Monday, July 30, 2018

Dinner at The Beach House

Laurie and I met her sisters Karole and Bonnie in Mt. Vernon Illinois in the Cracker Barrel parking lot.  The manager had told them that they could leave Karole’s truck there while we were up in Wisconsin.  The sisters joined us for the rest of the trip…

We had overnight reservations in Decatur Illinois.  Of course, I’d done a bit of research in an effort to find likely places for dinner.

The choice was a ‘no-brainer’… Eating by the water, albeit the sea, river or lake is always a plus!  As it turned out, I had some trepidations regarding our choice before we were done eating.  In this photo, taken before we went into the restaurant, from the left there is Bonnie, Karole and Laurie.

This is the Beach House Restaurant.  It's situated on Lake Decatur in the city of Decatur Illinois.
Lake Decatur is a reservoir that’s just east of downtown Decatur.  Both the city and the lake share the name of U.S. Navy Commodore Stephen Decatur.  He is the youngest man to attain the rank of captain in the history of the U.S. Navy.   Decatur served under 3 Presidents and his service included many acts of heroism.  He served in both the Barbary Wars in North Africa and in the War of 1812.

To learn more about Commodore Stephen Decatur, you can go to

The sisters entered the restaurant before I was done taking photos.  They said (and I verified) that it was too stuffy and warm inside and they decided to eat on the deck.  Given the cloudy weather and the local forecast I had my concerns…

Lake Decatur covers 2,800 acres and its 613 feet above sea level.  It was completed in 1922.  This aging reservoir suffers from serious siltation issues.  It sits on relatively flat prairie land and it’s vulnerable to deposits of silt from area farmland.  By 1983, the lake lost an estimated 35% of its designed storage capacity.  Its average depth is only about 8 feet.

As you can see, this event space at The Beach House was being prepped for something special.

This is a view of the indoor dining room.  I had to agree with the ladies, it was indeed stuffy and warm inside…

One of the indoor tables is situated right next to this big fish tank…

Laurie took this photo of yours truly with her sisters Karole and Bonnie at our table on the deck.  I was starting to twitch as the clouds rolled in and we could hear distant rumbles of thunder and a couple of far off flashes of lightning.  Sitting under a metal umbrella structure on metal chairs with a metal table wasn’t my formula for relaxed dining.  Fortunately we survived with just a few sprinkles of rain…

This was our view of Lake Decatur from our table.  For such a shallow lake, there were a lot of boats to be seen.

Lake Decatur was built to provide water for the city...sort of!  The actual campaign to build the lake was led by corn refiner A.E. Staley (now the firm Tate and Lyle).  Today over 70% of the lake’s water is still used for corn wet-milling, which is a highly water-intensive industrial process.  The other corn refining company in Decatur is the giant Archer Daniels Midland Corporation…

Laurie and Bonnie indulged in a couple of Summer Sangria’s. ($6.00) I allowed myself the usual Miller Lite. ($3.50)

For an appetizer I ordered these Pretzel Balls with Beer Cheese. ($8.00) They were OK but nothing special.  They do resemble buckeyes…a nutlike seed from any of 6 species of North American trees and shrubs from the soapberry family.

Karole’s Shrimp Alfredo was well received!  The linguini, shrimp, pea pods and Alfredo sauce was also blended with parmesan cheese and truffle oil. ($12.00 half order/$22.00 full order) 

When writing this posting I did note that this menu item is described as coming with asparagus rather than pea pods...  The waitress/kitchen should have informed us of this fact.  However, all 3 of the sisters really liked the fact that half orders of the pasta dishes were available.

Bonnie ordered the Mushroom Risotto. (Half order $8.00/$15.00 full order) This offering included cremini mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, ‘truffle hints’ and Romano cheese.  Bonnie wasn’t impressed!  First of all, there weren’t very many mushrooms…and secondly, they tasted like they were canned.

Laurie had a half order of the Shrimp Risotto. ($12.00 half order/$18.00 full order) The creamy basil pesto risotto came with gulf shrimp and the dish was topped by flash fried spinach.  Laurie thought that it was excellent!

