we all arrived, our hosts had the table set and our Coffee Tasting Charts ready.
Our newest guest got to figure out what the proper ratio of grounds to hot water should be.
We tried her Guatamalan bean brew first.
Aroma: earthy, nutty
Acidity: low (some said tart)
Flavor: sour, cocoa (most said bitter)
Next, we used a fancy hand grinder for our Aged Sumatra.
We were a bit hasty on the brew. So the characteristics weren’t as pronounced as they could have been.
Aroma: cardboard, earthy (nutty)
Flavor: sour (some also added “bitter”)
Our neighbors’ beans were also from Parry Coffee Roasters. The Kenya AA+ brew was prefered by all.
Aroma: floral, cocoa (earthy)
Body: medium, round
Flavor: complex, cocoa, fruit
Our host and hostess brewed Fresh Market’s Blend. Perhaps some of its downfall was it’s place in the tasting. After 3 other samples, your sensory faculties can get worn out.
Aroma: old, dirty, stale (several people described it as “Industrial”)
Body: heavy / medium
Flavor: cocoa, stale
Anna’s breakfast casserole, some cheese bread, and a bowl of fruit were a welcome finish to our Saturday morning get-together.