Route 66 Restaurants

America's Best Roadside Restaurants: Where to Eat Along Route 66 in Illinois

Route 66 Restaurants - Merichka's Restaurant












Sit Back, Relax, And Enjoy.
Wine & Cheese Company, LLC







Illinois' Heritage Corridor includes a sizeable stretch of the legendary Route 66, where great food and nostalgia intertwine. One of the best examples of this is in historic Plainfield just outside Chicago, where Wine & Cheese Company, LLC fills a renovated antique house and sells artisan cheese and a variety of wines inside its shop. The wine bar and shop also has an intimate indoor cafe and expansive outdoor patio on-site, where you can enjoy your wine with a massive cheese and charcuterie board. Wine & Cheese Co. also serves craft cocktails and more than 30 beers. The wine bar was recently featured as one of the best markets in the Chicago area.

Wine & Cheese Co. should be one of your first stops along historic Route 66 as it makes it way through Illinois, especially if you're setting out on a culinary tour through the state from Chicago. Here's a look at some of the other fantastic roadside restaurants along Route 66 in Illinois.


Route 66 Restaurants - Merichka's Restaurant












An Iconic Sign.
An Even More Iconic Sandwich.





Legendary Route 66 Food

Located in Crest Hill, Merichka's has been operated by the Zdralevich family since 1933. This is an institution along historic Route 66 with classic red-and-white gingham tablecloths and paneled walls. All the meat Merichka's serves is ground and cut in-house, and it's famous for its steak Poorboy sandwich. Chicago's Best featured Merichka's as one of the top places to eat in the south suburbs, saying: "Locals call this place old school. All the recipes are the same they were 60 years ago."

Another mainstay on a Route 66 culinary tour through Illinois is White Fence Farm near Romeoville, which has served scratch-made food since the early 1920s, including its legendary chicken. From broiled Icelandic fish to T-bone steaks, entrees average $20 with sides such as fries, bean salad or corn fritters. Classic cocktails complement music tributes and reviews, and kids love on-site alpacas and goats.



Route 66 Restaurants - Tallgrass Restaurant 

Lockport's Tallgrass is a must-dine

Luscious in Lockport




Located 35 miles southwest of Chicago on the legendary Route 66, Lockport's historic district represents the best-preserved 19th century canal town in the Midwest, and Tallgrass Restaurant is its culinary jewel.

Tallgrass is a AAA 2015 Four Diamond Restaurant, and for 21 years this restaurant has featured a dynamite menu that emphasizes organic, sustainable and locally produced ingredients with reasonably priced West Coast, French and Italian wines. From roasted capon to Canadian trout filet, and luscious Goat Cheese Ravioli, Tallgrass dishes-and the romantic restaurant-are picture perfect (just ask Yahoo Travel).

Tallgrass is certainly a popular stop in Lockport, but it's not the only one. Embers Tap House operates in hip downtown Lockport as a multi-level restaurant featuring more than 40 tap craft beers. Inside is a cool industrial vibe with exposed brick, rustic wood and vintage posters, and there's a rooftop patio too. The menu showcases local, organic and sustainable ingredients, and plenty of smoked offerings. Entrees are less than $20, with bourbon salmon, hefty burgers and more.

New on the block, we have The Lock & Mule by Tangled Roots Brewing Company just further down from Embers Tap House. This is Tangled Roots third location, following behind The Lone Buffalo (Ottawa), and Hangar Two (Glenview.)  Their menu is centered around an enormous wood fire grill, which helps to release all the succulent flavors of meats and vegetables. As well as, a wide selection of beer to suit any palette, from sessionable lagers and ales, to dark and complex experimental brews. 

Finally, overlooking the old I&M Canal in Lockport is Public Landing Restaurant and Banquet Center, which occupies the antique Gaylord Building. Entrees under $20 include steak and crab-stuffed whitefish. Must-have desserts feature 'sugar bowls' cradling white chocolate mousse, turtle sundaes or bananas foster. This spacious restaurant has plenty of windows, and a dining garden where well-behaved pooches along for the ride on Route 66 can sample the 'Yappetizer' menu.


