In one of my last posts, I suggested that one of the must-see places around Quincy was the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. I wanted to expand on that a little bit, and suggest a day trip to Springfield instead. Rather than driving all over the place trying to find things, the following spots are within a short distance, either on foot or by car. Everything is in downtown Springfield, not out on the periphery among the shopping malls and subdivisions.
This trip will give you a couple of different spending options. If you want to visit Springfield on the cheap, some of the locations in this post will work better than others. I have tried to give you several options to choose from.
Don’t leave Quincy without breakfast. I have yet to visit Springfield and find a place that makes me scream “I have to eat breakfast there again!” Powered up with a
good breakfast, hit the road. Aim for downtown Springfield at one of several exits and watch for directional signs on the telephone poles and lamp posts.
Stop 1: If you feel like spending some money, make your first stop the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The admission fee is $12.00, and there is also a cost to use the museum parking garage. Even if you don’t visit the museum, I highly recommend using the parking garage anyway for some choice parking.
Stop 2: If you wish to avoid the cost of the presidential museum, swing through the old state capitol square area instead. Feel free to leave the car in the parking garage, since the square is only two blocks south of the garage on the same street. Make sure to tour the old capitol building and no matter what, do not miss the Lincoln Law Office historic site. For one, this is the place where Lincoln saw his first successes. In addition, there is a great, if morbid, photo opportunity right out front, and I don’t mean the statues of Lincoln and his family. If you are standing in front of the law office, turn 90 degrees to your right and look for a small building, which is the entrance to the old capitol underground parking garage. On the north face of the building is a bronze plaque you must read. I am not going to give it away, so you will have to read it, comment on this article, and I will happily tell you if you are correct.
Once you are done with the first two sites, stop by the Illinois Korean War Museum, located on the same block as the law office. If you want a bit of shopping fun, swing through Prairie Archives, an exceptional antique book shop located in between the Korean War museum and the law office. Now it should be time for lunch! After all that walking, you must be starving! Conveniently located… you guessed it… on the same block, is The Feed Store. Don’t bother looking at the menu, just walk back to the counter and ask for the “No Choice.” No matter what you get, you will be satisfied. Save room, however, for dessert.
After lunch, you have to have dessert! However, you have to walk back towards the car to get it. Diagonally across the Square is Pease’s, a fine chocolate and candy maker. Don’t visit Springfield without a stop in this place.
Having had dessert, you are off to stop 3: The Lincoln Home. Illinois’ only national park, the home of Abraham Lincoln and the surrounding four square city blocks remain locked in the year 1865, when President Lincoln was shot. An exceptional place to stroll, learn and take pictures, the Lincoln home is well worth a visit, and like most national parks, is free. If you are full of Abraham Lincoln, however, walk across the street and just down to the block to the Telephone Museum for a change of pace.
Now you just have one last thing to do: dinner! You have just one last stop to make, and that is the Springfield Police Department. Nervous? Don’t be! Right across the street is a fine, family-owned Italian restaurant called Saputo’s. If I had to choose one place in Springfield to have dinner, this place, hands down, is it.
Well, at the end of the day you will have seen a wide swath of downtown Springfield, eaten yourselves full, and had what I hope was an excellent time and learning experience. If you complete this day trip, comment on the article. I always love improvements and finding new places on the advice of other people, not search engines.
Since today, Tuesday, June 21, is the longest day of the year, I thought I would give some ideas to the people of Quincy, on how to spend this day. Even if this includes getting off work at 5 p.m., there are still plenty of things to do, and not to mention for very cheap! I don’t feel that to have fun here in town you have to spend a pretty penny. Here a few things you can do tonight that are cheap, and not time consuming:
1. The Patio, (133 South 4th St.) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings has an ALL YOU CAN EAT pasta bar. You can chose your ingredients and watch the chef prepare your favorite pasta, and the evening is one the whole family can enjoy, priced at only $9.95 for all you can eat. Now that’s amazing! The Patio is open Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 4 to 10p.m.