My only question is why a half order for this dish cost 67% of the price for a full order while a half order of the Shrimp Alfredo is only 55% of a full order… Still, I had a happy wife!

I veered off course when I saw this 'healthy' item on the menu.  This is the ‘Toastyshoe’. ($12.00) I’d only had a ‘horseshoe’ sandwich once before many years ago and I ‘had’ to try it again.  A ‘horseshoe’ is an open-faced sandwich that originated in Springfield Illinois.  It usually consists of thick-sliced toasted bread, a hamburger patty, French fries and a ‘secret’ cheese sauce.  FYI, a half portion of this dish is called a ‘pony shoe’.

I had a choice of house ground hamburger, pretzel chicken or shaved pork tenderloin and I decided to try the pretzel chicken because it was an unusual item as well.  As you can see, the assembled creation is best described as a visual hot mess!  What can I say?  The pretzel chicken was dry and the whole creation lacked any distinctive flavor pop.  Oh well, I at least gave it a try…

Although we received our drinks and Pretzel Balls promptly, our food was another matter.  The kitchen must have been short staffed or something.  Slow!  The wait was exacerbated by the threat of the oncoming stormy weather…but in the end, it all worked out.

The Beach House is located at 2301 Lake Shore Drive in Decatur Illinois.  Phone: 217-422-7202.  To learn more and to check out the menus, just go to 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On the Road to Wisconsin

On this occasion we were off to Plover/Steven’s Point Wisconsin to have a mini reunion with a flock of Laurie’s cousins.  Along the way, we stopped in Mt. Vernon Illinois to pick up 2 of her sisters, Karole and Bonnie, who’d driven over from St. Louis to meet us. 

Of course, I had a few historic and/or railroad based sights to stop and photograph along the way…

We’d photographed this old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad combination depot a couple of years earlier and it hasn’t changed much.  I tried again to find out when this depot was built…with no luck.  

To see what the building looked like before it was significantly altered, you can use the following link to check out a photo of the depot from back in 1975:

Hey…it’s not all about railroads!  We really liked the ‘look’ of Ed’s Nursery, a garden center along the highway in Salem.  Whoever set the flowers and plants in front of the building knew how to attract gardeners!

This is the old Vandalia State House.  It was built in 1836 and it was the 4th capitol building in the state and the oldest to survive.  Abraham Lincoln served most of his time in the state legislature in Vandalia when the 3rd capitol building was in use.  However, with Lincoln leading the charge, there was a major effort to move the seat of state government to Springfield.

As a result of this potential move, the Vandalia business community tore down the 3rd capitol building and built this larger one on the town square.  The idea was that it would be so nice that the state government wouldn’t move… 

However, when Lincoln and the legislature returned to town in the fall of 1836 and saw the new building waiting for them, they weren’t impressed!  By 1839, the seat of Illinois’ state government had moved to Springfield.  This ‘old’ statehouse in Vandalia then served as the Fayette County Courthouse from 1839 until 1933.

This is the ‘retired’ Interlock Tower in Ramsey Illinois.  There used to be a rail crossing/intersection here where the Illinois Central tracks crossed the Clover Leaf (Toledo, St. Louis and Western aka. the Nickel Plate) tracks.  This tower with its controls protected the crossing… The tower, the Nickel Plate caboose and a box car are all maintained by the local Lions Club.

This is St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Pana Illinois.  This parish was first organized in 1856.  The first church, (a wooden structure), was built in 1860 and it was replaced with a brick building in 1884.  The current church, which is truly impressive, was completed in 1926.  The parish also supports Sacred Heart School, with classes K – 8th grade.  The school was actually founded in 1887.  To learn more about the church and school, go to

This sure looks like an old railroad depot…but it is decrepit and neglected.  This building is located quite close to the Pana Tower. (See reference below) I had a hard time finding any information about this structure but I did learn that at one time Pana had a substantial depot, probably for the Illinois Central Railroad.  Speculation is that this was the baggage room…all that remains of the depot. 

