Archive for  August 2010

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12 Treasure in Litchfield

The Ariston CafeOn old Route 66 in Litchfield Illinois is a treasure. Thousands have found it, from those around the block to those half a world away. The Ariston Cafe has stood at it’s present location since 1935.  It’s believed to be one of, if not THE, oldest cafe on historic Route 66. Pete Adam founded the restaurant. In 1966 his son Nick and family took over, and in 2004, Nicks son Paul joined the team. Three generations of the Adam’s have cherished and cared for this classic piece of American Heritage…and it shows.
The exterior of the building, with it’s multicolored, round topped brick facade has been a welcoming site for travelers for decades longing for a hot meal and a chance to climb out from behind the wheel and into a booth for some classic dining.
Stepping through the front door is a step back into time. The classic wooden booths with their attached coat hangers and polished finish will instantly transport you to simpler times, and you can almost see the fedoras that would most certainly have found a temporary perch there. A  counter replete with bar stools awaits those who wish a quick bite. Near the door is an original menu from 1938 that was presented to owner Nick by loyal local patron. Imagine a Porterhouse steak for 85 cents in today’s world!
The menu at the Ariston promises something for everyone from steaks and seafood to patty melts and reubens (visit their website for a great Baklava recipe).
Take the drive to Litchfield and stop off at the Ariston Cafe for some classic dining at a classic American cafe!

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-Ed Baumgarten

13 A Classic Theater In The Heart of IL

The Orpheum theater in Hillsboro stands as a monument to the the glory days of movie theaters, where the ‘silver screen’ brought the rest of the world to small towns. This classic 19th century building has all the art deco ornamentation that made these movie houses the jewel of any town on a Saturday night.


Originally opening in 1920 the theater boasted some 780 seats in the ‘modern and attractive’ building for patrons. Over the years the theater changed owners through ups and downs, and luckily, was kept in good condition. The current owners took over in 2003, moving to Hillsboro from Iowa where they ran several theaters. Since taking over the Orpheum in Hillsboro, the Eisentraut Family has opened several other theaters in surrounding towns. Their secret…..being the best movie deal in Illinois. Just $6.00 gets you a ticket, a tub of popcorn and a drink…..$6.00…..!! Not quite 1920’s prices, but darn close. With today’s ever escalating prices this family has taken a stand to provide good quality entrainment at a price everyone can afford. The building itself is a wonderful example of 20’s Art Deco and maintains it’s original facade.


The sign above the marque proudly displays the name of the theater and above that, the original stone work carving of Orpheus, the Greek entertainer who wooed the gods, and the theater’s name sake, beckons all to come and be entertained. The original viewing room has since been divided in height to allow for two theaters in the same building, over and under. From the upper theater the original tin ceiling and ornate cornices can be seen. What wonderful ornamentation these buildings had!

The ornate upper level theater

In these days of high prices and multiplexes it’s great to see small town values can survive, and thrive, in the theater business…..and at the Orpheum the show goes on….

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-Ed Baumgarten

14 Palos Meldown Mountain Bike


Palos Meltdown Mountain Bike Race

Unofficially deemed the “Chicago World Mountain Bike Championships ” because it’s the only major mountain bike race in the Chicago metro area, the Sunday, August 22 Palos Meltdown Mountain Bike Race returns to the Cook County Forest Preserves at Bullfrog Lake/Pulaski Woods near Willow Springs (95th Street and Wolf Rd., just east of Archer Avenue).

Organized by CAMBr (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers), racing happens all day in a variety of skill levels from Novice to Expert, man and women’s categories.  Action begins at 8:00 a.m., and spectators are welcome. Over 200 people have already registered for the race, and the course is mainly singletrack, a narrow dirt trail with some obstacles such as ravines, roots, rocks and logs. The race is obviously an athletic contest, but is also a social gathering where cheering on, and sometimes heckling, racers can be a competitive event in itself!

 The annual race, which has been held since 2007, is a fundraiser for the Chicago Area Mountain bikers, which build and maintain the trails in the Palos Forest Preserves and throughout the metro area.  This year, the race is also a part of the Illinois Homegrown Race Series, a series of nine mountain bike races in various locations, which will likely draw a wider group of racers and spectators.

 The races are held in a beautiful area of the Palos Preserves, so pack a lunch and bring some friends out to watch the races and enjoy a day in the woods.

By Gina Kenny

15 And the winner is

Life Guards by Marcia Straub

On behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in our summer photo contest! We received so many beautiful (and colorful!) images it was hard to pick a winner. We can’t thank you enough for sharing your unique perspective of Illinois with us. We are delighted to announce Marcia as the winner for her photo “Boat House Way.” Congratulations, Marcia!

If you weren’t able to participate in this contest, stay tuned for details about our next photo contest.

16 The Covered Bridge on Sugar Creek

Spanning Sugar Creek, just west of Glenarm, IL is the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge. Also known as the Glenarm, or Hedley bridge, this 60 foot span is listed on the National register of historic places and is one of 5 remaining 19th century covered bridges in Illinois. Rehabilitated by IDOT in 1965 to keep it intact, this wonderful old structure was placed on a modern under-deck and embankments to keep it preserved for many years to come. The historical society of Sangamon County established ‘Pioneer Park’ adjacent to the bridge in honor of Robert Pullian, who settled there around 1817. The original bridge was constructed around 1880 using the Burr Arch design and served as a passage across Sugar Creek for what must of been countless settlers, livestock and traders for many, many years. This site is wonderfully kept and is just a mile or so off of historic Route 66. For a nice diversion when traveling the ‘Mother Road’ or heading down I-55, exit at Glenarm (Exit 83) and take the frontage road up through and past Glenarm and follow the signs. It’s beautiful country and just a short hop off the main road. A hint…the last turn isn’t marked….turn right….happy motoring!

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-Ed Baumgarten