If you're new to my territory, St. Louis' Illinois suburbs including Madison County and surrounding areas, you might not know about one of the most beautiful places on Earth -- the stretch of highway called the Great River Road between Alton and Grafton, Illinois.
The scenic drive along the Mississippi River also goes by the grand name of Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway. This is where the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers come together, giving those of us lucky enough to live here stunning views and amazing recreational opportunities.
Describing everything to see and do from Alton to Grafton and beyond will take many blog posts, so for this virtual outing, I am going to concentrate on tonight's quick trip along the river to a favorite dining spot -- The Finn Inn in Grafton, Illinois
Did you know that Buffalo can swim? In these parts, Buffalo is a river-dwelling fish, not a slow-moving wooly Bison. It's usually served deep fried with tartar sauce and a side of hush puppies (fried corn meal and onion dough balls). Some fries and cole slaw complete the meal.
If you're a squeamish diner, you'll want to be forewarned that The Finn Inn is an aquarium restaurant. You'll see some of the tasty menu items swimming past your booth in the large aquariums that ring the restaurant. (The fish tank residents are not selected and eaten like a lobster at Morton's -- but there are many of the same species in residence.) The friendly wait staff can usually tell you the types of the fish that are swimming by if you're curious.
Menu highlights include the aforementioned Buffalo, Catfish (both river and pond-raised varieties), clam strips served mixed with popcorn shrimp and the ubiquitous chicken strips for those who can't watch fish while they eat fish. Lasagne, spaghetti and a steak offering also are given a landlubber nod on the menu although I have never seen them plated and delivered to anyone in the dining room where fish is king.
Cod makes an appearance on the table as a fillet or fritters and it can be deep fried or broiled. Even Tilapia -- which is becoming as common as catfish in Midwestern restaurants -- has made its way to the banks of the Mississippi from its native North Africa.
Dinner guests are urged to save room for Berry Cobbler or other desserts.
Next door to The Finn Inn is the venerable Beasly's Fish Stand and across the street is another long-time Grafton favorite, the Wild Goose, a restaurant that touts its chili. I'll let you ponder who exactly is in the kitchen whipping up that hot dish by taking a look at the restaurant's sign.
From Alton, Grafton is 12 miles north on the Great River Road. If you're making the trip during the day, stop at the Visitor Center in Alton to pick up some of the helpful information that Alton CVB director Brett Stawar and his staff have created to make your visit more enjoyable. You can learn more at this link to the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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I help good people buy and sell good homes in St. Louis' Illinois suburbs, with special emphasis on the Metro East communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Collinsville, Troy and surrounding areas in Madison County, Illinois.
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REMAX Preferred Partners is located at One 157 Center, Edwardsville, IL 62025, 618-791-8007 (direct) 618-655-1188 (office). We're easy to find on IL-157 in Edwardsville between Pasta House Co. and Shenanigans. Each office is independently owned and operated.