A beautiful little slice of Illinois

Lysa Allman-Badwin | 10/17/2013, 1:59 p.m.
Props go out to the Local Cheese & Beer Tasting Plate at Big Grove Tavern.

I was only in town for the day, so I did most of my exploring as a window shopper. However, I did spend some time checking out some of the city’s great eats. For breakfast, I stopped into Café Kopi, a popular, laid-back boutique coffeehouse serving fresh pastries, salads, paninis, sandwiches (with a lot of vegetarian and vegan options), plus delicious hot teas and specialty drinks.

My favorite meal (and one I have been dreaming about since I got home!) was at Big Grove Tavern. The décor here is absolutely mesmerizing and soothing, with dark hardwoods, lofty ceilings, floor-ceiling windows and beautiful artwork, true to its vision to envelop diners in an inviting, tavern feel.

The menu here focuses on using local and farm- fresh ingredients and

introduces unexpected twists to some American classics as well as comfort foods. Props go out to their savory deviled eggs (which change daily), the Local Cheese & Beer Tasting Plate (delightful!) and the Tavern Burger—a beef, bison and pork burger topped with red onion marmalade, cornichon aioli, Amish white cheddar cheese and a farm-fresh fried egg, and served with house-cut fries. It was simply amazing!

Still lookin' for lincoln

Fully sated, I ambled back to the car and drove about 10 minutes west and a little north to the town of Mahomet to the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, set on 900 acres of breathtaking rolling expanses of wide-open spaces and copious groves of trees with a lake, boathouse, golf course and an awe-inspiring, crimson-red, classic covered wooden bridge built in 1965 spanning the Sangamon River. Together, it all puts you completely at ease and one with nature.

The preserve is also home to the Mabery-Glevin Botanical Garden, a lovely setting dotted with inviting sitting areas, a crimson, Japanese-themed bridge over a lily pad-covered pond, a waterfall, sculptures and scores of native and exotic plants and flowers. And Lincoln is well represented at the Museum of the Grand Prairie with several impressive exhibits detailing where he lived, his friends and family, his work, his stand on and involvement in the abolishment of slavery, and the impact that he made as a politician in this country back in the day.

The museum also delves into a great deal of the area’s early African-American history, as well as its founders, early industries and more. You could easily spend a few hours in the museum alone.

On the road again

After this lovely afternoon respite, it was time to hit the road again for the next stop on my Lincoln adventure—Springfield, Ill.

Resource list

Big Grove Tavern: 217-239-3505, www.biggrovetavern.com

Café Kopi: 217-359-4266, www.cafe-kopi.com

Champaign County Convention & Visitors Bureau: 217-351-4133, www.visitchampaigncounty.org

In Lincoln’s Shadow Pastcast Tour: urbanaillinois.us/pastcast

Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion: 217-333-1861, www.kam.illinois.edu

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts: 217-333-6280, www.krannertcenter.com

Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois: 217-333-7108, lincolnhall.illinois.edu

Mabery-Glevin Botanical Garden: 217-586-3360, www.ccfpd.org/Preserves/Attractions/BotanicalGarden.html

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve: 217-586-3360, www.ccfpd.org/Preserves/LakeoftheWoods.html

Museum of the Grand Prairie: 217-586-3360, www.museumofthegrandprairie.org

Spurlock Museum: 217-333-2360, www.spurlock.illinois.edu