No, it is not a hard-to-find restaurant, but a column for AdVantage News! Each week the Secret Diner will post a review of a River Bend eating establishment. The Secret Diner will not review chain or franchise restaurants, only privately owned ones. About the rating system: zero stars would mean avoid at all costs, one star is pretty bad, two stars is merely fair, three stars is OK, four stars is good, and five stars is perfect! Before posting a negative review, the Secret Diner will give the establishment a second chance at a different time of day. See if you can determine the name and location of the restaurant under review! The answer will appear in next week’s column.
Did you guess what restaurant I visited last time? It was 143 Corner Cafe at 29 S. Sixth St. (the corner of Illinois 143 and Sixth) in Wood River. I was charmed by getting extra napkins and a cake fork with each dessert, and they have free wifi, too!
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I saw a new place while driving by but did not have time to stop. When I made time to go, it was on a Monday, and it was not open. I tried again on another day and got in. My regular dining companion regaled me with tales of how the building used to be the appliance section of a large department store, but it looks nothing like that now!
The main dining area is very large, with plenty of small tables, high tables, bar seating and booths available. There is a bar along most of one wall, a bandstand in one corner, and many of the tables could be moved to make a dance floor. The floor is smooth, finished concrete or tongue and groove wood panels, with stone walls and electric chandeliers. Both restrooms were spacious, modern, well-lit and very clean. A long hall leads to a shaded outdoor area, where a wooden fence invites patrons to leave their marks with chalk provided. A table is set up with wooden blocks to play with, and a life-size wooden silhouette of a local celebrity is available for comparisons or photo ops. The hall and main area are decorated with framed depictions of life in the town many years ago.
The beer and wine list took up more than four pages; the menu was on one side of one legal-sized sheet of paper. No non-alcoholic drinks were listed, but our server told us they served Pepsi products, tea and lemonade. We both chose lemonade and had our choices ready when she returned. My companion ordered a classic burger with a cucumber salad as a side item. I chose a French dip with mac-and-cheese and threw in a cup of gumbo for my friend.
It seemed like it took a long time for our food to arrive, and when it did, there was no gumbo, flatware or napkins. When we mentioned it, these oversights were speedily rectified. The napkins were large, white cloths. The gumbo came in a mug, on a saucer, with a soup spoon. My friend said it was very good and I could see the shrimp and sausage in it. The burger seemed a bit small for $10, but it was on a poppyseed bun and looked delicious. My mac-and-cheese was made with three cheeses, and my friend had to warn me to slow down because I was snarfing it pretty fast. My sandwich was full of very tasty, slow-cooked beef on crusty bread. The bread was wider than the au jus dish, so I had to cut it lengthwise so I could dip it. I can taste it still. So good!
Each sandwich was $10 with one side. The lemonades were $3 each. Key lime mousse and cheesecake were available for dessert, but we decided not to partake. We paid from the table.
Do you think you can puzzle out the name and location of this classy place? Check out the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are right!