Following a treaty signed by the US and Potawatami Indians in 1833, the town incorporated in 1854. The adjacent town of Bourbonnais has a pop of around 18,000.
The cities were founded at the junction of two major Indian trading trails and the navigable Kankakee River. Today general manufacturing and food processing are the driving economic forces.
Don’t recall that I’ve ever been through here before, but found myself in town to observe the Chicago Bears training camp; they’ve called Bourbonnais “training camp home” since 2002.
Needing nourishment I sought local opinion on where the old-timers go, and was pointed to JR’s Chicken, with locations in both cities. I opted for the Kankakee stop, for no particularly reason.
The street portion of the building houses a take-out counter which appears to do a brisk business. The back portion is a full bar, dining room and video poker cubby.
Chicken in their name and chicken is their game. They also have a modest daily buffet with two or three entrees (including chicken of course) and an equal number of side dishes. An amply stocked salad bar is also present.
I passed on the buffet, unusual for me, and it did look appealing. But I’ve been on a catfish jag lately, and JR’s was willing to accomodate. (They had it on the menu).
It was divine. Two crispy breaded fillets, I chose slaw and fries for a salad. Minor objection from me to the fries, which were extruded potato product, not my favorite, but were made passable in this case with a longer fry time. I suspect.
The fish breading as lightly seasoned and tasty. Slaw is good, finely diced cabbage with a dressing that is both sweet and sour at the same time. Same description for the tartar sauce (except no cabbage, obviously).
Travel companion did go for the specialty of fried chicken, which really is outstanding, crispy fry breading hiding very moist chicken. Sides were loaded baker and fried okra.
Dinner plates come with a soft roll and dairy spread. Service was over the top. Mid Saturday afternoon, maybe a third full.
Kankakee was memorialized in the Steve Goodman ditty “The City of the New Orleans” – the Amtrak daily ride between Chicago and the Gulf Coast. Here’s Arlo Guthrie’s version.
JRs Chicken Review