2. Firehouse Pizza, (340 S. 36th St.) Monday through Tuesday Kids Eat Free, but for dine in only, and you can get 6 FREE breadsticks with any Large Pizza purchase. Yum!
3. The Abbey, (1736 Spring Street) today, has BBQ Honey flavored Chicken Nuggets 10 for $3.
4. Tower of Pizza and Mexican, (2635 Broadway) from 4 to 11:30 p.m. is serving HALF PRICE PIZZA.
1. Wavering Aquatic Center is having a teen pool party tonight — for ONLY $1 admission! This is open to the public and goes from 8 to 10 p.m.
Moorman Park also has a ton of things to do, and for cheap. The hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. Concessions are available. Below are a few activities you can take part in at Moorman Park for very little and have a lot of fun while you’re at it:
2. The Batting Cage, (Upper Moorman Park), offers baseball and slow pitch and fast pitch softball hitting machines. Token prices: 4/$2.25 and 10/$4.25.
3. Miniature Golf, (Upper Moorman Park), is an 18 hole miniature golf course, beautifully landscaped with running streams and a large rock sculpture. Prices: 12 and younger $4.25 and 13 and older $5.
4. Paddleboat rentals are located in the same area on Moorman Lake. Four seat boats are available for rent. Those 12 and younger must ride with an adult (at least 18 years old). Prices: $7.25/hour or $4.75/30 minutes.
5. The Blind Pig, (900 N 12th) Trivia Tuesday, FREE to play. Teams up to five players are allowed. It goes from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
There are many things to do TODAY, right here in Quincy, and as you can see, all of them can be done even after the work day is over and on the cheap. You can check out even more events at www.thelocalq.com on the calendar.
A city, even a smaller city the size of Quincy, is a living, breathing, growing and (sometimes) dying thing, and I’ve witnessed the continued expansion of this city since I was very young.
I come from a family that shopped at Furrow’s for lumber and nails to build the treehouse and the plywood shed. The “Rescuers Down Under” at the Adams Theatre only cost a buck, and popcorn was cheaper. Everyone piled in the conversion van for Saturday fried chicken dinners at Elder’s, and when Mom and Dad wanted to shake things up a bit, they brought home a heaping tub of spaghetti and homemade garlic bread from La Gondola.
If you’re 20-plus years old and grew up in Quincy most of your life, the “eastward expansion” and commercial evolution near the intersection of I-170 and Ill 104 (Broadway) is mildly astonishing. It seemed like the city ended at Quincy Memorial Park Cemetery, and my Dad used to work on the edge of town, when John Wood Community College was located at 48th and Maine, before The Crossing bought the building and added on their mega worship building. St. Anthony’s Catholic school might as well have been in a different county. Now we have additional zip code, and the commercialization of east Quincy has definitely drawn people away from the river and downtown area for shopping and a night out.
Overall, I’m proud of Quincy. Rather than letting the downtown fall by the wayside while national chains and big box stores dominate Quincy’s relatively new commercial district, I’ve witnessed many locals invest money, time and effort in a pseudo-downtown revival of renovations, restaurants and businesses, and I’m even more proud of the local staples that stuck through it all. La Gondola definitely comes to mind. I’ve been eating their spaghetti and garlic bread by the tub since I was young enough to sit in a high chair, get away with smearing marinara on my face and throw my plate on the kitchen floor.
La Gondola is on the corner of Eighth and State, and it’s been there longer than I’ve been alive (or at least longer than my memory serves). I used to think it was unique to Quincy, until I saw one in Bloomington. Turns out, it’s technically a “chain,” but not in the sense that my generation is used to. La Gondola has 14 locations, all in Illinois. It’s not an international mega-chain. This is important. It gives the owners time to focus on traditional and unique recipes instead of mass processing and producing item after item on the menu. It also gives them time to decorate their dining room with a large array of country memorabilia, including dozens of signed photos and the best portrait I’ve ever seen: Aaron Tippin, mullet out, clad in sleeveless flannel.
