The Best Foodie Road Trip in Illinois

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Although it’s not the biggest state, Illinois is home to a wide range of delectable food. Whether you’re on a major journey or just sauntering around the state, Illinois has hundreds of cuisines waiting to be sampled.
Packaging a few of those stops into a road trip is a good way to expand your palate while also seeing parts of the state you might not otherwise encounter!
Outlining a perfect trip isn’t easy, but car insurance comparison and broker app Jerry has you covered with the best foods—and a good order to explore them in.
Before you set off on the journey to tantalize your taste buds, be sure to sign up for Jerry’s roadside assistance program. For just $6.99 for one car, you’ll get peace of mind that you’re covered no matter where the road takes you with towing, emergency fuel delivery, lockout services, and more.
Ready to fill your belly on the best foodie road trip in Illinois? Read on!
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Chicago and the surrounding area are home to some of the country’s best cafes, restaurants, and food trucks. And you don’t have to drive very far to experience it all! Look out for everything ranging from pancakes to special local favorites.
![A cheese pull from a Giordano’s deep dish pizza.]( (1).jpg “A Chicago pizza cheese pull”) A Chicago pizza cheese pull

Where to eat

Foodies should start their excursion in the middle of the city with a trip to Batter and Berries. The iconic windy city spot features a rotating french toast menu—so you’ll always find something new to try. Check out their local collaborations for new specials.
If you’re a coffee lover, Sawada is the way to go. The Japanese-style java offers some intriguing drinks. Founder Hiroshi Sawada is a renowned latte expert, so try one of his concoctions while you play ping pong or hang out.
It would be wrong to go to Chicago without digging into deep dish pizza. For that, look no further than Lou Malnati’s. Their pies are regarded as some of the trailblazers in the evolution of deep dish.
And for dinner, try another Chicago specialty. Mediterranean spot Avec has been a Chi-town favorite for nearly 20 years, partially spurred by the popularity of their bacon-wrapped dates. Stuffed with chorizo, the delectable appetizers offer the perfect mix of sweet, salty, and spicy. They can be paired with nice wines, too!

North of the windy city: Chicago to Lake Michigan

Driving time: About an hour with stops
As Chicago sprawls, so, too, do the food options around the state of Illinois. You only have to go slightly north of the windy city, along the pretty shores of Lake Michigan, to find more delectable options.
People line up for hot dogs at a food truck in Chicago.
A food truck in Chicago

Where to eat

On your way out of Chicago, check out Nhu Lan Bakery. The hole-in-the-wall spot is always busy around lunchtime but serves fantastic, warm Bahn mi at a great price point. If you don’t fancy a sandwich, they have pho and sweet pork buns that are also well worth trying. But regardless of what you choose, it has to be paired with a Vietnamese iced coffee.
There are further options as you drive north. For top-notch pub food, check out the Peckish Pig. The Evanston hotspot nails fish and chips and also offers a selection of local beers—if that’s your thing. Also try out their Kedgeree, a spin on an Indian fish curry, for lunch!
For dinner, look into Inovasi in Lake Bluff. The modern American bistro features a variety of funky dishes. Cucumber fans should try the chilled cucumber soup accompanied by hand-forged bread!
To top the evening off, try Baker Boys in Highland Park. The old-timey cafe excels at frozen custard and baked goods, making for a delicious way to finish off your evening.

Fine farm fare: Lake Michigan shores to Ottawa

Driving time: About 2 hours
Illinois features thousands of miles of countryside, and there’s tasty food to be had there, too! A growing number of independent farms have opened restaurants in recent years, with farm-to-table ingredients as a selling point. And an excursion across the state can help you hit the best of them.
Halloween donuts at Didier Farms, Illinois.
Halloween donuts from an Illinois farm

Where to eat

Begin with Hank’s Farm in Ottawa, Illinois for famous fried chicken and waffles. The former dairy warehouse became an eatery in 1941 and has expanded its popular appeal ever since. They offer breakfast Monday to Saturday with a number of southern highlights. If you happen to be around on a Sunday, give their award-winning buffet brunch a shot!
Drive an hour through the countryside to find the Original Fence Farm restaurant. The self-dubbed “World’s Greatest Chicken Team” accompanies its meats with farm-fresh sides, highlighted by a fresh bean salad. Check out the petting zoo and eclectic antique car collection while you’re there—a good way to get some air after eating a massive lunch.
If you happen to have any room left in your stomach, visit Locavore Farm. Each guest pays a set fee for a portion of the year’s harvest, from which chefs will prepare a delicious multi-course meal. The farm seats its customers along one massive, 107-foot long table, offers farm tours, and serves wine and local beer to accompany the experience. It’s about as upmarket as farm food gets—and it’s delicious!

