Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket

In my constant quest to see the fall color change and hopefully get some nice photographs, on this particular Sunday my wife and I took a road-trip to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. The main draw for me was that you can hike, or drive through the arboretum which mostly features trees from all over the world. 
The fish were jumpin
Prior to our road trip, I reviewed an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This episode featured Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Illinois. A quick check of Mapquest revealed that it was located about nine miles from the Morton Arboretum.To view that Triple D episode on YouTube follow this link:

Peter Peter pumpkin eater

Being at the right place at the right time can be tricky for fall color
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is not a diner, it’s not a drive-in, and most certainly not a dive. Due to it's close proximity to Rte. 66 and the current I-55, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is really more of a roadhouse. Most roadhouses are located along highways or roads in rural areas or on the outskirts of towns. In this case it is the historic Rt. 66, near the present day I-55. Prior to about 1962 Rte. 66 was the road to travel. Once the Interstate highway system was built most businesses on Rte. 66 vanished as the new Interstate passed them by. Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket survived. How is this possible? I wondered. It must be really good food. All I can say is I’m glad that I have GPS or would have been lost. During the day if you really look hard their sign is visible from I-55. Getting there is a little tricky. Ultimately we reached our destination and it was still light out. The sign/historical marker in the front parking lot tells their story and their slogan "Get Your "Chicks" on Rte. 66."

The sign in front says it all
Judging from the many cars in the parking lot I was expecting a long wait to be seated. In the entrance there was a menu board listing their daily specials. Lobster pot pie was one of the selections. Yum! Since we came for chicken, chicken it would be. We were greeted a hostess who showed us to a table and gave us menu's. 
The room was warm and inviting and had a roaring fire in the fireplace. Within minutes we were approached by our waitress and asked if we wanted to order drinks. She left us to look over the menu. 
Under the heading "Chicken, Chicken and More Chicken!" was what we came for:
Our Famous Fried Chicken in a Basket
1/2 fresh Grade A chicken cut into four pieces, hand breaded and deep-fried in TRANS FAT &CHOLESTEROL FREE shortening. Served with French fries, homemade Cole slaw and freshly baked biscuits. Please allow 30 minutes! No substitutions please! All white meat is available for $3.00.
All of this for $11.95. For an additional $5.00 more you can get their Fried Chicken Dinner which is the same as the basket but includes mashed potatoes, green beans and the soup and the salad bar.
Winner winner chicken dinner
When our waitress returned we each ordered the chicken basket. I just kept thinking about their lobster pot pie and their chicken pot pie. I decided that I really wanted the chicken pot pie to go. She told me that they were all out of them and suggested calling ahead next time because on Sunday the pot pies sell out fast. She informed me that they did have 3 lobster pot pies left and if I wanted one to take home they are half baked and ready to be finished at home. She told me that each pot pie had the meat from a whole lobster in it. I took one home to enjoy at a later date.
I got one to go
We were served a basket of fresh biscuits and butter packets. In the basket there was one half of one biscuit in it covered in whole buscuits. Was this a left-over from a previous customer? The biscuits seemed like drop biscuits and were very good especially with honey. 
The dinner was served and it was plump, juicy, and really delicious. This is not the chicken you will find at your average corporate chicken restaurant. This is the real deal chicken dinner reminiscent of the type of chicken you would expect at a Mom & Pop restaurant in the 60's. Support your local Mom and Pop's so they don't vanish.
To see the episode featuring Dell Rheas Chicken Basket on WGN "Chicago's Best" follow this link
PS. The lobster pot pie was delicious! It took about 20 minutes to finish cooking it in a 325 degree oven. 
Check out Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket menu, directions and website at
© TMelle 2013

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