Even though I grew up on La Gondola’s spaghetti, my favorite thing on their menu is a sandwich called the Hot Sicilian. It’s baked Italian-style bread piled with marinara meat sauce, salami and topped with mozzarella cheese. They serve a variety of authentic Italian dishes, including spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini, lasagna, fettuccini and torpedo sandwiches. They also serve pizza and a few burgers for those of you who don’t like pasta. Above all, La Gondola caters to the family in authentic Italian fashion, selling pasta and sauces by the half gallon or offering the Family Feast (carry out only), which includes a half gallon of spaghetti, 16 inches of garlic bread, a 16 inch torpedo sandwich, and fresh bread or a 2 liter of soda for around $20.00. Whew! I’m full just typing it.
If you are thinking about a night out, you might want to head downtown and check out a Quincy cornerstone of Italian cuisine. La Gondola has been downtown for decades, through thick and thin, for a good reason: good Italian food for a good price. Just remember to bring cash or a check. La Gondola comes from an era before the international fast food chain and the debit card, which means, more than anything, that they’re used to taking their time, especially when it comes to perfecting the recipes behind their authentic Italian dishes.
On Friday night, I had the opportunity to be a part of the opening festivities at a new area bar and restaurant, Johnny Bang Bangs. JBB’s, as I will call it for short, (and because I’m lazy) is in the old Backwaters building.
I walked down the hill, where I had parked my car on Hampshire Street, excited with all my new equipment and ready to set out on the beginning of my broadcasting career. I brought a friend along with me, who wishes to remain nameless — she is shy — to help “carry my bags,” but really just for moral support. Also, so she could get volunteer hours and so I wouldn’t be alone without a production crew and look ridiculous. OK, I’ll stop rambling.
Needless to say, I brought my friend with me, and as we walked in, we saw the same metal railing, club-like entrance that we used to enter back in the old days of “teen night” at Backwaters. Yeah, that was a while ago. But after that, you walk in, and it’s a totally different feel than before. Johnny must have been hard at work. I never actually got to meet Johnny so I could ask him if I could be an honorary “Johnny’s Girl,” but trust me, this guy must really have some swagger about him. He had probably 15 girls at his beck and call, dressed in daisy dukes, a red skin-tight t-shirt, and cowboy boots. (Jessica Simpson from Dukes of Hazzard anyone?) The girls were hard at work, attending to guests and helping with orders. It was almost a “Coyote Ugly” style set-up sprinkled with a little bit of western and rock-n-roll. However, the girls weren’t dancing up on bars, so maybe not quite “Coyote Ugly”, but still.
On to the musical entertainment, which was provided by My Own Medicine, a cover band from St. Louis. The group had the privilege of opening up for Johnny on his first Friday night in operation. I personally loved hearing songs that I recognize, although with a slightly different twang than the original artist, it made for a great atmosphere. As for the look. the stage had been lowered significantly, which was a smart move I think, so now we have a better view of the band, and a more personal feel.
I would love to see Bret Michaels come back and visit Johnny, the acoustics in this place carry, and not only that, but the sound system is incredible. It didn’t blow my ears out like most loud rock shows, but it still allowed for a great live band experience, and a place to eat and drink with friends. As I continued on my search for Johnny, I noticed the vintage 33 and 45 records posted on the west wall, and a kitchen on the far back wall. The wood floor was still the same, and what was left of the old Backwaters still bled through a little bit, but I could really see this place being a hot new place in town. It was different than the old place. It has a more grown-up, non pre-teen feel to it, that I think the night owls of Quincy will really appreciate.
Granted thats just the night scene, JBB’s is open during the day for families to bring their children in for a great meal. That’s the one thing I think will set JBB’s apart from other bars in town. It is family-friendly, and open as a restaurant during the day, but transforms into a bar for a mature crowd at night. JBB’s has no limit, as I did run into an older man who had recognized me from my work earlier in the day at the Memorial Day Program at the Vets Home. (small town, huh)
This place is big enough, I don’t think it would matter who was there, as you have three different levels to roam around on. All three levels of the venue I saw had been set up to be used, and all seats in the house had an illustrious view of the stage and the smell of pizza and wings being cooked wafted through the air. There are two full bars, one on the main level, and another on the second level. The place is big, but a lot better lit, and trust me, lighting is everything, and this place met my standards.
