With the rare opportunity for a Saturday afternoon ride, we carefully considered our lunch options. Since I was thinking a little outdoor dining sounded good and we had not yet eaten there, Catalpa Grove Tavern was the obvious choice.
Our tires hummed along the highway, and I soon found myself lost in the rhythm of the ride, easing into a peaceful groove. As the last of my cares dissolved in the wind, we rounded the last corner into Toulon and the Catalpa Grove parking lot.
The “outdoor” bar hadn’t yet opened for the day, so we grabbed two stools at the large U-shaped main bar and explored the menu.
We debated an appetizer. Maybe Fried Cheese Curds or Southwest Rolls? We instead decided to focus on our main meals. While the nine half-pound burgers like the Sunrise (with Canadian bacon, egg and Herbie sauce) and the Roasted Red Pepper (with Provolone cheese and a roasted red pepper sauce) piqued my interest, anything on a bun seemed a bit heavy for the warm day. But, straight up Chicken Strips or Wings didn’t seem like enough. That’s when I saw my answer: the Fried Chicken Wrap.
Although they have spinach herb- and tomato basil-flavored tortillas, I went with the plain to avoid overwhelming the natural flavor of the crispy chicken, shredded cheese, and fresh lettuce and tomato inside the wrap. HUGE PROPS to the person who assembled that wrap because each bite had a bit of everything. No pockets of all meat or all cheese or all anything else – rather a perfect distribution for maximum enjoyment. What may seem like a small kitchen feat actually is a big deal to someone who eats as many wraps as I do.
He ordered the Reuben with a side of Cole Slaw. Talk about one tall sandwich! The hearty rye slices were stuffed with corned beef and sauerkraut, along with Swiss cheese and a healthy dose of Thousand Island. A bit of a mess, yes, but definitely worth a dribble (or two) on your shirt.
The vinegar-based Slaw was simple with just the right amount of cabbage crunch – a nice complement to the somewhat gooey sandwich. Still, I preferred the Crinkle Cut Fries, all golden, salty and delicious.
In addition to the regular menu, Catalpa Grove also has Wednesday Night Chicken specials, a Taco Thursday menu and an All Day Sunday Breakfast with staples like Eggs, Bacon, Biscuits and Gravy, Skillets, Omelets and more.
Note: Catalpa Grove Tavern is located at 7935 State Route 17, Toulon, Ill., and opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (with limited mini menu), 11 a.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.