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Eat your Heart Out in Alton!

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Gastronomic adventures abound in the Alton area, from classic bar and grills to diners, mom-n-pop eateries, quaint coffee and pastry shops, family dining and elegant culinary fare. Whether you enjoy Italian, Asian-inspired, seafood, Mexican, steaks, barbecue, European or American fare, you’ll find it here.

Following is a veritable buffet of noteworthy dining spots popular with locals and visitors alike for their unique menu offerings, excellent food quality and superior, small-town customer service.

Josephine’s Ltd. Gift Shop & Tea Room in Godfrey (“Josephine’s” to the locals) is a very charming combination lunch/brunch restaurant, tea room and gift shop/boutique teaming with chic women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories, home décor items, floral accents and more. It originally opened in 1979 as a gift shop situated in a house that once belonged to Monticello College.

Today, guests can dine in one of the three dining rooms, tea rooms or inviting outdoor patios highlighted by beautiful landscaped gardens.

At first glance, it may seem like something just for the ladies, a nod to the colorful, floral décor, soft lighting and antique patterns and accoutrement. However, the gents love Josephine’s as well, many coming to dine or shop for the women in their lives several times a week. Menu items encompass delicious salads and soups, healthy sandwiches, pastas and a variety of homemade muffins. 

Gentelin’s on Broadway in Alton is a popular fine dining experience, featuring upscale cuisine, martinis, scotches, wines and spirits. Open for dinner, menu options include appetizers like the blue cheese kabobs and toasted wild mushroom ravioli, oven roasted half duck, peppercorn seared ahi tuna and pan seared sea scallop main entrees, just to name a few. 

Guests also enjoy Gentelin’s as a later evening spot for great desserts – among them white chocolate and walnut bread pudding, a trio of crème brûlée and warm carrot cake.

 

Bossanova Restaurant & Lounge is located in Alton’s charming downtown square. Beer, wine, specialty drinks and outstanding actor and movie-themed martinis are the focus here – names like The Honey Rider (chocolate and banana), Ivana Humpalot (a French concoction), The Plenty O’Toole (chocolate and mint) or The Octopussy (don’t blame me, it’s the name of the movie!) with vodka, peach schnapps and vermouth – plus great appetizers. The Latin-inspired nightclub atmosphere here is a nice mix of young 30-somethings and the mature crowd that enjoy a refined yet fun and funky atmosphere.

Right next door is one of the best Italian restaurants in the country – Tony’s Restaurant & Third Street Café. Tony’s is your classic, speak-easy, old-world Italian dining experience. Owned and operated by the Tony and Edie Ventimiglia Family since 1954, Tony’s is wonderful! Everything from the wait staff to the comfortable yet elegant Tuscany-inspired dining rooms and cuisine is simply outstanding. Wine lovers – this is your place as Tony’s offers some 60 bottled wines and 30 by the glass wines, many Wine Spectator magazine rated.

A customer favorite and one of the best steaks most of their clientele say you’ll ever have in your life is their World Famous Pepperloin Steak. Marinated in a family-secret marinade, it is a beef tenderloin rolled in half cracked black pepper, grilled to perfection, and drizzled with garlic butter that you can cut with a butter knife, and with not much effort at that. Everything here from the appetizers to the salads, soups, main entrees and desserts are served in sumptuous portions.

Highly recommended are the toasted artichoke hearts; Zuppa Tony (homemade tenderloin beef vegetable soup); red or white sauce, baked, garlic or olive oil sauce pastas, chicken, fish and seafood, pizza, and of course beef offerings. Most entrees come with a potato, side pasta, rice, vegetable and/or salad option – all of which are large enough to share.

Our hands down favorite was The Old Bakery Beer Company. The location alone is noteworthy, in that it is situated in the historic Colonial Bakery building dating back to the late 1800’s. As time rolled along, the bakery was devastated by fire, followed by ownership changes, remodels and the like, holding on until it finally shut down in the early 1980’s. Enter a young 30-something couple who fell in love with the old building and in 2015 completely renovated it, opening again as The Old Bakery Beer Company.

Not just any beer company, the enterprise is a widely popular, certified organic craft brewery and restaurant that showcases all that is tasty, healthy, organic and sustainable in Southern Illinois and Eastern Missouri, from artisanal goods to produce, meats, grains, cheeses and more.  And it shows in the amazing menu that changes seasonally to reflect what is fresh and available. A summer flatbread made with cream sauce, tomato, bell pepper, red onion, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and chipotle sauce; nachos piled high with corn, jalapeños, smoked chicken, salsa, queso, and green onions; a vegetarian and gluten-free blackberry salad with fresh greens, goat cheese, slivered almonds, and a honey vinaigrette; and the A.C. Slater – a fresh white bun playing host to house-smoked brisket and pulled pork, smoked sausage, pickled jalapeños, coleslaw, and bbq sauce is just the beginning.

Among the specialty sandwiches is the Coop Special – sourdough bread with smoked turkey, pastrami, bacon, swiss cheese, chives, and pepper mayo, and their version of a Cuban – ham, roasted pork, swiss, pickles, and yellow mustard served on a baguette. The burgers are amazing as well, but the pièce de resistance, in my opinion, is the Impossible Burger – the best dam veggie burger ever, topped with white cheddar cheese and beer onion jam. Even the staunchest meat-lovers can’t tell the difference and say that its outstanding!

On the beer side, they offer their own Flagships, Core Seasonals, and Hop and Coffee Series in cans and on tap, plus flight options for sampling – everything pairing well with the seasonal menu. And unlike a typical brewery restaurant, the ambiance at Old Bakery is comfortable, inviting and family-friendly, including darts, a pool table and pinball machine.

Other honorable mentions go out to the Ice House Cookery and Catering Co. for great breakfast favorites, lunch and homemade desserts; My Just Desserts, located in a historic building dating back to 1845 and famous for their half-pound chicken salad sandwiches, homemade pies and tollhouse brownies; and last but certainly not least, the Grafton Winery & Brewhaus, a working winery and brewery featuring a wide variety of white, red, rose, fruit and decadent dessert wines, handcrafted beers and appetizer, grill and dinner items.

Check out these other great “All Around Alton” adventures!

All Around Alton Overview

Great River Road History in and around Alton

African American History Runs Deep in Alton

 

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