BY ROBERT GLAZE
Galena is the perfect weekend getaway from Chicago this summer. Plan on a three-hour drive from the city to this popular tourist destination known for its history, charming Main Street with its beautifully preserved architecture, and several golf and ski resorts.
Located in Northwest Illinois, Galena was the home of General and President Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals, and once a large lead mining area (though it saw a large drop in population after the demand for lead sharply declined).
Where to Eat in Galena
Galena has some very good dining options. I really enjoyed and recommend:
At 371 Main Street is the cozy bistro, Fritz and Frites. As the name suggests, here you’ll find a combination of German and French specialties, titled “East of the Rhine” and “West of the Rhine.” Thus, the menu varies from schnitzel and sauerbraten to cassoulet and steak frites. The service is excellent, as is the dessert menu.
I really enjoyed One Eleven Main, a casual spot for dinner named after its downtown address. The offerings are made up of local and seasonal ingredients—their salmon dish is not to be missed.
For breakfast and lunch, Otto’s Place (100 Bouthillier Street) is one of Galena’s must-visits. The quiche is a perfect choice to start the day. Across the river, Otto’s Place is away from Main Street and all of its shops and tourists.
Honorable mentions include Golden Hen Cafe at 129 South Main for its huge selection of egg dishes, pancakes, crepes, waffles, soups, salads, and sandwiches—a great spot for breakfast or lunch. Perry Street Brasserie at 124 Commerce Street and Fried Green Tomatoes (213 North Main), for Italian specialties, are also popular.
Where to Stay
Though there are several large resorts out of town, I preferred staying closer to the city itself. I highly recommend the Cloran Mansion Bed & Breakfast, a charming B&B built in the 1880s at 1237 Franklin Street. It is a short drive from downtown and on a quieter street than many of the other properties in town.
The rooms are nicely appointed, the owners, Carmine and Cheryl Farruggia, very helpful and friendly, and the family-style breakfasts very good. The tower room had a large king bed, with a fireplace and a whirlpool in an area in the tower, or cupola, above the bathroom.
There are a total of four rooms, with a more private cottage across the driveway. They also have a studio condo available at the Eagle Ridge Resort outside of town.
Also recommended outside of Galena, are The Inn at Irish Hollow, and the Goldmore Inn.
If you would prefer to be right in the center of the downtown area, try The DeSoto House, built in 1855, at 230 South Main.
Wine, Beer, and Sprits
The surrounding area, with its rolling hills and farmland, has been, and is becoming, an even more popular wine-growing area. In addition to its vineyards, new distilleries and microbreweries are popping up all over.
Though they have a tasting room in downtown Galena at 117 South Main, I highly recommend visiting the Massbach Ridge Winery tasting room at 8837 South Massbach Road in Elizabeth, Illinois, surrounded by vineyards and spectacular farmland. To get there, get off of Route 20 on Route 78 and drive through Stockton to the winery; just follow the signs to the right about 3 miles.
Afterwards you will see the charming Village of Elizabeth on the way to Galena. Having lived in the state for almost 39 years, this was my first experience tasting Illinois wines. They have sweeter wines as well as dryer whites and reds. I enjoyed the Massbach Reserve, an oak-aged blend, which is made with Marechal Foch and Frontenac grapes.
Galena Cellars Vineyards has a downtown tasting room at 515 South Main, but I preferred driving out to their location at 4746 North Ford Road, where you see their vineyards and winery. It is approximately 6 miles from downtown Galena in beautiful, rolling farmland. Their tasting room is in an old house.
They offer a full range of dessert wines, port, fruit wines, semi-sweet wines, rosés, semi-dry wines, and dry reds and whites. I tasted and bought a bottle of their full-bodied dry red, Frontenac, which is a local varietal that I was not aware of but liked very much.
Galena Brewing Company (227 North Main) is a large microbrewery and bar/restaurant. They offer flights of both their regular and seasonal beers. The flight included a light Farmer’s Cream Ale, the Fevre River Ale or wheat beer, the Miner’s Treasure Amber Ale, Annabelle’s India Pale Ale or IPA, Uptown Brown Nut Brown Ale, and Uly’s Dark Oatmeal Stout. I liked the light ales and the Oatmeal Stout. Let me know what you prefer.
Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. can be found just outside of downtown Galena at 9380 West US Highway 20. They produce a line featuring bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, vodka, gin, moonshine, and seasonal spirits. They offer daily tours plus a tasting room and cocktail bar on the premises.
What to See and Do
At 500 Bouthillier Street stands the Ulyssess S. Grant Home. Built in 1860 and overlooking downtown Galena, this house was purchased by a group of Republican men and presented to Grant and his wife, Julia, in 1865, as a gift.
Grant was elected President IN 1868 and again in 1872. They used this Galena address as their voting residence until 1881, when they moved to New York. Most of the furnishings were owned by the Grants. It is open for tours, so check out visitgalena.org for hours as they change by season. Next to the home are several other historic homes to view or visit.
Downtown Galena has some great stores, bakeries, coffee shops, bars, specialty food stores, restaurants, and galleries. Mean Bean Coffee, a local coffee roaster at 240 North Main, allows you to create your own custom blend, while Stam Chocolaterie (205 South Main Street), offers coffee alongside beautiful imported European chocolates and homemade gelato. For more sweet treat, be sure to check out Klein’s Market Bakery (118 South Main) for great homemade breads, pies, and other baked goods—I loved the pumpkin bread—and American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor at 102 North Main Street.
Moving from sweet to savory, Galena Garlic Company (311 South Main) has a good selection of rubs, seasonings, olive oil soaps, olive oils, sea salts, and balsamic vinegars.
Looking for nonedible souvenirs of your stay? Chicago Skyline Art, at 245 South Main, has great quality paintings and prints. On the third weekend of October, there is a self-guided pottery and ceramics tour, Twenty Dirty Hands, in and around Galena. Here you can visit and tour some of the area’s best pottery and sculpture studios.
During my stay, I visited Pinder Pottery at 236 North Main, a nice store in downtown Galena, and also a great exhibit at the Fortuna Studio (7213 West Buckjill Road) not far from the Galena Cellars Winery. I bought a great piece for my tea bowl collection. (There were also two locations in Elizabeth, Illinois).
From presidents to pottery, Galena has plenty to offer!
For more travel destinations and recommendations, visit globalphile.com.