I live in Texas.
Serendipity lead me to find the BEST restaurant in Illinois by complete happy (mouthwatering) accident.
And, within the last 10 months, I have eaten there three times!
Are you road tripping through Illinois? Add this unbelievable restaurant to your must-visit, travel agenda.
In July of 2016, my husband and I made a quick and unexpected road trip from Chicago to Houston. No pre-planning, color-coded itineraries, museum stops or kids…just me and my husband on the open road, in a hurry to get home to Texas.
We left Chicago around 4:00 p.m. and decided to drive until we were too tired to continue. As we made our way along I-94 and then I-57 S, I saw a billboard advertising a farm-to-table restaurant. I Goggled the name (Yea! for the internet and cell phones and the all-mighty Google) and my husband and I agreed we would stop there for dinner. (We do not eat fast food and we were THRILLED to have a fresh dining option!)
Instantly, we knew we stumbled upon something special. The rustic, natural wood, relaxing front porch, and open, outdoor seating welcomes guests, especially weary travelers looking for the perfect meal and an opportunity to unwind.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted the beautiful garden to the right of the main building. In all of it’s summer glory, it was magnificent! Farm-to-table…with the farm right there!
The menu…the fresh food…the garden…the ambiance…
We ordered several appetizers, two entrees and two desserts. Yes, it was just the two of us…we like to indulge once in awhile. No judging. Of course, this was long before I started this blog. I took pictures of the land and building, but unfortunately, the AMAZING food was completely devoured without being photographed.
My husband and I took our time enjoying everything the Firefly Grill offered. We were in no hurry to get back on the road. Blissfully satisfied and in a complete food coma, we reserved a hotel room right in Effingham that evening.
Lucky for you, my son lives in Chicago and my family took a return road trip to Illinois in May of 2017. Firefly Grill was placed at the top of the must-do, color-coded itinerary–TWO stops in fact–one on the way into Chicago and the other, on the way back home to Texas.
***When your all-time FAVORITE restaurant is 886 miles from your front door, you gotta make a BIG effort to eat as much and as often as humanly possible. No judging.
And the good news: This time, I took pictures of EVERYTHING. You are welcome.
The Firefly Grill delivers a fresh, farm-to-table, sustainable and environmentally responsible menu that changes often and reflects seasonal availability. The commitment to conscious dining is reflected not only in their food, but also in the abundant reclaimed barn woods, recycled steel, composting practices, thoughtful irrigation from the on-site pond and an unwavering dedication to using non-chemical gardening practices.
Using a simple philosophy, “Source the best ingredients possible and stay out of their way”, Chef Niall creates uncomplicated, distinctive, and original dishes in an expedition style kitchen.
The main dining room is modern casual, with dark chocolate wood floors, comfortable leather seating, cool cobalt blue glassware, single bulb pendant lighting and a full bar.
Billowing drapery and a warm, gentle color scheme creates a home-like and welcoming setting.
Large plate glass windows and doors showcase a relaxing and peaceful outdoor setting, tempting visitors to dine alfresco, if the weather permits. My family and I ate on the charming patio during all of our visits.
Outdoor tables provide casual and comfortable seating, with several cushioned couches, woven chairs and cooling ceiling fans. The porch offers a rustic and relaxing environment, where guests enjoy the tranquil views.
The side patio faces a large grassy knoll, highlighting one graceful, willow-like tree.
As the patio wraps around, tables and sofas sit above the banks of the peaceful Kristie Lake.
YES! Enormous and beautiful orange and black fish swim around in the lake!
The environment and the ambiance are reason enough to visit this amazing restaurant. It is a breathtaking oasis with a family-friendly, peaceful and relaxing vibe, full of environmentally responsible actions.
However, it is the simple, fresh, locally sourced and sensational food that impressed my family the most and stamped Firefly Grill with the honor of being my new favorite restaurant, even if it is 886 miles from my house.
Firefly Grill offers diners a diverse menu showcasing ingredients, vegetables and herbs grown onsite. The restaurant combines great food with a peaceful location. It is the perfect farm-to-table example of what fresh and responsible dining should be and could be in our country.
Because meals are prepared when ordered, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and allergen-friendly requests are welcomed and easily created. Every staff member we encountered was knowledgeable, helpful and attentive, producing a professional team and family community within the restaurant.
Below are several pictures of the yummy menu when we visited in May of 2017. Remember friends, this is a farm-to-table restaurant with a focus on serving seasonal, available and responsibly sourced food, so this menu will change as often as needed and that is what makes this place so incredible!
The menu boasts all kinds of delectable options: soups, salads, small plates, pizzas, sandwiches, entrees, sides, desserts, coffees, after dinner drinks, as well as beer and wine.
Honestly, we wanted to try it all!
So what did we eat? No judging…remember?
During one visit, I ordered the Firefly Garden Salad, which was full of crispy mixed greens (from the onsite garden!), tiny sprigs of dill, roasted red and gold beets, a crunchy and tangy goat cheese croquette, all lightly tossed with white balsamic. Bright, fresh, and delicious!