This is the switch/control or ‘interlock’ tower in Pana.  The town was once the crossroads of 4 major railroads.  This switch tower is all that remains of the site where 4 rail lines once crossed.  The railroads brought goods and passengers to Pana and they took millions of coal from the area.  The tower restoration is being done through the “Pride in Pana Project”, a local non-profit that strives to improve the community.


Ø  Pana was first known as Stone Coal Precinct when it was founded back in June of 1945.  The town became an important coal mining center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The “Pana Riot” took place in April of 1899 when there was a violent confrontation between black and white miners.  A white miner was killed (actually by a policeman) and white union workers attacked black replacement workers that were brought in from Alabama.  Six more people were killed…one white (also probably shot by a white man) and 5 blacks…before calm was restored.

Ø  Pana later became known as the City of Roses.  A number of major florists and growers flocked to the area and set up operations.  At one time there were as many as 109 greenhouses in Pana.

This is the former Illinois Central Depot in Macon Illinois.  Bland looking it is but at least it’s been preserved for any possible future use…

FYI...Macon is the hometown of Brian Snitker, the current Manager of the Atlanta Braves Baseball Team in the National League.  Snitker played right field for the Macon High School baseball team back in 1971 when the team made a surprising run to the state championship tournament. (Surprising considering the fact that Macon’s total population in 1971 totaled about 1,250 residents)  

This baggage room is all that remains of the old Illinois Central Railway station in Decatur Illinois. 
Decatur has been served as a major railroad junction and at one time it was served by 7 railroads!  Today, it is still served by Norfolk Southern Railroad, CSX, and the Canadian National Railway.  The city is also served by the Decatur Junction Railway.  Decatur Junction Railway, with 21 miles of track, is owned by Pioneer Lines.  Pioneer owns a total of 19 short line railroads across the USA. 

This large structure is the old Illinois Central Freight Depot in Decatur.  Despite its size, this was only part of the huge Illinois Central Depot that served the city!  Back in its heyday, tracks for this railroad radiated out from Decatur in 5 different directions…creating a rail version of today’s airline hub cities.  
To see a photo of what the combined Illinois Central Depot looked like back in 1906, just go to

This building is now the home of Clayton Sales Company...a purveyor of fireplaces and wood stoves.  Somehow, its an appropriate business for this old depot.  Check them out at

The Wabash Railroad Station and Railway Express Agency is a historic railway station at 780 East Cerro Gordo Street in Decatur.  It was built in 1901.  The Wabash was the most economically important railroad at the time through the city.  Service to the Classical Revival depot came to an end in the 1980s.  It’s a bit hard to comprehend these days, but as many as 72 passenger trains per day brought travelers to and from Decatur at the Wabash Railroad’s peak in 1907!

Today this beautiful old depot is now called the Wabash Depot Antique Centre.  At least it’s still around!  You can check out this business at

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, July 23, 2018

More Family Plus Views and Food…

I recently took the time to go through our recent photos as well as a few new ones sent to us by family members.  I had so many pictures that I decided to send out the last “miscellaneous” posting for the summer. 

We recently had breakfast at a local restaurant that is best described as having a split personality.  For lunch and dinner, it’s called (and the sign states) Classico Italian Restaurant.  Its located in Loudon Tennessee.

However, in the morning Classico's menu is headed with the name of Mama’s Grits!  On this occasion, we met our friends Jodie and Morrie for breakfast.  This was Jodie’s breakfast…2 poached eggs on English muffin halves with Béarnaise sauce on the side…accompanied by a nice bowl of fresh fruit.

Laurie went for a standard breakfast…sort of.  She had crispy hash brown potatoes and 2 over easy eggs with bacon plus a biscuit. ($7.00) She ordered a cup of Mama’s Grits Sausage Gravy on the side. ($3.00) Everything was cooked as ordered but the biscuit seemed a bit small.  The sausage gravy at Mama’s Grits is as good as it gets.  However, it could have been warmer.

