Pulling up a stool at Palm’s Grill Cafe, Atlanta, Illinois

It’s not often you get to step back in time, but on a quick trip through Atlanta, Ill. yesterday, I did just that. This time machine has all the sights, sounds and smells of our grandparents era – the good ones…butter-soaked toast, blue plate specials and stories from yesteryear.

This gem was lost when Route 66 was trumped by Interstate 55

This gem was lost when Route 66 was trumped by Interstate 55

The Palm’s Grill Cafe, once a staple along Illinois’ leg of Route 66, opened up after a 30+ year extinction, proving that in today’s age, even vintage Americana can rise from the darkness and shine brightly.

You won’t find many signs pointing to the Palm’s, no glitz or glamor or superficial commercialism. This little cafe is as charming as it is rustic. The foundation of this cafe dates back to 1934, the building that houses it, to 1867. While nestled nicely between a museum and a lawyers’ office, Palm’s Grill Cafe had undergone a 6-year renovation. It’s amazing to think this building was on its’ last breath when Bill Thomas took on the refurbishing assignment.

“The brick wall exterior was bowing out from the frame,” Thomas told me while we stood outside the multi-level store front. “Since we got it listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, we meticulously took off and pieced back every single brick. The inside, there was nothing left.”

But now, a brilliantly redesigned cafe that can feed a few dozen at any given time. Cozy, calming, comforting – and speaking of comfort, the food is just like you would expect at Grandma’s house. Order breakfast, and your toast coming dripping with butter – no knife needed to spread (the experience of lifting a slice and seeing the yellow liquid drip off is about as good as it gets!)

Cooks ladle on the butter, just like Grandma used to do

Cooks ladle on the butter, just like Grandma used to do

I’m producing a video on my visit to the ‘Palm’ and should have that posted soon. In the meantime, do yourself a favor…if you’re planning a trip to Chicago or St. Louis or simply the Midwest, make some time to travel down I-55 – or better yet, cruise down Route 66 – and stop in the small town of Atlanta. The sights, the sounds, the smells will be worth your time.

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