Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review – on old Route 66, Chicago
Based on my personal consumption, I’m thinking their slogan should be “come for the biscuits, stay for the chicken.”
One of the original highways across America, Route 66 ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA, a total of nearly 2500 miles.
It’s also been referred to as “America’s Main Street,” and the “Mother Road.” The highway was instrumental in boosting America’s migration to the west by automobile, and was full of interesting tourist stops, eateries and motels with creative architecture. I’ve written about some of the eateries in the past, including the Maid Rite and Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL, the onion burger establishments in El Reno, OK, Country Cup diner in Countryside, IL, and the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, to name a few.
I love driving Route 66, the trip evokes memories of a simpler time. I think it’s officially my own personal “happy place.”
The Chicken Basket grew out of a gas station lunch counter in the 30s or 40s, and opened in its present form in 1946. They are famous for – what else – chicken – and they offer it in a bunch of different forms, including a weekend lunch AYCE buffet.
The servers are very friendly and chatty, and the knotty pine room is adorned with Route 66 memorabilia. A basket of fresh baked biscuits is presented when you’re seated, and they were delicious, reminiscent to me of “Boy Scout dutch oven Bisquick drop biscuits” except these were perfect, not burned or half baked balls of dough that we used to have in scouts.
I started with an order of onion rings, large slices of sweet Vidalia’s in a crispy corn meal coating. It’s a large serving, adequate to share between two or more people.
We ordered a couple of meals, the chicken fried chicken, a boneless breast, which comes with fries, gravy, and corn “pudding.”
The menu cautions that it’s up to a 30 minute wait for the chicken, as it is all fried to order. The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, with the breading having some nice crunch. In the chicken dinner, the coating was considerably different, much lighter and less substantial, and I’m going to venture an uneducated guess that while the boneless breast was actually deep fried, it seemed like the chicken dinner was prepared more like ‘broasting,” a distinctly Midwestern thing, a deep-fry with less oil that also involves a pressure cooker. Maybe, maybe not.
In any case, unlike many legendary eateries, the Chicken basket exceeds its hype, the food is really great. Two dinners, one appetizer, two beverages and tip, $47.00.
Full menu is online if you want to ponder your choices prior to arrival.
If you’ve never driven Route 66, put it on your bucket list, even if you have the time only to do segments in one or two states. In addition to Illinois, the road crossed Missouri, a smidgen of Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and into California. It’s a very popular trip with foreign tourists, as well, and there are even “Route 66 Associations” across the globe.