Route 66 Restaurants - Joliet Route 66 Diner

Get Your Taste Bud Kicks at the
Joliet Route 66 Diner













Classic Bites in Joliet

One of the most popular destinations for foodies along Route 66 is probably Joliet (located an hour southwest of Chicago). Here, the robust restaurant scene includes casino restaurants, contemporary cuisine and legendary diners.

With a small town vibe and Route 66 logos filling the windows, Joliet Route 66 Diner has operated since 1960. Route 66 highway signs and sodas decorate this diner, whose decor hasn't changed in decades. Try a breakfast omelet with hashbrowns or hearty steak with eggs for less than $10 each. You'll find a friendly staff and enormous lunchtime sandwiches.

It's been 50 years since Home Cut Donuts became a local landmark, where you can watch people craft donuts through a glass window. The family-owned business creates dozens of flavors, from sprinkle-covered donuts on a stick, to toasted coconut. One donut costs less than a buck, or buy a dozen for $9.

Another long-time name in the Joliet restaurant game is Cemenos Pizza, which has made award- winning pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more from family recipes for 40 years. Whether you order chicken bruschetta pasta or build your own pizza, you can pair it with domestic beer priced from $2. Specialty pizzas include spinach calabrese, with marinated spinach, mozzarella, ricotta and garlic marinara inside hand-tossed dough.

Drivers along Route 66 have been stopping at some of these treasured roadside and area eateries for decades, but they're not the only places worth trying in Joliet.


Joliet's New Notables

Joliet is home to two breweries, MyGrain Brewing Company and Elder Brewing Company.  When you're looking for craft beer and craft food, you will want to visit MyGrain Brewing Company, which is located in the old Union Station.  Elder Brewing Company is beer-only, but watch their Facebook page for Food Truck days.


Joliet's Casino Cuisine

Casinos in this Route 66 city serve delicious food for terrific prices. At Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel, Flavors The Buffet meals start at $18. You'll find barbecue, build-your-own stir-fry and more than 40 feet of delicious desserts. You can stop into Cross Street Grill anytime of the day as they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try their signature dishes like the Blackjack beef sandwich, or the BBQ burger.  At The Reserve, entrees priced around $25 include steak or seafood pasta. It's known for tasty burgers, lobster bisque, pineapple upside-down cake, and a great wine list.

Inside Hollywood Casino Joliet, Final Cut Steakhouse features high-end steaks and seafood and an award-winning wine list. Entrees average $35-40 at this Open Table Diner's Choice 2015 winner. Opened in the spring of 2016, 99 Hops House offers 99 beers paired with burgers, mac and cheese and even desserts. At Epic Buffet, there's a carving station, fried chicken, seafood and salads, with meal prices averaging $13.99, while Take Two Deli serves terrific nachos, hot dogs and classic club sandwiches.


Route 66 Restaurants - Polka-a-Dot Drive-In

Braidwood's Polk-a-Dot Drive In is a
must hit on your Route 66 journey.


















Small Town Staples

Operating in Braidwood for five decades, Polk-a-Dot Drive In is known for enormous Elvis, Blues Brothers, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop statues outside. Tableside jukeboxes, vinyl booths and Route 66 memorabilia complement classic plates of chicken, great milk shakes and more. Buy a basic burger, fries and small drink for under $6.

Last but not least, the family-owned Old Route 66 Family Restaurant opened in Dwight 15 years ago. Enjoy a Route 66 breakfast skillet featuring rib-eye steak with hash browns, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, cheese, eggs and toast; biscuits and gravy; or a Route 66 Burger, with grilled onions, mushrooms and American cheese. Pasta and seafood dinners average $13. There's 50s decor and an outdoor mural depicting the Mother Road.

If you want to venture outside Route 66, you can check out all these other great dining options in the Heritage Corridor area.