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 we dined at last week? It was Elijah P’s Burgers and Brews at 401 Piasa Street in Alton. Named for Alton’s abolitionist martyr, Elijah P. Lovejoy, it is inviting, set up and ready at any time for live music.
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I was reading other reviews on the Internet and chose an establishment to try. Even with Google maps, it was difficult to find. The building is low-key on the outside, with only a name on the door to announce its existence. Walking in, the first thing I saw was a beautiful painting of a skewbald mare and foal. Looking about, there were several more large paintings, at least one on each wall. The public part of the building was laid out in a backward “L” shape, with the bar on the short leg. The bar was made of lovely dark wood, with thousands of half-inch tiles covering the upright portion. In the long section of the L, a bench seat in striped fabric stretched the length of the first room. The color scheme was all natural earth-tones, with red brick and creative lighting as accents.
My companion and I were greeted at the door and led to a table, and the chair was pulled out for me. We had menus and cold ice water in seconds. The table was already set with large, wine-colored cloth napkins with flatware inside. There seemed to be servers everywhere I looked, but since we were present in the late afternoon, I figured that business would pick up considerably after dark. As it was, the restaurant was busy but not crowded, and our glasses kept getting filled and smiles were given everywhere.
While waiting for our food, I took a look at the outdoor seating area. It was near the rear parking lot, with umbrella tables and flowers in large planters everywhere. The restrooms were clean and fully stocked.
I chose a “Japanese pancake,” declining the homemade barbecue sauce it is usually served with. My friend selected a pulled pork sandwich on a pretzel bun with a blue cheese slaw topping and fries.
My pancake filled the entire plate, with scallions, shrimp, special mayonnaise, cabbage and shaved bacon on a fluffy base ... all so hot that the super thin toppings writhed in the escaping steam. It was delicious! My companion thoroughly enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich, spicy barbecue sauce and all, although admitting that the blue cheese slaw made it decidedly different. The fries were a large helping of mixed white potato and sweet potato shoestring fries, seasoned perfectly. My meal was $9, my friend’s was $11. Dessert was available, but we were not able to think about eating any more. We paid from the table, and the bartender held the door for us on the way out.
Overall – 5 stars
Service – 5 stars
Cleanliness – 5 stars
Food – 5 stars
Can you figure out name and location of this restaurant? Check out the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are correct!