Although my search for Johnny was still going, I side-tracked and interviewed some really nice people. Mark Aleman, the property manager and Megan Goodwin, the assistant manager, both of whom are very knowledgeable about the venue itself, and were very excited to finally be opening JBB’s. I had the chance to ask them and a few other workers how the week had been going. They told me it had been stressful, as most restaurant/bar openings can be, and they had literally just gotten finished Friday afternoon putting the last touches on everything. I’ll tell you one thing, thank you for honesty. I didn’t want a cookie-cuttered answer of “oh, it’s been great (insert fake smile),” when I know it surely hasn’t been great, because I can’t imagine how lugging in new kitchen equipment, getting a full menu together, booking bands and hiring an all new staff could be easy.
Not only did I get a taste of how hard the owners of JBB’s had worked to bring a new venue to our town, but it also made for a great video clip, which you can check out on the Quincy Herald-Whig home page here: http://www.whig.com
To be honest, I was a little hurt that I didn’t get to meet Johnny, but by the looks of things, he has a lot going on, so this time, I forgive you Johnny!
JOHNNY BANG BANGS
Address: 138 N. Front, Quincy, Ill.
Phone: (217) 223-4444
Facebook: Johnny Bang Bangs
Hours: 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., weekdays and noon to 1 a.m. weekends
Get some rest Johnny, and welcome to Quincy!
Missouri, our good neighbor to the southwest, has some pretty interesting and historical sites for someone looking to get out of Quincy on a nice Spring or Summer day. Some of the places I like to drive to are historic downtown Hannibal, Mark Twain Lake and Wakonda State Park. All these places are about a 30 minute joy ride from here.
You notice that I didn’t include Canton, Mo., in this list? Other than to “party” at Culver-Stockton College, I’ve never really had a reason to go to Canton. Can you blame me? It’s a quaint little town of 2,500 people. You just never hear stories that start off like this: “Dude, there’s this place in Missouri, called Canton, that you have to see…” Well, last week, my girlfriend Belinda actually turned to me and said, “There’s this place, in Canton, called Riverside Smoke House that is supposed to have some of the best barbecue in the area.”
So I’m not going to write Canton off because its small. If I was the kind of person that did that, I would have never founnd places like Weston, which is another small town in Northwest Missouri on the Lewis & Clark trail with a great winery and outdoor venue for blues concerts. Heck, I wouldn’t have the awesome opportunity to write this blog. Needless to say, Riverside is where Belinda and I ended up for her birthday dinner this past weekend.
The place has a real small town feel to it. Sickles, Scythes and other archaic, rusty farm tools are hung up on the wall with nails, the dining room has red and white weave table cloths and concrete floors, the paper towels at each table are spooled around old plumbing, the condiments are held in cardboard six pack bottle containers, there are tables outside on the front patio, and of course, the bar faces you right when you walk in the front door.
For a Saturday night, our wait wasn’t bad. We walked right in and sat down. I had drank the night before, so I wasn’t in the mood for beer. I really wish that I was though. They carry Moose Drool and Trout Slayer Ale, which are brewed and bottled by Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, MT. It’s really good beer, and you don’t see it on the menu at too many places around these parts. Still, you know how unappetizing beer can look after a night of drinking? I had iced tea.
The menu had a decent variety of seafood, barbecue and even breakfast. I went straight for the barbecue. I always look for the pick-two or pick-three options on the menu at barbecue joints. From my experience, they are usually called just that, but Riverside disguises it a little bit. They call the pick-two option “Emilie’s Combo Platter,” and you get to choose between brisket, smoked pork, sausage, BBQ chicken and ribs.
Belinda and I ordered the combo, working together to get the best sample of meats. She picked smoked pork and brisket, and I picked ribs and brisket (at this moment, we faced the fact that we’re both stubborn people who love brisket). The entrée’s also come with two sides, and you can choose from baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, garlic mashed potatoes, potato wedges, green beans, baked potato, garden or Caesar salad, a sweet potato, cinnamon apples and mixed vegetables. And (that’s right, there’s more) the meal is also served with buttered corn on the cob and a corn bread muffin. You have to love the Heartland. Only the Midwest would make corn and corn bread mandatory with your meal.
