One of the best perks of working as a photographer for The State Journal-Register is the license that allows an introvert like me to strike up a conversation with people.
These conversations usually involve people around Springfield who are visiting for the first time. Inevitably, there are two questions that almost always come up: Which way to the Lincoln Museum and where is a good place to grab a bite to eat in Springfield?
So to help visitors to our great city and to encourage everyone to support our local restaurants, here’s a visual guide to some of my favorite foods. And just to let you know, there won’t be any mention of horseshoes on this list. It’s not my cup of tea, so to speak.
The chilli lounge
820 S. Ninth Street
This place will always have a special place for me because this is where my mentors at SJ-R took me to lunch when I started as an intern and it was a place we frequented together as staff. I’ve been addicted to their chili ever since. My order is a “touch” bowl with a beef tamale, but you can make your bowl to your liking. Hold the oil, hold the beans, mild, medium, hot or brandy.
Krekel custard and burgers
2121 North Grand Ave. E.
One of the best burgers you’ll find in Springfield. Mashed fine and cooked to perfection on a griddle creating those crispy edges. On a beautiful day, this is a great place to grab a burger and fries and sit outside on their picnic tables. While you’re at it, you might as well have a chocolate milkshake.
1531 Wabash Ave.
You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but my absolute favorite is the Chicken Pad Thai from Little Saigon. It has that fantastic balance of sweet and tangy that pad thai is known for. Since the pandemic they’ve also added a drive-thru window to pick up your order. It makes it super easy to grab it on your way home for dinner.
300 E. Laurel St.
Pizza…there is no subject more hotly debated amongst Springfieldians than where to get the best pizza in town. Look, there is no right answer here and frankly my pick for my favorite will probably be different next week. But a go-to that never, ever disappoints is Gabatoni’s pizza. Its thin crispy crust makes for the perfect bite and their sauce is perfection. Joe Gallina’s Pizza downtown (432 E. Monroe St.) has always been another favorite.
411 E. Adams Street
When I was a child, my mother made chicken and dumplings, a recipe passed down from my family. I was never able to reproduce it, but the filling of the chicken pies at Café Moxo reminds me so much of this dish and brings me back to my childhood. Their pot pies are great old-fashioned comfort food and don’t forget to add one of their delicious cookies. I highly recommend the peanut butter.
jerk shop go
219 S. Fifth St.
Honestly, I don’t have the culinary expertise to describe how good Jerk Shop Go’s Chicken Jerk Tacos are. Believe me, they are delicious and have unparalleled depth of flavor and just a little bit of heat for it. ‘to accompany. Don’t you like chicken? Well you’re in luck because they offer them in beef, tilapia and shrimp with their ‘Caribbean flavor with a twist’. A fantastic place in the city center if you want a quick lunch.
Mexican Grill AZ-T-CA
2753 Chatham Road (next to Schnucks)
If you add chorizo to anything, it’s bound to be good. AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill’s chori pollo does just that with chicken cooked with chorizo and if that wasn’t enough they top it with their cheese sauce to create a dish I would happily ever have. days and that I would never complain. This is also another restaurant where everything on its menu is delicious and the portions will feed you for a few meals. You really can’t go wrong here.
Bakery & Bistro Three Twigs
3429, freedom walk
My youth was purely brown sugar and cinnamon with no Pop Tarts icing and cold at that. Don’t even bother putting them in the toaster. I have grown since then and my palette of flavors has widened and luckily Three Twigs Bakery & Bistro has made Pop Tarts a magical experience. Their pastry menu rotates, but if you ever see apple and maple bacon, don’t pass it up. The pecan pie version that is available now is just as ridiculously good.
Contact Justin L. Fowler: 217-788-1475, [email protected], Twitter.com/justinlfowler