There are two things that every successful road trip has to have…great food and fun things to do! ILLINOISouth has you covered for both with these day or overnight trip suggestions that are a little off the beaten track. Get a copy of the ILLINOISouth Visitors Guide or go to illinoisouth.org for nearby lodging.
From the day the doors opened, Beast Craft BBQ has been a hit. Even though it’s not on a major highway or in a big city, word-of-mouth advertising and articles in FEAST and Sauce magazines bring hungry patrons from all over the St. Louis metro area and beyond. Chef and Pitmaster David Sandusky left the fine dining world in 2014, and with his wife, Meggan, brought his hand-crafted barbecue to Belleville.
Regular patrons have learned to come early and often. They know they might have to stand in line for a little while, but it’s worth it to try whatever is on the weekly menu. Everything is fresh – premium meat is smoked and sold daily. There are no cans, freezers or microwaves in the kitchen. There’s a huge selection of craft beer, and the atmosphere is casual. To make it even better, the Sanduskys give back to the community in the form of donations to local charities. No wonder they sell out every day! Hours: 11am – 9pm daily or until sold out. Take out and catering is available.
Once you’re here, Beast Craft BBQ is only a couple of blocks west of Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center where weekend shows are a big draw. Check our calendar for monthly Flea Markets, Gun & Knife Shows, Craft & Vendor Fair, Largest Yard Sale, Motorcycle Swap and more. If shopping is a passion, downtown Belleville is less than a mile north on Hwy 159 with several blocks of unique shops.
Championship barbeque from the winner of the 2015 Illinois State champion BBQ team is the signature of A Fine Swine BBQ. Pitmaster David Stidham has been a lover of barbecue since he was a child. Maybe growing up in Memphis, TN had something to do with that! A few years ago, after perfecting his skills with wood, smoke and meat, and with encouragement from his sons, he entered his first professional competition. The rookie finished with a 3rd place win overall! Since then, he’s won many other competitions and developed several bestselling sauces.
Now this nationally-known BBQ champion has opened his first restaurant in New Baden, IL with a menu featuring Championship Pulled Pork, Prime Texas Brisket, Competition Ribs and Hickory Smoked Chicken. It’s all fresh meat delivered daily and cooked low and slow then served with fresh-made sides. To top it all off, there’s fruit cobbler or gooey butter cake for dessert. Hours: Tues. – Sat. 11am – 8pm; Sun. 11am – 6pm or until sold out. Catering and online ordering available.
Continue the adventure 13 miles east on IL 161 with a visit to Bob’s Civil War Fort. This exact replica was built stone by stone starting in 1984 and is the lifetime achievement of Bob Eversgerd. It includes a jail, one room home, livery, log cabins, lookout towers, cannons, laundry, wagons and so much more. Be sure to stop in at the museum and see the cases of Native American arrowheads and other artifacts that were discovered around the property. Bob enjoys giving tours, but best to call in advance. He has caller ID (no voicemail) and will call back, or you can drive by. If the doors to the Fort are open, go on in.
In 1982, Helen Tuttle opened the Moonshine Store in a general store built in 1912 near Martinsville, IL. In addition to some grocery items, Helen began cooking up her Moonshine Burgers for the locals. It didn’t take long before word spread that these were the best hamburgers in Illinois! Helen is retired now, but her daughter-in-law, Lisa Tuttle, said the family is keeping the grill, and Helen’s reputation, going.
Every day the place is crowded with people who stand in line to order the legendary meat and cheese on a bun. Many of them come from all over the country. They’ve heard about Moonshine online at onlyinourstate.com or roadsideamerica.com, or on TV on the Travel Channel and Bill Geist’s CBS Sunday Morning segment (see it on YouTube). Many return after coming for the Moonshine Lunch Run, which attracts thousands of bikers each spring. Lisa said they served 3,362 burgers on this one day this past April. The date for the next Run is already set for April 14, 2018.
Moonshine is open Monday – Saturday at 6:00am, but don’t dawdle, the grill is turned off at 12:30pm – sharp. The store, which sells mainly souvenir items, closes at 1:00pm. While you’re there, check out the World’s Largest Horseshoe in Martinsville and the many other World’s Largest things 7.5 mi. east on U.S. 40 in Casey.
Writer’s note: Information for these articles was drawn in part from their Facebook pages and websites.
Article from Fall Tourism Times 2017 – “Road Trippin’ Off the Beaten Track”