Food & Drink

The 12 best Illinois restaurants NOT in Chicago

Published On 04/08/2014 Published On 04/08/2014

Believe it or not, there are restaurants outside of Chicago that're good, too. No, not in St. Louis... gross. Definitely other cities though, including a ton of non-Chi cities in Illinois. Here's a look at IL's 12 best restaurants that're outside the city limits.

Zenwich (click here for address and info)
Elmhurst, IL 
Made-to-order Asian sandwiches packed with Korean BBQ beef, chicken satay, and Panko-crusted crab cakes all make a trip to the Western suburbs worthwhile. But the Famous Remus sandwich (Thai-marinated grilled pork tenderloin, pickled daikon & carrot relish, and sweet & sour mayo all on a freshly toasted ciabatta roll) makes it dining destination-worthy.

17th St Bar & Grill

17th St Bar & Grill (click here for address and info)
Murphysboro, IL
This isn't just one of the top BBQ joints in the state, it's one of the top 33 in the nation. Run by three-time Memphis BBQ champion Mike Mills (who's spawned restaurants in Vegas and a stake in NYC's lauded Blue Smoke), this five-hours-South-of-the-city BBQ mothership lives by Mills' favorite quote: "Life is too short for half a rack". You should probably listen to him.


Abreo (click here for address and info)
Rockford, IL
This inventive wine bar and small-plate patio helmed by Chef Paul Sletten sits right in historic Downtown Rockford (hometown of the actor who plays Mr. Turner in Boy Meets World). The menu is seasonally driven, while the duck nachos, Asian noodles, and white chocolate-blueberry bread pudding are... delicious-driven.

Bien Trucha

Bien Trucha (click here for address and info)
Geneva, IL
This tiny, Mexican dining room puts out some of the best tacos West of the city. Stop by when you're near Fox River Valley for guacamole del dia with fresh watermelon or blueberries, and adobo-marinated pork tacos.

Montarra Grill

Montarra Grill (click here for address and info)
Algonquin, IL
Adorned with an authentic Chihuly chandelier, this modern-American restaurant truly looks and feels the part of a swanky Chicago hotspot, even though it's not in Chicago. Best bets: wet-aged steaks, seared lamb lollipops, bacon-wrapped dates, and/or/but-mostly-and triple-cream brie and black truffle fondue. Barb

D'Arcy's Pint (click here for address and info)
Springfield, IL
This Irish tavern does something called "Horseshoes", a unique, regional specialty made of your choice of meat (ham, corned beef, turkey, bacon, Buffalo chicken) served over Texas toast, piled with fries, and topped with homemade cheese sauce. Yes, this is real.

One World Cafe

One World Cafe (click here for address and info)
Peoria, IL
Should you indulge a little too much in the "whiskey capital of the world", hit this popular breakfast/lunch spot across the street from Bradley University, for sustenance in the form of coffee and decadent desserts. Then maybe tie one on again at the Green Dragon Bar and Lounge inside the restaurant.

Basil's Greek Dining

Basil's Greek Dining (click here for address and info)
Aurora, IL
While Aurora doesn't have a Stan Mikita's Donuts (that Wayne's World documentary was BS), they do have one of Chicagoland's top Greek eateries with Basil's. What you're getting: the grilled octopus and gyros, both of which are "party time, excellent". Bursoni

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House (click here for address and info)
Urbana, IL
You'll want the burnt ends with red Carolina BBQ sauce at Black Dog, and you'll want them immediately, 'cause they sell out quick. Put them down with a rotating craft beer selection (because this is an ale house) and whiskey from Prichard's Distillery (... because it's whiskey from Prichard's Distillery).

Gene & Jude’s

Gene & Jude’s (click here for address and info)
River Grove, IL 
This suburban hot dog stand claims to serve the best hot dog in the state. Test the iconic red hots for yourself, like the Double Dog topped with mustard, relish, onions, sport peppers, and whoa, fries.

White Fence Farm

White Fence Farm (click here for address and info)
Romeoville, IL
Their killer fried chicken and corn fritters are worth the trek to the family-run farmland. Just trust us on this one.

