Two sets of friends recently moved to Elgin. In the course of offering up recommendations and advice, I realized that I could probably crowd-source a much better list. So here’s my first round of advice. What advice would you give to new Elginites? Add your comments below.
The City of Elgin website is your first resource for everything from determining your trash pick-up day to establishing water service.
Elgin has several grocery stores. Depending on where you are, you should be relatively close to one of them. Butera, right downtown on National Street at Grove, was recently renovated and has pretty good prices, though they’re only open till 10 PM. We have two Jewels – one on Summit, the other on Larkin – which are, like all Jewels, good grocery stores, albeit overpriced. I like Meijer (Randall/College Green) for my biweekly big stock-up (and late night runs). There are also multiple fresh markets, plus Klein’s Farm Stand on Lillian Street, which gets many of its veggies from a farm just outside of town.
Looking for local news? The Courier-News and Daily Herald are the two main newspapers serving town, though both are experimenting with ways to stay afloat, like charging for access. The Elginite has a good variety of topics and discussion (though be nice and identify yourself in the comments). BocaJump also has local news and opinion. All of these sites have Facebook and Twitter feeds, too.
Books & Coffee
Gail Borden Library is fantastic. Seriously, it wins awards for awesomeness. Go get a card (free!) and use it at either branch. The main library is downtown, at Kimball and Grove, and faces the river, which makes for a wonderful reading/studying area. They always have a wide variety of events, from book clubs and public meetings to kid-focused activities. The new branch is on the west side, on Bowes west of Randall. The library publishes a biweekly e-newsletter that details all its upcoming events.
Most of the major coffee chains are represented: there is a Starbucks tucked on Randall Road by 90, in the far, far northwest corner of the city, a Caribou a little farther south on Randall, and a handful of Dunkin Donuts locations.
But go beyond those and try the non-chain options. My personal favorite is Domani Cafe on Highland. Try the Cortado (espresso and milk) when you have time to sit and enjoy it. They also have a very limited menu of very good paninis. There’s no wifi, but I consider that kind of a blessing, as I can study without interruption. Closed Sundays.
Also try Ravenheart Coffee on Chicago Street (now open evenings) and the coffee at Elgin Books (also on Chicago Street). Gail Borden Library has a coffee shop on the ground floor. Books at Sunset has some beverages to enhance your browsing. And though I often forget it’s there, I’m always happy when I remember the Country Donuts on 20, just west of Randall.
So many restaurants…
The Elgin Public House and Walnut Speakeasy are two standards for a drink or a good meal. Both are great. I prefer the food at the Public House and the atmosphere at the Walnut, and the latter does have pizza. Both have extensive beer lists and terrific burgers that are half price on Mondays. The Public House also has monthly-ish tasting nights and pairing dinners. Befriend both on Facebook for the latest specials and events.
In the Neighborhood Deli has a wide variety of sandwiches and paninis, with high-quality ingredients combined in innovative ways. And they’re really involved with the community, helping out with numerous non-profits, schools and local events.
Toom Toom Thai (downtown) keeps expanding their menu and has a great atmosphere to go with terrific food. White Pearl (west side) isn’t quite as “pretty,” but their Thai food is excellent, with slightly larger portions. (Oddly, their website calls them a “Chinese noodle restaurant,” but I’ve only ordered Thai from them.)
As for Mexican, there are plenty of great taquerias throughout town. Everyone has their own preference, but El Faro is my default (two locations – the State Street store is open 24 hours on weekends). And their burritos are giant enough to provide breakfast the next morning, if I scramble an egg. I also really like Delicia Tropical Cafe for Puerto Rican food.
Obviously, there are dozens of other good options. Like Spanky’s Gyros for good, greasy gyros and fries. Help me out, Elginites, with your favorites below!
Things to Do
Every week, there are dozens of activities, depending on your interests. Your best bet is to keep tabs on the Downtown Neighborhood Association and sign up for their weekly newsletter, and expand from there as your interests guide you.
The Elgin Arts Showcase also maintains a trio of calendars for events at the Hemmens, the Art Showcase and other venues around town.
So that’s my beginning of a list. Hopefully we’ll build this list over time to help residents new and old alike.
Welcome to Elgin!