Morrie went all the way with his breakfast!  This has to be Mama’s Grits version of a meat lovers’ breakfast with 2 kinds of ham, bacon and 3 kinds of sausage plus 2 scrambled eggs with cheese and a side of Cheesy Grits.  This should have been my breakfast… Ordered wrong again!

I somehow forgot to take a photo of my breakfast.  I’d ordered a split biscuit smothered with the sausage gravy with 2 over easy eggs on top. ($7.00)  Then…for a bit of overkill, I’d also ordered a side of toast and sausage.  I had plans to make a sausage sandwich.  Sadly the toast wasn’t buttered and it was cold when it was served.  The sausage patty ($2.00) was so small I didn’t bother to make a sandwich with it. (Note: Mama’s Grits/Classico Italian Restaurant doesn’t carry Tabasco...bummer!)

For more information and the menus for Classico Italian Restaurant/Mama’s Grits you can go to their Facebook page at

In the last post that featured family photos, I’d included a photo of our oldest grandson, David III.  This time its Emmett Lee’s turn!  He’s 14 years old, good looking, a great student and he’s into football, basketball and track!  Grandparents are allowed to brag about their grandchildren…

Laurie and I have been to the Tic Toc Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Loudon Tennessee 3 times already this year. (Normally we try to limit ourselves to 4 visits per year!) We have been customers ever since we moved to East Tennessee almost 9 years ago.

Tic Toc makes their own ice cream in house and there are almost too many flavors to choose from.   Our favorites are the praline pecan, cookies and cream, George Washington cherry, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan and peach!  One negative this year is that the praline pecan seems a little light on the praline…

For more on the Tic Toc Ice Cream Parlor, you can go to  

In my last family related posting…which I had sent out early by mistake…I’d included photos of 3 of Laurie’s Scottish cousins.  However, it was an old photo so here is a current photo of Moir, Maura and Della with their new puppy, Gala.  What a great photo!

There seem to be farmer’s markets all over East Tennessee.  In addition to our 2 area full time Mennonite farmer’s markets, there are weekly ones nearby, with one in Greenback, another in downtown Loudon, a third at the Renaissance Center in Farragut and this weekly version at the Yacht Club in Tellico Village.  There is nothing like fresh produce and the other goodies offered in these special market places.

Of course, as long as we were at the Tellico Village Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays from 9 AM – 12 Noon), we snapped a couple of photos of the surrounding scenery with Tellico Lake as the prime subject.  It’s ‘tough’ living here in East Tennessee…with beauty everywhere!

This is Abby, Laurie's great niece.  She lives in the St. Louis Missouri area along with all of Laurie’s family, her Aunt Lois, plus many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, nephews & cousins.  As you can see, at 17 years of age, Abby ( just got her drivers license in this photo!) is tall and lean.  Can you guess her favorite sport?  It’s track!  Built like a filly, Abby loves to run! 

We put together a couple of nice mixed lettuce salads for dinner the other night… We started out healthy…and then slipped downhill a just a bit.  I used Olive Garden’s salad dressing while Laurie used a healthier vinaigrette but added some croutons.  Both of us added salami, heirloom tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese to the mix… They were great salads!

This is one of our “go to” entrees for dinner at home.  Take a bag of Bertolli’s Chicken Florentine…add more shredded chicken, a bag of fresh spinach and some leftover bacon, some crushed red peppers and a little extra Alfredo sauce and we are always satisfied!  The yellow squash was provided courtesy of our friends Norm and Linda from Norm's garden.  I just sautéed the squash in butter and pepper.  This is one of our happy meals!

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tried another Mexican Restaurant – Loudon County TN

As I mentioned in a recent blog posting, there are a plethora of Mexican Restaurants in Loudon County.  On this occasion, we joined our friends Norm and Linda to try one that I hadn’t been to previously…

Colorful building isn’t it?  I meant to take a picture of the other side where the entrance is but I forgot.  It’s just as colorful!  This is Taco Loco Bar and Grill in the town of Loudon.  It’s one of three Mexican restaurants located in Loudon…which is the County Seat for Loudon County.