Burt’s Place (click here for address and info)
Morton Grove, IL 
You haven’t polished off that deep dish bucket list until you’ve hit Burt’s for their renown caramelized crusts. Pizza maker Burt Katz has left quite a pizza legacy around Chicagoland, ranging from The Inferno in Evanston, to Gulliver’s in Rogers Park, to Pequod's in Lincoln Park.

Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor, and you can hear his dulcet tones in a recent WGN radio interview here. Follow him @SeanCooley.

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1. Abreo 515 E State St, Rockford, IL 61104

This Rockford resto serves up a variety of fare that is seasonal and chef-inspired, while also offering a long drinks list featuring craft 'tails, beer, and more than 90 wines.

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2. Montarra 1491 S Randall Rd, Algonquin, IL 60102

This classy but comfortable Algonquin establishment serves some of the finest steak and seafood around, not to mention their wine list that features 10 countries from around the globe.

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3. Zenwich 416 N York St, Elmhurst, IL 60126

This Asian-fusion sandwich shop crafts creative and tasty made-to-order 'wiches, and also features vegetarian options, soups, and salads.

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4. Basils Greek Dining 4000 Fox Valley Center Dr, Aurora, IL 60504

Located in Aurora, Basils is a contemporary Greek-Mediterranean resto featuring a full menu of options ranging from kabobs, to soups & salads, to seafood, and lamb dishes.

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5. Bien Trucha 410 W State St, Geneva, IL 60134

Show up to Bien Trucha a little early (no reservations) and enjoy one of their well-loved margaritas before sitting down to tacos like the Pescadillas (shredded swordfish, epazote, crispy tortilla, and avocado-habanero pico) or the Barriga de Puerco (slow roasted pork belly, adobo, salsa verde cruda, cucumber, queso fresco).

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6. Black Dog Smoke & Ale House 201 N Broadway Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

Black Dog, on the corner of Broadway and Water in Urbana, serves up delicious BBQ alongside craft beers and cocktails. It's not a very big spot, so they advise you to get there early to get a table, and even earlier if you want to try their burnt ends (you do).

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7. Gene & Jude's 2720 River Rd, River Grove, IL 60171

Gene & Jude's is the most iconic hot dog stand in Chicago. From its founding in 1946, it's enforced four simple rules that most other stands have since tried to adopt: no seats, no ketchup, no pretense, no nonsense. That's right: not a drop of ketchup can be found here. On top of your Vienna Beef dog you'll find relish, onions, hot peppers, and mustard, plus a pile of fresh-cut French Fries. It's a tried-and-true formula that's brought this classic family-owned spot success for decades.

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8. Burt’s Place 8541 Ferris Ave, Morton Grove, IL 60053

The pizza at Burt's is simply the freshest you'll get this far out of the city. It's a celeb favorite, adorned with unique trinkets, and's got an impressive accompanying beer menu.

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9. 17th Street Barbecue 32 N 17th St, Murphysboro, IL 62966

Champion pitmaster Mike "The Legend" Mills runs 17th St, so you can expect some of the best damn 'cue you've ever tasted no matter what you order (but definitely try their famous ribs). Not looking for BBQ? 17th Street got a slew of other menu items including fettuccine alfredo, burgers and a fish dinner.

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10. D'Arcy's Pint 661 W Stanford Ave, Springfield, IL 62704

D'Arcy's, your classic Irish tavern, serves up plenty of brews, and also a signature dish called "Horseshoes", which's made with either ham, corned beef, turkey, bacon, or Buffalo chicken, and served on Texas toast covered in a cheesy sauce and served with fries to boot.

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11. One World Cafe 1245 W Main St, Peoria, IL 61606

What WON'T you find at One World? With influences from Mexico, Italy, the Mediterranean, and more, One World uses fresh ingredients to serve up a wide range of menu items (Waffles! Burgers! Pizzas! ... Salads!?) sure to please everyone.

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12. White Fence Farm 1376 Joliet Rd, Romeoville, IL 60446

WFF specializes in fried chicken (which is pressure cooked then flash fried in low-cholesterol soy bean oil), but they also cook up damn fine steaks and seafood, too.



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