Want a taste of real Americana on your Route 66 road trip? These three fan-favorite fried chicken restaurants are must-stop spots for foodies looking for a hot, home-style meal. As you travel along The First Hundred Miles, you’ll encounter some of the Midwest’s most iconic eateries specializing in fried chicken, some of which have been serving up delicious golden-battered goodness for more than a half century.
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
645 Joliet Road (I-55 & Route 83), Willowbrook
Fans of fried chicken have been loyally returning to Willowbrook’s classic Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket since its doors were first opened to Route 66 travelers in the early 1940s. This icon of American roadside dining, which holds a spot in the Route 66 Hall of Fame, has been serving up chicken, cocktails and other farmhouse recipes in a traditional supper club atmosphere for more than 60 years. Originally founded as a service station and restaurant combination, Dell Rhea’s popularity grew right alongside the Mother Road.
Today, you can still savor the original taste of its renowned fried and roasted chicken, made just like it was during the heyday of Route 66. On the menu you’ll find other home-style classics like corn fritters, baby back ribs, homemade mashed potatoes and an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Don’t miss this authentic throwback restaurant, decorated with a charming country inspired interior, conveniently located only 25 minutes from the heart of downtown Chicago. Find out why they say: “Get Your Chicks on Route 66.”
White Fence Farm
1376 Joliet Road, Romeoville
Just look for the water tower with the giant “WFF,” and you’ll know that you’re at White Fence Farm in Romeoville, one of the early iconic dining establishments along Route 66. Celebrating over 65 years in business, this actual farm has been serving up, as they say, “The World’s Greatest Chicken” to several generations of hungry travelers. Known for its famous twice-cooked process, which involves baking and frying chicken to produce a distinctly thin yet crispy crust, the restaurant draws in fried chicken fans from around the nation. In keeping with the authentic farm theme, every meal includes a variety of sides that have become as famous as the chicken: coleslaw, cottage cheese, bean salad, pickled beets and mashed, baked or French fried potatoes.
Built by multimillionaire coal executive Stuyvesant Peabody in the 1920s so he could entertain his Chicago friends in a country setting, the building has grown to 11 dining rooms, and can seat over 1,200 hungry chicken eaters at a time. Kids of all ages will be entertained by White Fence’s on-site petting zoo, as well as the restaurant’s Car and Antique Museum. Be sure to commemorate your fried chicken roadtrip by snapping a picture with the larger-than-life chicken mascot near the main doors.
604 Theodore St., Crest Hill
Crest Hill’s own Merichka’s has been serving its legendary take on the classic po’ boy sandwich since 1933, using fresh fried chicken in lieu of roast beef or seafood. The family-owned-and-operated eatery takes great pride in using Choice USDA and quality hand-cut meats. From the legendary chicken to the freshly hand-ground hamburger, Merichka’s is incredibly authentic. The interior of the classic supper club boasts dark rich paneling, complete with red checkered tablecloths and a generously sized bar, where you can order a libation or two before your meal.
Menu items include great steaks and chops, as well as an extensive seafood selection. Their fan-favorite Garlic Butterine can be added to just about everything on the menu, enhancing the flavor of nearly any classic dish. Stop in and try some exciting fried chicken at this icon of Old Route 66.