Mystery Diner in McCullom Lake: Hearty pub fare king of the hill at Cullom Knoll

One of the only businesses in the tiny village of McCullom Lake on the western edge of McHenry is the bar and restaurant Cullom Knoll, a place worth checking out.

The atmosphere is festive, with darts available at the bar to play. Plenty of outdoor seating is offered, and the woodwork on the inside is beautiful.

The food menu is a list of filling pub classics, with the pizza especially standing out.

The establishment reopened with new ownership in 2019, and we hope it sticks around, as it makes for a great takeout option with a new online ordering system through the restaurant website, and a nice place to dash for a night out of the house or a quick getaway for a drink or meal during the daytime.

We tested out the new online ordering and brought home a ton of great food, starting with the loaded spuds ($7.95) as an appetizer. You can choose whether you want waffle fries, regular fries or tater tots, and they’re topped with nacho cheese, onions, tomatoes, bacon and jalapeños.

We opted for the regular fries, and the results were outstanding. The serving size is massive, and could be an entrée for two. The peppers provided just enough heat to balance out the rich sour cream the restaurant provided with which to top it.

After a big helping of the loaded spuds, I moved on to the 12-inch Hawaiian BBQ Chicken pizza ($14.25).

The ratio of pineapple to chicken on the pie was perfect. The sweetness of the fruit had a strong presence, and lent its flavor well to the chicken. The barbecue sauce in lieu of red sauce made the poultry flavor pop, and complemented the fruity taste of the pineapple.

Next, I had a few bites of the Steak Philly ($9.95).

Sometimes, I’m concerned there won’t be enough meat to pay nearly $10 for a sandwich, but Cullom Knoll makes this one worth at least that. The Philly came loaded with steak, peppers and onions, to the point it was actually impossible to fold the bread roll in half without losing a good amount of ingredients onto my plate.

And it was delicious, too. The steak was well prepared, and the onions and peppers were flavorful. The sandwich comes with your choice of side, and I went with the mac and cheese, which turned out to be a good decision. The noodles were covered in melted cheese, and the side was a huge helping I couldn’t finish, so I got to save some for later, along with slices of pizza.

My dinner companion ordered the broasted four-piece chicken meal, and it was cooked to perfection. The meat was juicy, the outside of each piece was crunchy, and biting into the meat and having it release easily from the bone was a delight.

It came with a side of mashed potatoes that were seasoned with a bit of garlic, just how each of us like.

We’re fans of Cullom Knoll’s scene and menu, and look forward to exploring it more.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.


WHAT: Cullom Knoll

WHERE: 3018 Hickory Drive, McCullom Lake

PHONE: 815-344-3455