Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant
Grantfork, IL/December 25, 2016 (STLRestaurant.News) Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant – As the New Year approaches, many of us are making resolution to enjoy life a little more. We want to slow down, spend more time with family, and take time to appreciate the world around us. A drive to the countryside can be a restorative step back in time. And nowhere is that more true than at Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant in Grantfork, Illinois. It sits in an historic building on a hillside (#1 West Pocahontas Road at IL Rte 160). That’s just north of Interstate 70, about 35-miles east of downtown St. Louis. It only seems far away to those who refuse to stop and smell the roses. The drive to this bucolic location isn’t difficult, and people have been traveling to the site for more than 100 years.
The site began service as a stagecoach stop in the 1830s. It was a stop on the line that ran across Looking Glass Prairie from the Illinois state capitol (then in Vandalia) to St. Louis. A hotel was built on the property in 1840. In 1862 Steven Bardill opened a quarry on the land and discovered the mineral springs there. The restaurant was built as part of the old Diamond Mineral Springs and Health Summer Resort (circa 1892). Guests of the spa stayed in one of the Hotel Windsor’s 30 guest rooms, or in one of several cottages on the property and most ate at the restaurant.
When the Michael family (Brad and Vanessa), and partner Loren Siever purchased it in 1979, the building needed some work. Vanessa Michael redecorated the restaurant and ballroom with the help of her sister, Laurie Plocher. The grounds still include an historic “Pie House,” built for the Stephen Bardill family in the late 1860s. It was used as offices and a pie bakery (where they made the famous “foot-hi pies”) until 2004. It’s now home to the Michael’s son Gaylen and his wife Amy. The “Pie House,” the main restaurant with its attached ballroom, and just one guest cottage are all that’s left of the once a popular resort and spa. But for lovers of good, old-fashioned country cooking, that’s enough.
Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant features family style old-fashioned fried chicken dinners that will remind you of dinner at Grandma’s—if she was a really good, home-style cook, that is! Eating dinner at Diamond Mineral Springs is a lot like stepping back in time. The dining room is quaint, with polished wood floors, high ceilings, and old photographs lining the walls. It’s casual and inviting, and a great place for a family dinner. There is a full bar, but there’s no loud music, and no big screen TV to get in the way of the conversation.
The menu isn’t fancy, but everything is fresh and made with simple, wholesome ingredients, like Grandma used. The fried chicken is hot and crispy, as is the fried walleye. Those who’ve never had this delicate, white fish are in for a treat. Walleye has a very mild flavor, that’s slightly sweet. It’s a bit like halibut, but more buttery like crappie. It’s completely delicious, and Diamond Mineral Springs does it well. Other homespun favorites on the menu include Liver and Gizzards, Country Ham, Chicken-fried Steak, Catfish, and Chicken & Dumplings. Sides are served family style, so everyone at the table can have what they like. There are beets, cole slaw, mashed potatoes with milk gravy, green beans made with ham and onions, and fresh biscuits with homemade apple butter.
In the fall of 1992, the Michaels purchased an old Stuckey’s right off I-70 (at exit 30). Together with Dale and Tammy Siever (Vanessa’s sister), they launched the Blue Springs Cafe as a sister restaurant to Diamond Mineral Springs. The location lacks the bucolic setting of the original Grantfork restaurant, but it allows travelers easy access to the same kind of country cooking as the main restaurant. On Saturday nights, they do a prime rib buffet!
Whether you head to the original restaurant at Diamond Mineral Springs or the sister cafe at Blue Springs, you’ll be tempted to eat too much. Don’t. You’ll want to save room for a slice of their famous “Foot-Hi Pie.” These are cream pies in coconut, chocolate, banana, and lemon curd with enough fluffy meringue on top to measure about 12-inches. The crust is flakey and tender. The fillings are rich, and the meringue is perfectly toasted. Their cheesecakes are also pretty popular, as are their other cakes and pies. But those “foot hi pies” are so good, they were featured on an episode of Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Folks stop by Blue Springs just for the pie.
Diamond Mineral Springs has another secret. From April through September, weather permitting, they open up the Back Porch Restaurant for fine dining. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings guests enjoy the elegant semi-outdoor space replete with twinkling lights, a live pianist, and scrumptious food. Some of the most popular choices from the Back Porch’s refined menu include fresh Chilean sea bass, Steak Delmonico, prime rib and lobster tails.
Diamond Mineral Springs is open Wednesday – Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. You may need to use your GPS to find the place, since it’s a little off the beaten path, but it maps well. One thing city dwellers may find odd about Diamond Mineral Springs, the Back Porch, and sister restaurant Blue Springs: they only accept cash or checks for payment. They don’t take credit or debit cards. It really is a step back in time. So bring your checkbook and a hearty appetite.
Picture courtesy of Belleville Deals
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