Feb 23, 2015

Scenes from the Pelican Inn, Grafton, Ill.

(Editor's Note:  The Pelican Inn has been closed for business since heavy rains caused the Mississippi River to flood and mudslides to occur near the property in Spring 2015.  There is currently no timetable for when it will reopen.)

When it comes to being a hopeless romantic, I've always seemed to be a lot more hopeless than romantic.  For this Valentine’s Day, however, I wanted to make sure it was special for the girlfriend (who from henceforth shall be known as “The April” for blogging purposes), particularly since I had chosen that day to pop the engagement question. 

To celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to take her back to one of our favorite nearby places for a brief getaway -- Grafton, Ill., where the Illinois and Mississippi rivers meet.  Even in the dead of winter, the village of Grafton provides some spectacular scenery and plenty of choices for couples to find some privacy and quality time together. 

And so, as I reviewed notes from our last trip in October, I kept coming back to one guest house we spotted that just looked irresistibly cute -- the Pelican Inn.  After all, what was the worst that could happen in February – getting snowed in with access to winery a block away?  I’ll take those chances, especially when it involves our engagement.  I called the number on the website, spoke to the very friendly proprietor and learned it was still available for Valentines’ Day weekend.  I pounced on the opportunity and booked the room.   

Feb 19, 2015

Sizing up Logan’s Package, Buffalo, Ill.

Logan’s Package probably doesn't do a strong package liquor business these days, but it does deliver a great small town bar experience, and it’s the closest thing to a village institution in the small central Illinois community of Buffalo, Ill., which is about 15 minutes east of Springfield. 

It’s also where the girlfriend and I spent the majority of our first date.  It was just blocks away from where she was living at the time and seemed like a good starting point.  Fast forward a few hours after a few cocktails and some great conversation, and we simply didn't want to leave to go anywhere else. 

Logan's Package -- a story about a man (Kevin Logan) and his bar.

Feb 9, 2015

A commoner dines at Paul’s Confectionery, Decatur, Ill.

Most cities are fortunate enough to have at least one diner/lunch counter/greasy spoon that appears to have been frozen in time for the last several decades – or one that at least looks like it’s been that long since the place had a good cleaning.  The place carries on a tradition – and a menu – that has been largely unchanged for generations (if only we could say the same thing about the prices).  And let’s face it, progress, growth or making it more modern would kill its charm.    

In Decatur, Ill., this place is Paul’s Confectionery, which traces its origins in the city to 1924 and has been operating at its current location since 1945.   

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...