While a lot of people do make the drive down to Bourbonnais to watch Bears training camp, the question of where to eat is usually answered by chains or fast food joints. But there is one option in nearby Kankakee striving to offer something more. Yes, it's more expensive than the average restaurant in town but there is always a chance you might see a player or coach among your fellow diners.
Surrounding the banks of the Kankakee River, the town of Kankakee is known more for its history - the remodeled Majestic Theater is one crown jewel. But right next door, the 164 North Restaurant is hoping to attract its own kind of attention for its food.
"We are the only fine-dining restaurant in the area. We specialize in USDA prime steaks and seafood; where we have our seafood brought in fresh daily for us. We kind of feel like we're unique in that because we have a caliber and a higher level of service than you'll find in most of the restaurants in the Kankakee area," said Heatherann Erickson of 164 North.
The chef attempts mainly familiar territory. Take bruschetta, for example: diced tomatoes hug ciabatta, then get a mild shower of mozzarella. Bears fans will appreciate a 24 ounce porterhouse, served with the requisite garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. While some dishes come straight out of the Italian American playbook: chicken tetrazzini, loaded with chunks of vegetables and pasta, all swimming in cream. Erickson says the restaurant is part of a block-long effort to restore the downtown area.
"We are actually in the heart of downtown Kankakee that's going through a lot of revitalization right now. We have a lot of history here so this is almost becoming like the arts and theater district here," Erickson said.
Seafood Newburg stands out among several non-meat options. Plump shrimp and scallops get a jolt from brandy, then rich lobster sauce coats the entire skillet. A bed of fettuccine noodles serves as a starchy base for the creamy seafood, which also gets a dose of tomato-basil for seasonal clarity. Erickson says beginning this weekend, the entire river valley is abuzz with Bears fever. That means lots of extra guests.
"The Bears bring a really uniqueness down to the area. They come out to Bourbonnais which is about five, ten minutes to this area. They bring a lot of tourist from the city and from out of the state as well. We anticipate, you'll see almost 100,000 people at Bears camp every year and it's a huge event and it lasts for quite a bit of time," said Erickson.
Since there will be thousands of extra folks in the area, best to make a reservation ahead of time. The restaurant also has private dining rooms for larger groups.
164 North Fine Dining
164 N. Schuyler Ave., Kankakee