As for the BBQ sauce, you get four homemade, original sauces to choose from — Gold, Original, Spicy and Sweet. I love the names. No beating around the bush. And why should they? It’s BBQ sauce. No need to jazz it up with special names. Gold is the only one that isn’t named for its flavor, but it’s literally gold in color so I assume that’s where the name comes from. Gold was also my favorite, but they are all good and worth a taste.
After it was all said and done, our check was $25, including drinks. Come on. You can’t beat that for delicious barbecue. And, in my experience, it really is some of the best barbecue in the area. I never really imagined myself saying this, but I recommend making a drive over to Canton. It’s worth it.
Riverside Smoke House is located at 305 Lewis Street. For more info about services, menu and weekly specials, call (573) 288-3986 or access their website. In addition to dining, Riverside also caters. Their hours of operation are Monday-Thursday, 6:30am-9pm; Friday, 6:30am-11pm; Saturday, 8am-11pm; Sunday, 8am-8pm.
My days of sleeping in until noon on the weekends passed a long time ago. In college, I only slept in on Saturdays and Sundays, because I was hung over from the night before. The truth is, I don’t like wasting my day anymore. You wake up at 1, 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and the day is completely gone, especially during the colder months when the sun sets at 5 p.m. Don’t get me wrong. I still go out and drink and hoot-and-holler and all that, but I’ve discovered the power of moderation, an internal alarm clock, fresh toothpaste, and if all else fails, ice cold water.
Waking up early has its benefits. For one thing, it means you have a greater chance to experience something you haven’t, or in this case, taste something new and delicious — the “It’s All Greek to Me Omelet” breakfast at Village Inn.
Normally, I like to write about local restaurants and promote local business. Village Inn, on the other hand, is a chain. I had no intention of writing about my meal until I tasted it. Plus, the Village Inn seems to be a traditional breakfast stop on Sundays for families in Quincy, so I figure I’ll give it its due.
Most people were wearing formal clothing, so I assume the routine is something like church and then breakfast. I also saw a lot of heaping piles of syrup-drenched pancakes. I’m up for a big stack of flap jacks as much as the next guy, but the menu was a little too rich for me. Everything was smothered in dollops of butter and fruit and fruity syrup and jam and jelly and whip cream; I think I even saw a stack with coffee and caramel on it? That’s not me. I wanted breakfast, not dessert. I had the whole day ahead of me, and I didn’t want to spend it with a rock of sugar in my gut. That’s when I saw the Greek to Me omelet, which seemed like an excellent alternative.
I’m a big fan of Mediterranean flavors. I like the strong bitterness of feta cheese and olives, and I like that the ingredients are very healthy and organic. It’s a diet rich in fruits and vegetables unique to our everyday steak-n-potatoes: tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, artichokes, okra, lentils and chickpeas. A Mediterranean diet also utilizes healthy cooking practices that we don’t in our traditional Western diet. This includes cooking with olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, and replacing red meat, which can be high in saturated fat, with leaner lamb and fish. Even their fatty foods, like avocados (which are nicknamed the “butter pear” and contain 30 grams of fat) are rich in vitamins and monosaturated fat. Monosaturated fat is considered a “good” kind of fat that actually lowers cholesterol.
The Greek to Me omelet combines all of these good things — artichokes, spinach, fresh tomatoes and feta cheese tucked inside an egg. It tastes fantastic, and it’s a nice break away from the traditional American breakfast. I think you can also order the omelet with only egg whites, which cuts down on the fat without cutting out the protein. If you do have a sweet tooth, the meal is served with a side of vanilla yogurt, naturally sweetened with honey and granola, which is a much healthier dairy alternative to whip cream.
