If you are driving along 35th Road north of Ottawa, Illinois, 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; and when there is no worthy sporting event to broadcast, the overheads are tuned to Tru TV (which was playing a show called “Busted in the Buff” when I visited). One would expect mediocre food in such a place, but one would be wrong.
“You like the cream of mushroom soup!” says the waitress when she comes to clear away the emptied bowl. “You know,” she boasts, “It is homemade.” It is pleasant soup, not too woodsy, nothing dramatic, but truly homey in a Midwest homemaker sort of way: bits of celery, lots of pieces of mushroom that are just past al dente.
Fried chicken is a house specialty. It takes a while because it is cooked to order. The wait is worth it. Each piece is enclosed in a thin envelope of crust, with trailing squiggles of seasoned batter all about that are a joy to lift off. The dark-meat thigh is thick and juicy, and while its flavor is not intrinsically exciting, it does provide some counterpoint to the crust, which is so thrilling that one is tempted to just peel it away and eat it without the meat – like having all the bacon off your breakfast plate but leaving behind the eggs and toast. I was hunting every little crumb of it on the plate by the end of the meal.
Wedron Office also makes a point of serving bluegill, which isn’t all that common on restaurant menus because it takes a good half-dozen small fillets to make a meal. Unless you are adamantly anti-fish, this is a dish you want to eat. The little fillets are white, sweet, and moist, reminiscent of lake perch, enclosed in a toasty crust that is teasingly salted. Forget tartar or cocktail sauce; either would be only a distraction.