Capital and college town: Ottawa to Springfield

Driving time: About 2 1/2 hours
State capital Springfield is an interesting urban center, and a drive from there to Urbana-Champaign—home to the University of Illinois—is an exploration between culinary old and new!
A view looking up at Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, Illinois.
Lincoln’s Tomb, Springfield, IL

Where to eat

Start at Incredibly Delicious in Springfield. The facade is misleading—what appears to be a late-19th century mansion opens into a homestyle bakery and cafe. Their brunch menu rotates often, usually according to the chef’s preference. But the mixed berry french toast is a mainstay, and well worth trying. Pick up some fresh bread for the road, too.
If you’re inclined to see a bit of history, visit Abraham Lincoln’s home. The property, now a museum, encapsulates his history in great detail—and the best part is that it’s just minutes from Wm Van’s Coffee House, a local java favorite!
Bring things into the present with a quick lunch at Cafe Moxo. The trendy cafe, which asserts “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food,” specializes in sandwiches and pot pies. Give the “gobble gobble” turkey sandwich a go!
Prepare to be wowed for dinner once you saunter into Urbana. Among the college bars and fast food lies Silvercreek, a fancier restaurant that presents twists on classic American dining. If you’re more open to pineapple on a burger than on pizza, you should give the Kahuna burger a go—the combination of teriyaki sauce and sirloin is delish.

Southern surprises: Urbana-Champaign to Carbondale

Driving time: About 3 hours
Away from the metropolitan area of Chicago and deep into Illinois, the cuisines change. In the great planes towards the Missouri border, foodies can expect to find hearty, soulful American bites. Expect big dishes that will leave you very full.
A Chicago-style hot dog from Portillo's.
A Chicago-style hot dog

Where to eat

Start at the funky Harbaugh’s Cafe in Carbondale. The owner features work from local artists on the walls and has created a family atmosphere in her restaurant since its opening in 2000. The food matches the trendy ambiance, with the corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy serving as standouts. Expect to find college students and locals alike at this popular spot!
Just 15 minutes from Carbondale lies Giant City State Park—4,000 of forested land, complete with unusual sandstone rock formations, that makes for a fun late morning of exploration.
But it’s not just the flora that attracts people to the area. The Giant City Lodge Restaurant boasts a menu full of classic comfort foods. And if you and your dining companions are ready, give the family-style fried chicken dinner a go!
If you want something a little lighter, Chango’s Bar and Grill might be it. The popular restaurant replaces fried chicken and cocktails with tacos and cheap Mexican beer. The result is a lot of fresh, yummy food for a good price. Try any 3 tacos for $8!
At dinner time, look for something historic. The Centralia House dates back to 1854 and was a stop-off for passengers on the Southern Illinois railroad. Some of those traditions have remained alive to this day, with the restaurant featuring live piano performances every Friday and Saturday. Familiarity with ragtime and jazz music isn’t required to enjoy the food, though!

Why you need roadside assistance

Foodie road trips are an excellent way to expand your palate and explore new places—but you need to stay safe while doing so! Unfortunately, accidents and breakdowns happen. Whether you’ve busted a tire or gotten into a collision, Jerry’s roadside assistance program is here to help.
Jerry has you covered by featuring up to 10 miles of towing plus jump starts, tire changes, fuel deliveries, and more. You can also enjoy some exclusive benefits, including car advice, key replacement, and Uber credits—and it only costs $6.99 for one car!

Finding cheap car insurance

Whether you’re driving from town to town for food or doing the local grocery run, you’ll also want the right car insurance. And if you want to save money on insurance, the Jerry app is a great place to start.
An intelligent, AI-based tool like Jerry is the easiest and most effective way to find a car insurance policy that is customized for you.
After providing you with a comprehensive cross-analysis of the best policies across providers, Jerry will handle the phone calls, paperwork, and renewals for your top pick so that you don’t have to. So why do all that extra work when Jerry can do it better?
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Are there any iconic roads I should be driving on?

Yes! The famous Route 66 cuts right through Illinois. If you want to get a taste of old America, there are a number of landmarks and retro stopping points along the way. A journey down there would make a good road trip, too…

Are there any other attractions I have to see?

Yes! Chicago, in particular, is full of great spots. Try The Field Museum, Centennial Park, or even check out a ball game if you’re around for the night. It’s also a great place to start a longer drive!

What happens if I break down?

Unfortunately, accidents and breakdowns happen. The best thing you can do is to be prepared. That means stay fueled up, get your car serviced, and sign up for Jerry’s roadside assistance program!
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