Chicago, IL

Don't Come to Elgin for Dinner

Sherry McGuinn

Unless "fried and unhealthy" is your thing

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First off, I know there will be readers here who will condemn me for talking trash about the city I live in. They'll say, "Why don't you move?" or call me nasty names or offer up any number of completely erroneous responses. And that's fine. Because, when I started writing, like a million years ago, I realized I'd be opening myself to well...damn near anything at any time. But I like to believe that honesty is my hallmark, so here goes:

Elgin, Illinois is sorely lacking in "dining destinations," or anything remotely close. Unless you live along Randall Road, you can forget about finding a restaurant that has it all--great food, excellent service, and an ambiance that keeps you coming back for more. And even the eateries there, are primarily chains.

It makes me wonder if budding restaurateurs think that we Elgin residents are a bunch of uncultured hillbillies. One of the reasons I find the lack of healthy food, especially, to be frustrating is the fact that whenever my husband and I order out, it's damn near impossible to find a restaurant that delivers anything but standard bar fare. And yeah, I love jalapeno poppers as much as the next person but not as a steady diet, you know?

Admittedly, there are some decent pizzerias, albeit nothing like you'd find in Chicago proper. You can forget about that. But what if you don't want pizza? Well then, you could have a burger, fried chicken, fried chicken fingers, fried chicken wings, pizza, more pizza, tacos, and on, like that.

Speaking of tacos, Elgin boasts a large Hispanic community and so not surprisingly, there are a plethora of eateries that serve up pretty decent Mexican fare. But, there is absolutely nothing that goes beyond the 'average." You won't find any Frontera Grills here.

Notice that I'm focusing on dinner, as opposed to breakfast or lunch. That's because there are plenty of decent. pancake houses and sandwich joints where you can enjoy a tasty, affordable meal. I'm not a food snob. In fact, I'm the last one to order a dish because of its exquisite "plating." All I'm asking for are menu items that I don't have to feel guilty about scarfing down.

Again, my biggest issue is the lack of healthier options. Since the onset of Covid and its resulting quarantine, it stands to reason that more people are ordering in, instead of dining out. But, as we're already dealing with Pandemic Pudge, why don't restaurant owners include healthier options on their menus?

For example, pick up any takeout and/or delivery menu in our fair city and you'll find the follow appetizers: Mozzarella sticks (fried), Garlic Knots (breaded and fried), Buffalo Wings (fried), Cheesy Bread and Breadsticks (carbs and fat), Jalapeno Poppers (love 'em, but fried), Fried Calamari, Breaded Zucchini Slices (even the veggies aren't safe), Fried mushrooms and the list of gut-busters goes on.

Is it any wonder we're fat? How about a fresh vegetable plate with a side of hummus? Or a fresh spinach salad? Easy-peasy and it won't affect the bottom line.

Even the Asian restaurants we've tried are so "meh." Corn-starch-laden sauces and uninspiring fare like General Tso's Chicken which is overly sweet and you guessed it--fried. If nothing else, why can't these places put a side of brown rice on the menu? The last time I checked brown, whole-grain rice is as affordable as the starchy, white kind.

It's 2021, Elgin restauranters. Get in the ballgame, please! We're not expecting the range and caliber of restaurants that can be found in Chicago, but give us something that won't make us feel as if we're going to keep over from cardiac arrest.

Do you know what would send me over the moon? If a Thai restaurant opened in our neighborhood. Preferably one that delivered. What a treat that would be! For the most part, Thai food is fresh and vibrant and, depending upon what you order, won't make you feel like a balloon about to pop.

But I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. Oh, there's space aplenty. Dead space. All you have to do is check out the strip malls that have emptied out and remain undeveloped.

What a shame. We could have so much more to offer. If only some enterprising individual would take the lead and offer it.

Thanks for reading.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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