Saturday, July 24, 2010

Food Finds in Illinois

There we were. A shadow of our former selves. It was a dark and stormy night.

On the menu: Snapping Turtle

Ok. It wasn't dark and stormy, but snapping turtle was on the menu.

I-80 exit 81 Utica, Illinois. Here we are, out of hours and stuck at a truck stop with no restaurant. Great for getting a shower, not so great for a non-fast food dinner. We bobtail into town, just south of the interstate, only minutes from the truckstop. Utica downtown is just a one street affair but they have a nice big parking lot where we fit nicely. The guy at the Loves truck stop recommended a steak place but they were closed. We did find a little Irish pub that looked promising, fairly full of local family types, not bar fly types. It was Duffys Irish Tavern. The chalkboard boasted a special of froglegs or shepard's pie. This was promising.

I have had frog legs before and like them very much but I am always on the lookout for something different and untried. And there it was, Snapping Turtle. I felt a little bad for choosing it, I have had turtles as pets so I have a soft spot for them. But these were mean, ugly, finger biters (as Himself convinced me) and so I shouldn't feel bad...Right? I asked the waitress if it really was snapping turtle, she said yes they get them from a farm in Wisconsin. I didn't know they had any turtles in Wisconsin. In any case the internal debate didn't last long; I eat meat, plain and simple and it would be hypocritical to not eat something just because I think it's cute. Not fair to the ugly animals!

Back to the food. Himself got the Shepard's Pie, he's a sucker for it and it was good. Lots of roast meat and veggie goodness with mountains of cheesy mashed potatoes on top. I got the Snapping Turtle even though the waitress described it as fishy roast beef (very accurate, unfortunately). She said I could send it back if I didn't like it, but I knew I wouldn't. I just can't waste food not in my DNA, and anyway I love a challenge.

They fry it in pieces, I had 5 pieces each about the size of a baseball. Not bad at first. It's all dark meat, stringy, just like roast beef, I swear you couldn't tell the difference. It comes with the bones but it doesn't look like a turtle body. Did you know they had spinal cords? Well, they do trust me. Also I got a shoulder/flipper looking bone. It was very fishy. Now when some people say fishy they mean "it tastes like fish" which is good fishy. I like fish fishy. This was bait fishy. Like bait fish that has been sitting in the sun for several hours covered with swamp mud and picked over by finicky raccoons.

But I ate it, one bite turtle, 4 bites french fries one swig Irish beer until it was mostly gone. Now I can say I ate Snapping Turtle. I don't need to do it again.

The service was great, the atmosphere friendly and warm and I'm sure the froglegs are good!


  1. I do remember you would eat anything once.

  2. Gravy and out of steak. You must git this "i'll taste anything from a relative?


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