I've driven through that city of Alton Illinois many times, but for some reason I've never stopped there. Today Tony and I visited the city of Alton and had lunch at Fast Eddies Bon Air.
Alton is only about 45 minutes away from my house...a quick drive up Highway 270, then north on 367 over the Clark Bridge. Our first stop there was the visitor's center, where we got maps and brochures. We spent about an hour and a half shopping in the downtown area; there are a lot of antique stores and several boutiques. When our stomachs told us it was time to eat, we got back in the car and drove to our lunch destination.
Fast Eddie's Bon Air has been around as long as I can remember, but I didn't know anything about it except its reputation for cheap food and a fun atmosphere. I found out that the Bon Air was opened in 1921 by Anheuser Busch. About ten years later, Busch had to sell the tavern because the laws changed to prohibit breweries from owning drinking establishments. There have been several owners since then, the latest of which is Eddie Sholar (AKA Fast Eddie).
Fast Eddie has increased the size of the place, started having music every weekend, and has food that's still sold at the same price it was nineteen years ago (99¢ for a half-pound hamburger, bratwurst, or basket of fries, peel and eat shrimp for 29¢ each, and beef kabobs, pork kabobs, and chick-on-a-stick for slightly higher prices). There are a couple of restrictions -- no one under 21 can enter the building, everyone must purchase at least one drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and no food can be taken from the building.
When we walked in, I realized that Fast Eddie's Bon Air was a dive, but in a good sense. The bar was right in the front of the building, the inside was dark, and the canned music was loud. I saw a couple of biker-types sitting at the bar, some college-aged kids at a table next to them, and some senior citizens waiting for their food.
We ordered our food and found a table in the outside beer garden, so we could enjoy the beautiful weather. Our waitress came quickly to take our drink orders, then I went and got some popcorn to munch on while we waited for the food. After about 20 minutes they called our order number. The food lived up to its billing. The hamburger was tasty and the huge order of fries could have easily fed two people.
After we finished lunch, we drove around the area looking for fall color, but we realized it was a bit too early for that. We stopped at Pere Marquette State Park and hiked a couple of the trails, then headed down the Great River Road to Alton, and back over the bridge towards home.