I ordered the Wedge Salad during our second visit. It was a perfectly portioned plate of crisp iceberg lettuce, a sprinkle of Applewood smoked bacon, green chives, soft bleu cheese crumbles and a drizzle of creamy dressing. Traditionally, this salad also comes with fresh red tomatoes, but I ordered without.
My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the fried morel mushrooms (which are only available for a limited time) served with chili lime aioli and a zesty dill ranch. It was the BEST ranch dip I have EVER tasted.
As you can see, I practically licked the ranch bowl. Maybe I did…maybe I didn’t…there is no proof…
My husband ordered the Fish-n-Chips–fresh and crispy pieces of Atlantic cod, bold Guinness Stout, malt vinegar, served with firefly tartar sauce and French fries. He loved the fish and the tartar sauce was divine. I finished off his fries by dousing them in malt vinegar and dredging through the tangy tartar. (My mouth is watering as I type this sentence!)
Below is a picture of the Cave-Aged Gruyere Burger, served with red onion jam, boursin, delicious gruyere, a Portobello mushroom, and crunchy homemade onion rings. Full of savory flavors, original and tempting!
The Portobello Veggie Burger was the perfect option for my vegetarian daughter–a large Portobello mushroom, green pesto, juicy tomato, topped with micro-greens and chevre boursin, all served on a grilled bun with French fries.
Firefly Fish Tacos were accompanied by a sweet chili slaw, pineapple pico de gallo, fresh sliced vegetables, all scooped into grilled flour tortillas and presented along side several appetizing sauces. My daughter’s favorite component? The fresh and tangy pineapple pico de gallo!
We ordered the Beer Cheese & Pretzels as an appetizer during both of our May visits. Yes, it was marvelous! Yes, it was delicious! Yes, I wish I was eating it right now! Warm, house-made beer cheese, house-made pretzel bites, grilled to crispy perfection (but still soft and chewy on the inside), sprinkled with flaky snowflakes of salt…pure heaven.
I love Brussels sprouts. If I see them on a menu, I always place my order. Below is a picture of the Brussels served at Firefly Grill: fresh Brussel sprouts, tossed with bacon and shallots. To be 100% transparent and honest, this dish was a little bland for my inappropriate and excessive love of sprouts, but I rarely expect perfection, so all is forgiven. These were ordered as a side dish.
My husband devoured the Firefly Steak Burger which is prepared with bacon, caramelized onion and mornay, all topped with a local sunny side up egg and presented on a chewy pretzel bun.
I know what you are thinking–“There is NO WAY these people left any room to try the desserts…bummer!”
But, fear not my little friends! When we indulge, we GO BIG OR GO HOME! No quitters here.
So, on to desserts!
Try the Chocolate Valrhona Cake if it is available during your visit. The yummy chocolatey dessert blends layers of valrhona cake and milk chocolate mousse into a splendid confection, presented with craters of caramel sauce and usually served with house-made espresso ice cream. I switched it up and chose to order my cake with salted caramel ice cream instead. (PS–How cute is this wooden plate?!? Not only did I love this dessert, but I LOVED the plate. I did not EAT the plate…I just appreciate the pleasing aesthetic feeling that it brought to the party.)
I also recommend the amazing and seasonal firefly ice cream. Nothing beats a fresh, in-house made, creamy frozen dessert. There were 5 or 6 flavors to choose from and the salted caramel was my favorite. I ordered it during both of our May visits.
Firefly Signature Shooters combine delightful and manageable portions of yummy desserts–a perfect way to quiet a sweet tooth after an enjoyable meal.
These sweet options include Caramel Cookie with dulce de leche and oreo filling, s’mores with spiced pound cake, cheesecake with strawberry preserves, butterscotch pudding with a chocolate crumble and a passion fruit mousse.
My daughter ordered the chocolate espresso, featuring espresso soaked devils food cake, a chocolate cremeux and topped with a dark chocolate crumble.
The Firefly Grill delivers. It delivers on freshness, flavor, ambiance, service and originality. In the open, American heartland, this restaurant brings sustainable, farm-to-table food to diners seeking seasonal, responsible and modern cuisine.
Executive Chef Niall Diarmid Campbell II and his wife, General Manager Kristie, met in Puerto Rico and through an interesting turn of events, the couple opened Firefly Grill in 2006, in Effingham, Illinois. Together, they have created an outstanding restaurant with the “feel of coming home” in the heart of the Midwest.
The Firefly Grill is located at 1810 Avenue of Mid America, Effingham, Illinois, 62401. The peaceful location creates a beautiful backdrop for weddings, private parties, dinners and events.
For more information, a list of food sources and farms, and current hours of operation, please visit their website at www.ffgrill.com or call (217) 342-2002.
Want to learn all about my favorite museum in Houston, Texas? Click here.
My fav museum in Oklahoma? Glad you asked…click here!
Don’t worry…I have some favorites in Illinois…I will write those reviews ASAP.