The Igloo in Peru – a longtime local favorite – was named the best diner in Illinois by the Food Network in 2019.
My dinner companion and I have lived most of our lives in the Illinois Valley, and we had never eaten the food there.
This trip was about taking that regional rite of passage.
The eatery’s specialty is the breaded pork tenderloin. While it seems many of the restaurants, taverns and diners in our region try to outdo each other in size, The Igloo makes its statement with flavor. The pork is never frozen, always fresh, and made nice and crispy. While many prefer their pork with “the works,” I opted for just some onion, which was the perfect complement.
All of The Igloo’s sandwiches are served with the option of getting it as a plate, which adds an order of the hand-cut, homemade fries and a small salad.
My tenderloin plate cost $7.85, and my recommendation is to select the plate, because the fries are so fresh and full of potato flavor.
The Igloo always features a sandwich of the month, and my dinner companion opted for the chicken salad and Swiss croissant – April’s pick. The sandwich is made of chicken salad with aged Swiss cheese, leaf lettuce and red onion on a large flaky croissant. The sandwich was the perfect combination of flavors, accented by the red onion.
The sandwich was light enough too for my dinner companion to order a heaping order of chili cheese fries ($4.10) – combining two of the Igloo’s specialties in one.
I ordered a bowl of the chili ($3.55), which had a rich tomato flavor with good chunks of hamburger and spoonfuls of beans.
The homemade root beer ($1.60 for a small glass) was a pleasant surprise. It had a flavor that tasted like vanilla and didn’t have the bite some homemade root beers have. My dinner companion, who is not a root beer person at all, took a sip and enjoyed it.
We also added a slice of caramel apple pie ($4.25) to share. The Igloo’s pie options vary daily, but the diner serves caramel apple, Dutch cherry, coconut creme and chocolate pies regularly. They also have ice cream for those who like their pie a la mode, or for anyone wanting a sundae or root beer float.
The menu features horseshoe sandwiches, hamburgers, Philly cheesesteaks, brat burgers, barbecue beef, hot dogs, and toasted cheese as well as fried ham sandwiches, among others.
Some other special menu items are ravs-n-broth, which are tortellini in chicken broth, and a monster taco salad made of lettuce, seasoned taco meat, cheddar jack cheese and special dressing.
The traditional black-and-white checkered diner counter with shiny red seats is closed during the pandemic, but there’s indoor booth and table seating for those looking to dine in. We opted for a carryout, and the food stayed hot and fresh. The staff was helpful in navigating the menu and taking care of us.
Oldies tunes also played over the speakers while we waited for our food to be prepared, adding all the more to the nostalgic feel.
After finally trying The Igloo, I can see why there’s so much fondness for it and why it has remained a popular local destination since 1937. The menu doesn’t stray from longtime favorites, such as the pork tenderloin, the ravs-n-broth, burgers, homemade root beer and Green River sodas. All the menu items we ordered were made well and tasted delicious. And now that we’ve tried it, we already are planning what to order on our next trip.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Igloo
WHERE: 2819 Fourth St. (U.S. 6), Peru