Café 20 – Marengo, IL

I seem to have this fixation with Marengo, IL. Larry and I always drive through it on our way to either Galena, IL or Madison, WI. We’re back roads kind of people in terms driving – we love to enjoy the slowness of meandering to our destination and enjoying the landscape vs. seeing nothing on the highway. An added bonus is being able to stop in a small town for a bite to eat or to check out a store.

Marengo is a tiny town - and I always seem to be drawn to it. Unfortunately it has seen better days and it is definitely sleepy, but I just look at some of the older buildings and think what it must have looked like years ago as a bustling farm community that I’m sure was one of the places to go to for area residents. I just think it’s got potential to thrive again. On top of that people do seem to care and are trying to make improvements: it’s part of the Illinois Main Street Trust program, there’s a seasonal farmer’s market and several restaurants that I think are worth the a stop – most notably Café 20 (on Route 20) and the Flatlander Market (more on that in a later post). In addition, both the city and the economic development commission are working hard to get the name out there on their town.

Larry and I have been to Café 20 ( quite a few times. First, years ago when it was under different ownership and most recently in January – I believe the current owner took over not to long ago.

The outside of Café 20 looks like the building may have been a former fast food/diner joint before its current incarnation, but when you go inside it’s positively charming: a new bar in the corner, counter space a la diner, the wood-fired open hearth oven, tables and booths. The décor, I’d say is “cozy Italian.”

Larry and I love to get a booth because booths are always better for conversation – you can actually hear the person you’re with and vs. being at an open table trying to yell over the next table.

Under the former owner, the restaurant was just OK, but under the new owner I think it’s just great – it just seems that an effort is being made to offer interesting and eclectic options vs. bland-run-of-the-mill-so-everyone-will-eat-it-so-we-don’t-have-to-try options. Café 20 seems to get it.

We’ve had their pizza, veal marsala, spaghetti, fish fry etc. – all very good. As an added bonus, both Larry and I were thrilled that they offered Pinot Noir and Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse – oddly enough we seem to have a hard time find restaurants who have offer these, especially the beer.

So on our most recent visit, you can imagine we were downright giddy when they said “yes, we do offer them” – we were just beaming. Ok, I suppose it was pretty sad that we were so excited, but heck, we take out joy from wherever we can find it! : )

So if you are in the area, I recommend that you stop in and give Café 20 a shot – I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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