This is a long view of the dining area at Taco Loco.  The room is colorful and bright but not garish.  Laurie and Norm were about to be seated when I took this photo.  Linda was hidden behind Norm…

This is a close up view of the bar at Taco Loco.  This is an appropriate moment for me to mention one of the disappointments encountered at this restaurant.  Laurie wanted to order a Margarita and Linda wanted Sangria. 

Well…as it turns out, someone had somehow let the liquor license expire without renewing it!  Disappointment reigned!  No liquor or wine could be served despite a full bar in plain view.  The ladies and yours truly opted for Coronas and Norm went for an iced tea.

We arrived at Taco Loco at about 5:15 PM on a Wednesday and customers were few and far between.  However by about 6:15 PM, about half the tables were full with many of the customers obviously being regulars.

Like almost every Mexican Restaurant, the waitress delivered tortilla chips and salsa.  Norm ordered a bowl of Queso (cheese) sauce for dipping. ($7.99) Everyone liked it and the waitress refilled our basket of chips.

Note: The Queso Cheese Sauce wasn’t Norm, Linda’s or Laurie’s first choice for an appetizer.  They were all hankering for Guacamole!  Everyone was stunned to learn that the restaurant was out of guacamole… What?!  How does a Mexican restaurant run out of this staple early on a Wednesday?

Laurie and I decided to order some Nachos…tortilla chips with ground beef and melted cheese.  We all agreed that they’d been generous with the ground beef and cheese and everyone seemed to like this appetizer.  

Laurie and I both felt that it lacked any Mexican ‘flavor’.  While we know that Mexican food isn’t necessarily spicy, some taco seasoning would have given this dish a step up.  Fortunately, Laurie went to Taco Loco’s ‘sauce bar’ and she brought back some very tasty and a bit spicy “Loco” sauce.  I used it liberally on the nachos!

Since I liked the Loco sauce so well and Laurie had noted that the container on the sauce bar was almost empty, I asked the waitress if there was any more available.  She told us that there wasn’t…a negative for sure.  However, I went to the sauce bar and scrapped the container for what was left…

Laurie’s entrée was the Quesadilla Fajita…with chicken, peppers, onions and tomatoes served with lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. ($9.99) She asked for more sour cream and then she was a happy camper.  Her meal was very satisfactory…

Norm and Linda had dined before at Taco Loco so Norm was determined to try something a little different for his dinner.  This was his Sope…a thick handmade corn tortilla covered with refried beans, lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, onions and sour cream. ($7.99) Other than the fact that this dish is also supposed to come with avocado, (remember the guacamole issue?), he thought that his choice was pretty good…

Linda ordered the Shrimp Enchiladas. ($10.99) She’d already eaten one of the three enchiladas that came with this meal before we remembered to take a picture.  She commented that she did enjoy the shrimp but after all the chips and appetizers, she ended up taking home these 2 enchiladas for lunch the next day.

One more issue… Instead of serving us all at once, the food was served one entrée at a time over about a 10 minute period.  We went ahead and began eating while the food was hot but this situation is always a bit awkward for everyone. 

This was my entrée.  It’s the Chimichanga Loco. ($10.99) The Chimichanga is stuffed with grilled chicken, steak, chorizo and shrimp.  Then it’s topped with cheese sauce and sided with shredded lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo plus rice and refried beans.  That red sauce topping my Chimichanga is that “Loco” sauce that I mentioned earlier. 

I did enjoy my entrée.  It would have normally been too bland for me but the loco sauce kicked it up a notch without adding too much heat or spice.  I would describe my entrée as a “meat lovers” Chimichanga. 

Our waitress was stressed and stretched.  Service slid as the restaurant filled up.  Norm asked her about being the only server and she told him that no one else showed up.  “No one seem to want to work”.  That ties into the tight labor market and perhaps the attitude of many folks today… In any case, it’s a problem!

Taco Loco Bar and Grill is located at 859 Mulberry Street in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-458-4776.  This establishment is on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dav