You'll want to put Corral Inn on your list
Just about every Illinois Valley resident has their favorite spot for tavern foods, but one of the more hidden gems has been hiding in plain sight for more than 50 years.
June Bug's Corral Inn in Cedar Point is just far enough out of the way to escape the notice of those not in the know, but once you try it, you're going to want to add it to your list of local favorites.
You're not going here for fusion cuisine, or exotic ingredients (well, turtle is exotic to some of us), but when you're in the mood for good conversation, a few cheap beers and some outstanding made-from-scratch Illinois Valley tavern favorites, this is where you want to be.
My gang started out with a couple appetizers; at $5 a pop, you're unlikely to find a better deal and there's a large handful of choices so you can pick and mix among you to sample a little of everything.
We went with fried zucchini and corn nuggets. I'll be the first to admit corn nuggets wouldn't have been my pick, but I was surprised to see that rather than the fat balls of fried dough studded with a couple corn kernels most places serve, these were sweet little bite-sized nuggets of perfectly fried sweet corn kernels without fillers.
The zucchini was batter-dipped and fried to golden perfection and had an outstanding texture, contrasting the sweet fresh garden grown taste of the vegetable with a crispy coating. I highly recommend you try it if it's on the menu when you go.
For our entrees, we chose the fried chicken, fried walleye, chicken Parmesan and fried turtle.
The fried chicken was outstanding and compares favorably with any of the cult favorite fried chicken recipes in the area. A half-light dinner with potato and salad is $12. If you go, make sure to reserve your order early – on a busy night, it's going to sell out fast.
I'm not a seafood person, so I can't personally vouch for the taste of the walleye and turtle, but my friends were impressed and would order them again.
If you're judging a book by the cover, though, these get high marks. The fish had a light cornmeal coating that complements the fish without overwhelming the texture. And the turtle, despite being an amphibian on a plate, was the same golden brown as the chicken and came recommended by the person who ordered it and the other person in our group willing to try it. I've always heard turtle has seven different flavors depending on the part you're eating, so consider that if you try it.
The chicken Parm, for someone who's a big fan of family style chicken, is a perfect choice, coming with a hand-battered chicken breast, no frozen cutlet here, and a generous pile of spaghetti smothered in homemade meat sauce.
The service was fast, friendly and accurate, the prices couldn't be beat, and the food was all made from scratch and served piping hot.
If you're looking for your new favorite hole-in-the wall spot for food like mom makes, pull up a seat at June Bug's, you'll soon be a regular.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media Illinois. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.