Make a pit stop on your road trip for unforgettable meals along the Mississippi River in Illinois.
Extending an impressive 3,300 kilometers from north to south along the fabled Mississippi River, the Great River Road is a route made for road-trip adventurers. The road passes through 10 states, each with its own personality and points of interest. The Illinois portion includes 885 kilometers of roadway traversing historic riverfront towns and – for the food-obsessed traveler – one-of-a-kind eateries that will make your trip as delicious as it is memorable.
Throwback Eateries in Alton
Located 35 kilometers northeast of St. Louis, Missouri, the town of Alton is full of charm and history, from the birthplace of jazz great Miles Davis to a walkable downtown to historic sites along the Civil War Legacy Trail. There are three main photo ops: the statue of Robert Wadlow, the tallest person in history (2.72m); sweeping views of the Mississippi River from the top of Melvin Price Locks & Dam No. 26; and the mythical Piasa Bird Mural painted on a riverside bluff. Local favorite places to eat include Castelli’s Restaurant, a cozy eatery opened in 1937 famed for its fried chicken and fried ravioli; and Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air, founded in 1921 and serving tasty bar food, cold beer and live music.
Overlooking the Mississippi River in Alton
Mormon History and More in Nauvoo
Established in 1839 by Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the entire city of Nauvoo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the old homes of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, take photos of the architecturally striking Nauvoo Temple and see statues depicting women in traditional roles at the Monument to Women Memorial Garden. The Hotel Nauvoo Historic Inn & Restaurant will satisfy your appetite with a buffet of home-style fried chicken, catfish, roast beef, ham, turkey and hearty vegetable sides. The hotel dates to 1840 and has eight rooms available.
Historic buildings, a major part of the Nauvoo landscape
Moline: Family and Foodie Friendly
The city of Moline is sandwiched between the Mississippi River to the north and Rock River to the south. A cruise on the 750-passenger paddlewheel, the Celebration Belle, is a must to take in this unique natural beauty. Visit Rock Island Arsenal, an active military armory with historic structures dating to the mid-1800s. The Naibi Zoo is fun for all ages with more than 600 animals from 200 species. Moline is full of home-style restaurants including QC Coffee & Pancake House (order a big stack of pancakes or an omelet) and Lagomarcino’s confectionery for old-fashioned ice cream and handmade sweet treats.
The Brunch Burger, featuring a fried egg and hashbrowns, at QC Coffee & Pancake House
Galena’s Historical Appeal
According to Conde Nast Traveler, Galena is one of the Friendliest Cities in the World. It’s also a history lover’s hot spot, with most of the city registered as a National Historic District. Downtown is lined with 19th century buildings including the 1826 Dowling House and the Jail Hill Inn, a bed and breakfast that was a real jailhouse from 1878-1977. Enjoy breakfast at Otto’s Place near the old home of President Ulysses S. Grant, then indulge in a burger, hand-cut French fries and a “boozy” shake (liquor-infused milkshake) for lunch or dinner at Durty Gurts Burger Joynt. Just outside of Galena is a scenic photo spot of the cascade at Thunder Bay Falls.
A reuben with sweet potato fries at Durty Gurts Burger Joynt
St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) is just 35 kilometers southwest of Alton, across the Mississippi River in the state of Missouri. Rental cars are readily available.