I know, I know. This is America, the land of deep-fried butter, the KFC Double Down (which I can’t, in good conscious, ever order), and the Cheesecake Factory’s Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake, but America is also a land with a startlingly high rate of heart disease. So, I challenge you to step away from the biscuits and sausage gravy for one morning, head over to Village Inn, and try the Greek omelet. At just over $5, you don’t have anything to lose.
QU students will be treating the community to a wine and cheese tasting this Friday, April 1, in Quincy University’s Hall of Fame Room (inside the Health and Fitness Students) from 7-11 p.m., complete with a wide selection of prized wines provided by Spirit Knob winery.
As part of an annual “Senior Class Gift,” graduating seniors are asked to create and develop an initiative to raise funds for a project or contribution to the university. 2011 graduates have decided to host this wine and cheese reception to raise money for new laboratory equipment for the school’s Division of Science and Technology. All proceeds from this event benefit the 2011 Senior Gift.
The purchase of your ticket includes five complimentary wine tastings of your choice and a commemorative wine glass. Bottles and full glasses will be available for purchase. Water, soda, and refreshments will be provided free of charge. Patrons are also encouraged to participate in a silent auction by bidding on baskets donated by various campus divisions, student clubs, and local businesses.
Tickets cost $10 in advance or $13 the day of the event and can be purchased in person in the Quincy University Advancement office, by contacting Barb Girouard at 228-5227, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also purchase tickets online at www.class2011.quincy.edu.
Little known fact about me: I’m not a huge fan of the state of Kansas.
It’s flat, long and horribly boring to drive across. I’m not a Chief’s fan. I’m not a Royals fan. I think the only thing redeeming about the state is the KU Jayhawks basketball team. Well, I attended a two day national poetry conference held in Lawrence from March 13 to 14, and I got to spend a couple nights in the Jayhawk’s hometown.
Turns out, Lawrence is a hip place — an oasis, if you will. Since most of you probably don’t know what a poetry conference entails, I will break my experience down into three blogs — Saturday night, Sunday and Monday — to provide the best picture of Lawrence and the event that I can.
We left Saturday, March 12, sometime in the afternoon. It’s not a bad drive. I went to school in Carbondale, Ill., which is about the same distance from Quincy as Lawrence — about 250 miles (four to five hours) away. We stayed at a Days Inn on South Iowa street. I booked it through priceline.com at $40/night. Aside from a dirty ice bucket, it wasn’t a bad hotel, especially compared to the price of other hotels in the area. I don’t normally invest a lot of money in hotel rooms, because I don’t spend a lot of time in my room — awake at least. The only amenity I look for is free wifi to look stuff up. This trip was no exception. The moment we set our bags down, I was already digging out my laptop to scour the internet. We heard that Lawrence has some killer BBQ, so we searched for some local joints.
After browsing a few websites, we came across a place called Bigg’s Barbecue. They had a link to their dinner menu right on the homepage, and everything sounded good for a reasonable price (we found some places that were ridiculously expensive). They also boasted a homemade, award winning barbecue sauce. We decided to drive over. Luckily, we had a GPS. Bigg’s was tucked behind some large shopping center off the main drag, and it took us about 4 u-turns to find it. There were no signs, markers or neon lights. You might think this is an advertising fail, but I feel differently. If a place doesn’t need to advertise their location to put butts in the seats, then they must rely on their food.
Bigg’s looked small from the outside, but it was huge. Architecturally, the building was like a giant loft with a bar — a main level dining floor, a balcony dining floor, The kitchen underneath the second level, three 50 inch
projectors and more flat screens than Electronics Warehouse. The place was packed, and for good reason. KU was playing the University of Texas at Austin (the Longhorns) for the big 12 title. Everyone was wearing royal blue, even our waiter, who sat down with us to watch the game after bringing out our meals. Our dinner was awesome. I had baby back ribs and smoked brisket with baked cinnamon apples and spicy coleslaw. Belinda ordered all you can eat rib tips with potato salad and fried okra. We washed it all down with a bottle of Dos Equis (on special Saturday nights) and a pint of Crimson Phog, which is a local Irish red brewed by 23rd Street Brewery. Irish red is probably my favorite type of beer, and I can honestly say that the Phog was one of the best I’ve tasted. Belinda agrees.
