Memorable | One of the Best
Wedron Office | Illinois Valley Fried Chicken & Bluegill
Review by: Michael Stern
Only In Illinois
If you are driving along 35th Road north of Ottawa, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, you can’t miss Wedron Office. It is the only thing around that is not a cornfield. It sports a pool table up front and a hospitable bar in the center of the restaurant. When no worthy sporting event is on TV, the overheads show tavern-suitable programs. When I first visited, a crime-focused cable channel called truTV was playing a show called “Busted in the Buff.” Given the setting, one might expect mediocre food. But one would be wrong. For Illinois Valley fried chicken & bluegill, this tavern rates high.
“You like the cream of mushroom soup!” says the waitress when she comes to clear away my emptied bowl. “You know,” she boasts, “It is homemade.” It is pleasant soup, not too woodsy, nothing dramatic. But it delivers Midwest homemaker comfort. Bits of celery and lots of pieces of mushroom that are just past al dente crowd each spoonful.
Fried chicken is a house specialty. It takes a while because it is cooked to order. This chicken justifies the wait. A thin envelope of crust encloses each piece. Squiggles of seasoned batter trail off the crust. The dark-meat thigh is thick and juicy. While its flavor is not intrinsically exciting, it does provide vital counterpoint to the crust. Indeed, the crust is so thrilling that I was tempted to just peel it away and eat it without the meat. That would be like having all the bacon from your breakfast but leaving behind the eggs and toast. I had hunted every little crumb of it on the plate by the end of the meal.
Rare Opportunity To Enjoy Bluegill
Wedron Office also makes a point of serving bluegill. Because it takes a good half-dozen small fillets to make a meal, bluegill doesn’t appear on too many restaurant menus. But unless you are adamantly anti-fish, this is a dish you want to eat. The little fillets are white, sweet, and moist. They remind me of lake perch, enclosed in a toasty crust that is teasingly salted. Forget tartar or cocktail sauce; either would be only a distraction.
Taste of the Region
Best strategy: Come as a couple, order both fried chicken & bluegill, and share. You both will enjoy a true Illinois River Valley meal.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner, Late Night|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|