Nov 18, 2014

Exploring Eldred – Kathy’s Corner and Thirsty’s Tavern

(Editor's note:  Thirsty's Tavern recently changed names and is now known as Tucker's Pub.  Rest assured, it's still in its great location in downtown Eldred.)

Consider this post a prologue to my previous entry about last months’ trip to Grafton, Ill., since before we made it to our destination, my girlfriend and I got the itch to add some small town, off-the-beaten-path bar hopping to the day’s festivities.  And you don’t get much more off the beaten path than Eldred, Ill., a small farm community in rural Greene County that also serves as a pit stop for seasonal hunters and bikers.

Eldred isn't quite as old as the hills it’s nestled against, but it may seem like it when you first visit.  People have lived at this village’s location in the Illinois River bottom beside the bluffs for nearly 200 years.  It also happens to be on the south end of the lightly traveled Hillview-Eldred Road, which is one of my favorite fall drives in Illinois because the road nestles along the bluffs for miles and miles with barely a trace of civilization around you.  Yes, you could say we took the scenic route to Grafton, and that involved a couple of stops in Eldred. 

The first was at Kathy’s Corner, appropriately named for being at the corner of Hillview Road and Illinois Highway 108.  If you take 108 a few miles west, you’ll be treated to a nice ferry ride across the Illinois River into the sleepy river town of Kampsville, but that’s another adventure for another time, especially since my girlfriend has a slight aversion to ferries and old bridges. 

Standing on a corner in ... Eldred, Ill.

As it turns out, though, she loves the fall foliage, and you get a nice view from the parking lot of Kathy’s Corner.

Not being able to resist a Stag sign that advertises drinking hours starting at 9 a.m., we decided to go into Kathy’s.  It was actually closer to noon, so I was a little surprised to see what crowd they had was mainly there for lunch.  We sat at a spacious U-shaped bar in the middle of the restaurant, each with a Stag in hand and watched two farm workers devour two of the largest horseshoe sandwiches I've ever seen.  One of them had to be piled at least four inches high.  And they were clearly enjoying every bite.  I would have loved to take a picture, but being an out-of-towner, I didn't want to be rude or press my luck. 

So, Kathy’s is apparently the place to go when you’re near Eldred for a bite to eat.  But we wanted more “ambiance” … someplace dark and divey even on the sunniest of fall afternoons.   

As we got in our car to look for the other bar we learned was in town, we noticed a lone Harley couple roar past Kathy’s.  The girlfriend instructed, “Follow that bike!”  Her instincts proved to be correct.  

Fortunately, Cube parking is allowed.
In a case of sticking out like a sore thumb, I parked the girlfriend’s Nissan Cube next to the motorcycle in front of Thirsty’s Tavern in “downtown” Eldred. 

It turned out to be just what we were hoping for – a nice little dive, a well stocked bar, and a very friendly bartender who seemed genuinely happy to see a few friendly strangers wander through.

We bellied up to the bar to discuss the day’s adventure that awaited us, and we also mentioned to the bartender our first stop in town and how happy we were to find Thirsty’s.  She cheerfully said, “Well, you've come to the right place – coldest Stag in three counties.” 

How could we resist?  Two Stags:  $4.  You can’t afford not to drink.  The bartender was also right.  The beer was ice cold … I slid pieces of ice off the bottle before I drank.  We toasted each other.  We kind of didn't want to leave.   

It's a blue-ribbon decoration.
The place was also clearly a place for fans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.  In addition to the signs dominating the décor, the bartender proudly showed us her light fixture made with PBR bottles.

I imagine the old CD roulette-style jukebox also gets its fair share of attention.  It seems to draw you in.

We did eventually leave Thirsty's and Eldred for our intended destination of Grafton, but only after taking our time to finish our Stags.  Frankly, Thirsty's left such a good impression on us that we're looking forward to including it in a future small town bar tour.  Next summer, perhaps ... when hot weather truly calls for an ice-cold Stag.  

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