Even though we were pretty stuffed, we decided to leave a smidge of room for dessert because I really wanted to try the chocolate covered bacon. What? Meat for dessert? Yes, that’s right. Fried pig slivers dipped in milk chocolate, dressed up with sliced almonds and served with a side of whip cream. Belinda has already had chocolate covered bacon, and she really wanted me to try it. There’s nothing like following up a two-meat entrée with a dessert of sweet and salty meat.
KU ended up beating the Longhorns, and the place went nuts. People were screaming, whistling, standing up in the aisles and dancing around. The excitement was infectious, but I was too full to join in. I figured it was time to head back to the hotel. I knew I needed to get up early to see as much of Lawrence as I could and to attend day 1 of the poetry conference on Sunday. Plus, I was in no shape to walk around after such a huge meal. So, we went back to the hotel and fell into a quasi-meat coma.
Since my last blog was about a restaurant with a very diverse menu and upscale atmosphere (One), I thought I might switch gears and talk about chili and beer. That’s right. Just chili and beer.
Turns out chili can be pretty diverse too, especially if you’re tasting about 20 different recipes at the 28th annual Chili Cook Off in Hannibal, hosted by the Hannibal Jaycees and Golden Eagle Distributing. I also know independent brewers can pump out beer with some really diverse flavors, but we were out of luck in that department. Those Hannibal folks love their Budweiser.
The best thing about the Chili Cook off was the price. $5 all you can “taste.” But they weren’t shy about dishing out steaming hot cups full. Instead of buying beer directly from the beer booth, you had to buy $2 or $3 tokens to exchange for beer. This goes for a lot of events around this area, including the KC Barbecue and St. Francis Parish Picnic. There has to be some kind of method behind this madness, but I’m not sure what it is. The way I see it, beer has the same desired effect whether I buy it with cash, a ticket or a token. They were also selling jumbo shrimp three for $1 and oysters on the half shell for $1 a piece. It wasn’t a bad deal. I ate and drank for about five hours on $30.
Entertainment was also included. And no, I don’t mean the gassy, drunk, slap-happy mob in Canadian Tuxedos. I’m talking about a Cajun band that played fiddles, steel drums, guitars and a wide variety of instruments for a majority of the afternoon. It seemed like most people drifted around from chili booth to chili booth without paying a whole lot of attention to the stage, but these were talented musicians. It’s not every day we get that kind of live music in the tri-states. I also have to acknowledge Chris Cornwell and friends for doing an excellent job running the sound.
To really kick off the whole event, local radio DJ and host, Dennis Oliver, loosed about 50-75 balloons that were trapped to the ceiling with a net. These balloons were full of slips of paper on which different prizes were written (i.e. foam hat, coozie cup, etc.). Whoever popped the balloons and got the paper inside won that prize. I would also classify this as entertainment. People gathered in a scrum underneath the net, and they were scrambling all over each other for balloons. Then, with all the drunken balance they could muster, tried popping the balloons with their foot while standing on one leg. So, how many prizes did I win? Absolutely none. Are you kidding? I was double fisting: a beer in one hand and a cup of chili in the other.
Alright, I’ve left you in suspense long enough. Let’s talk about the chili. I have to confess right off the bat that I’m no chili connoisseur. I also don’t really like spicy food all that much. I hope that doesn’t ruin my credibility, but, take it or leave it, this is what I thought. Hands down, the absolute best chili went to the Shelbyville Moonshiners. And guess what? Their chili wasn’t spicy. I think it had a creamier sauce, mushrooms, either turkey or pork instead of beef, and it was delicious. It still tasted like chili, but with much more flavor. Compared to some of the other chili’s I tasted, including one that was basically made with a hundred bottles of Frank’s Hot Sauce, the Moonshiners were my favorite. Plus, they had personality. I wore a KU Jayhawks hat, which was pretty stupid considering I was in Missouri. The Moonshiners wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. I’m sad to say they didn’t win. The $1,000 grand prize went to B.O.S.S. chili, which was much more traditional, but also delicious.
