Who: Igloo Drive-In
What: Diner restaurant
Where: 2819 4th Street, Peru, IL (815) 223-0848
When: Seven days a week, 10:30am-10pm
You may have noticed this blog about hidden gems of Northern Illinois has been a bit heavy on coverage of the Illinois Valley (i.e., the land that’s spitball distance from Starved Rock). It is where I spend most weekends I’m not in DeKalb. I do have some adventures in Rockford and Joliet to share with you.
You’ll have to wait for those, though, as this entry’s about what I’m told is a quintessential Illinois Valley experience: The pork tenderloin.
My local guide told me it was an Illinois Valley thing; anecdotal conversation and Internet research told me it was a Midwestern thing. Apparently there’s a movie about what a quintessential Indiana thing it is, and in Iowa, people debate what makes for the best pork tenderloin sandwich as passionately as Chicagoans do their pizza.
Charles and I stopped at the Igloo in Peru, Illinois to experience the pork tenderloin sandwich. A smallish restaurant with a bit of a family rec room feel, the Igloo has been around since 1937. Rich, the owner, came to talk to us .He asked about this blog and was happy to share info about the place. He said it wasn’t uncommon to see four generations at a table, the great grandparents full of memories of coming there as a kid. The piles of Igloo T-shirts and merchandise for sale at the counter spoke to its longevity and iconic status.
So, onto the food. I started out with the ravs. The locals call ravioli “ravs”…except it’s actually tortellini, served in broth. It made for a pleasant, filling soup.
“Pork tenderloin” made me think of a slow cooked Sunday dinner, the kind people mean when they say, “I miss Sunday dinners with the family.” In sandwich form, the meat is prepared similarly to a Wiener Schnitzel or chicken parmigiana where it’s flattened very thin with a tenderizer, then breaded and fried. It’s so thin that it’s much wider than the bun. I ordered it with standard fixin’s of mustard, pickles, and onions (actually, I think ketchup is also a standard topping, but I asked them to skip it). It was good, but it was so thin and heavily breaded that I honestly tasted that more than the meat. Charles ordered the Italian sausage with peppers, onions, and marinara sauce and said it was really good.
We spied a handful of arcade games in the back near the bathrooms, but didn’t check them out as we were on our way to a play.
I regret that I have but one pork tenderloin sandwich experience to share with my audience, but based on what I’ve read about the various preparation methods, I think I’m in the “less breading, more pork” camp. It’s possible this is one of those “it just tastes like home” kind of things, if the area has a nostalgic pull for you. I’d head back to the Igloo for the friendly atmosphere and maybe check out their take on burgers and fries and their frosty mug root beer. Lord knows I spend enough time in the Illinois Valley.