We went on a trip to the eagle-watching area on the Mississippi River, close to its confluence with the Illinois and Missouri Rivers (not too far from St Louis).
The Barefoot is where we had lunch: A huge, cavernous restaurant in an ex-barn in Hardin, IL, on the banks of the Illinois River.
Its position is wonderful, overlooking the river. Huge picture windows across one end look out over the river and you get a great view of life along the river—barges slowly gliding by, eagles swooping in the winter months, grey herons wading. Our State Park program took us there for lunch, because they can handle large groups, we may be able to see eagles while we eat, and it offers traditional American fare at very cheap prices. Their slogan is “Stick with the Best”, specializing in fried chicken and catfish. One of our group commented that it’s “typical mid-American décor and food. It makes me feel at home”.
We walked up a long, dank ramp smelling of cat pee, to the entrance. The coat rack has shelves above it for ball-caps, which is well-used as it was filled up. The interior is enormous, still decorated with strings of Xmas lights, and filled with tables of all sizes, each with plastic bottles of ketchup, yellow mustard, and a liquid sugar substitute. Along the side is a row of Lotto machines. A large church group came in for Sunday brunch and we could see that it’s very popular with locals.
Drinks are a variety of sodas, iced tea, Bud and Miller beer, but we did manage to get hot tea. On the menu is the special, catfish fritters, which our waitress recommended because it’s “not too fishy”. Why bother to have fish then? Also gizzards, liver, frogs legs, pork chop sandwich, and various burgers. Pretty much everything is fried, much is first battered/breaded so it all tends to have the same color and to taste the same. Almost nothing is fresh—to see a lettuce leaf or slice of tomato is unusual. Most dishes are served with fries, and maybe coleslaw or corn, if you’re lucky.
Rod had the pork chop sandwich, which was 2 fried chops and 2 pieces of white bread. The others in our party had the special—a plate of breaded, fried catfish pieces, plus French fries. I had a tomato burger, which the waitress told me was “only tomato” so I asked for cheese too, thinking that I’d get a bun with cheese and tomato, but I got a bun with a burger patty with melted cheese, a slice of tomato, and even a piece of lettuce!
It was fascinating to watch the people, and great to look out on the river, where we did see a couple of eagles far off, and a blue heron close by.
Open Tues-Sun. Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Xmas Eve and Day, New Years Day.
Rt. 100, Hardin, IL. (618) 576-9012