There were a lot of other diverse recipes. For example I tasted one “chili” that was made with BBQ sauce and shredded pork. Kind of odd, and much more like pulled pork than chili. I wasn’t a huge fan. I also had one that was served lukewarm with so many jalapeño seeds in it that I had to clean my teeth with a toothpick for about half an hour afterwards. MMMmm. Nothing like overkill spice that just never, ever, ever goes away.
At the end of the day, it was all for a good cause. The proceeds from this years Chili Cook Off went to the American Cancer Society and Wigs for Cancer Patients in Northeast Missouri. Remember, this is an annual event. If you missed it this year, I encourage you to check it out next year. You can’t beat a full day of entertainment, food, and beer for $20 or $30, especially for a wholesome cause. You just can’t.
This past Wednesday, I had the fortunate opportunity to get a sneak peak at the inside of the new restaurant and lounge located downtown at 600 Hampshire St., known simply as One, right before its soft opening.
If the building looks familiar from the outside, it’s because you might have caught a movie there for a buck decades ago, back when it was known as the Adam’s Theater, or the Dollar Theater. But, if you have any memories of how the inside used to look, I can assure you that the renovations will blow your mind. I cannot express how floored I was by how great the inside looks.
One’s creators and owners, Noi and Tenille Sonethongkham, were generous enough to show me around during a training session with new employees and answer a few of my questions. Now, I don’t want to give away what the inside looks like because I really think you should check it out for yourself. What I can tell you is that Noi and Tenille preserved the original ornate balconies, the theater was converted to the main dining room, there are bars upstairs and downstairs, and they added an upstairs lounge with some of the largests, most comfortable leather couches I have ever sat on.
I know that Chris and Victoria Kelly, my fellow “Searchlights” bloggers, were one of the first names on the reservation list, so they might have more to tell you about their dining experience. I’ll stick to my interview. I wanted to focus on the renovation of the old theater and learn more about the central ideas and inspirations that led to the creation of such a unique restaurant in the downtown area.
Time for the Q&A with Noi and Tenille Sonethongkham:
1. What were the biggest challenges of turning an old building into a new business?
There were many. Several rooms had to be completely rebuilt, including the lounges. We also had to bring the entire building up to current constriction codes and regulations. This meant inspecting and replacing all the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electrical work.
2. Did you preserve any of the original architecture from the Adam’s Theater?
Yes — we restored and preserved the original rounded, “opera-style” balconies, movie screen and the entire original stage.
3. Recently, a number of businesses have closed due to the “economy.” What made you decide to face the challenge of opening a new business?
Because we have a completely new concept, and we already had a great Thai food menu from our former restaurant, Taste of Thai, that we could build from.
4. Where did you come up with name One? What does it mean, if anything?
“One” stands for the synthesis of many different concepts — peace, unity, love, etc. — as well as the combination of several culinary and ethnic traditions. It’s also a play on the first syllable of our last name, “Sone.”
5. What can we expect from One in terms dining and night life?
We have nine 40” LCD TV sets in the main bar, a jumbo-tron 9-in-1 TV in the East Room, and a 20’ movie screen in the Theater Dining Room. We also have two balcony lounges with modern leather sofas and seating overlooking the stage and lower level. The menu is a combination of Thai, American, BBQ, Tapas, and a variety of other worldly dishes from varying culinary traditions.
6. So, When will you be open to the public?
We hope to be open to the public this week. We can’t confirm anything yet.
7. What about the basics: phone number, address, hours of operation?
We are located at 600 Hampshire St. and our phone number is (217) 214-0600. We accept reservations for groups of 8 or more. We will be open Sunday through Tuesday from 11a.m. to 11p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday from 11a.m. to 1a.m. Children are welcome until 9 p.m. We have an ATM available, and we accept cash, Discover, Mastercard and Visa. Free Wi-Fi internet is available.
8. If you had to describe One to someone, what would say?
This is a fusion restaurant of entertainment and diverse dining, created for a common ground for all to eat and enjoy good company. We have the best dishes from a variety of different countries combined into “One.”