This marks the first month of steak and it’s flying by like a winged cow clumsily fluttering around in the sky like so much summer mist! On this fourth week of beef-seeking posts we’re heading out on the second road trip of this steak tour and like all road trips, it starts off with a knock on the door...
There’s the knock and behind door number one are my friends Kevin and Star! Kevin and Star are card-carrying, board-certified road-trippers! They travel somewhere almost on a weekly basis, so we’re in good hands for this trip! Our main destination is Mona’s, the iconic Italian restaurant in Toluca, Illinois! But Kevin and Star have some spots to stop at along the way to make the journey a little more lively and interesting, so it’s off we go!
Pit Stop Number One: The American Legion Post 100
Address: 211 Legion Road, Washington, Illinois • facecrack page linkage
Brief synopsis: This is a real friendly place and a great place to grab a beer and chat with some of the locals. John was the bartender on duty and we had a nice conversation with him. In addition to homemade pizza and a nice inventory of cold beer, there’s fish fry’s, live music, weekly cash drawings and trap shooting events. It’s a comfortable place and it was a fun stop, but we have to keep moving along here!
Pit Stop Number Two: Sue’s Place
Address: 18 E. Mt. Vernon Street, Metamora, Illinois • facecrack page linkage
Brief synopsis: A nice down-home, country-styled dive bar with a pool table and gaming machines and a huge bar! Nice atmosphere and our bartender was Sue’s daughter! Sue was down at the end of the bar and we waved to her and then it was on to our next stop!
Pit Stop Number Three: Suds Bar & Grill
Address: 112 N Main Street, Toluca, Illinois • facecrack page linkage
Brief synopsis: Suds is right down the street from our main destination here in Toluca and this place has a nice rustic atmosphere to it. I learned a new word from Kevin and Star on this trip and that word is: “Lodgey.” And that word applies to Suds, it’s very lodgey in here and they have a full menu with burgers, pizza, wings and all of your standard pub grub.
Pit Stop Number Four: Oliver’s Main Street Pub
Address: 108 South Main Street, Toluca, Illinois • facecrack page linkage
Brief Synopsis: I had forgotten that they opened up a third Oliver’s in Toluca! That was a pleasant surprise and what wasn’t a surprise is that it’s just as cool as the other two in Peoria Heights and on Willow Knolls Drive. There’s a nice dining area and the bar is a wonderful, woody delight! The atmosphere is friendly and while we didn’t eat in there, I’m sure the food is amazing. And speaking of amazing, check out the photo of Julie D. Motherway and Bethany Coffin, two amazing women! And now, it’s off to the main stop of the evening...
Mona’s Italian Restaurant!
Kevin and Star suggested Mona’s for this week’s steak dinner and I had forgotten all about this place! I haven’t been here for decades and it looks like it hasn’t changed one bit!
I absolutely love that classic neon sign that looms over this business that’s been cooking up classic Italian dishes here in Toluca since 1933! Let’s go in and start this fourth week of steak in a historic restaurant in Toluca, Illinois!
As you can see, the bar is a popular spot here at Mona’s. It’s a classic, old-school Italian flavored bar area with mirrored windows and lights overhead. There’s an antique clock and vintage Italian oil paintings hanging behind the bar. Tables are neatly lined up opposite the bar with photos of family and workers from the past decorating the wall. It’s like taking a step back in time when you walk in here. Instant nostalgia!
The Dining Room
That archway in the bar leads to the dining room. Hey, check out the welcome sign, how did they know we were coming? I love it when that happens!
Just like the bar, the dining room has a classic atmosphere and vibe to it with elegant chandeliers hanging overhead. A fantastic photo of the Mona’s vintage neon sign reminds you that you are in Tolcua, Illinois, even though it feels like Little Italy in New York in here.
Everyone here was so friendly and welcoming and they happily posed for the wandering MBIP Camera! In the top photo behind the hostess station is Tanya and Misti, that’s Mona’s General Manager, Duane Martin holding baby Bradlee. Duane’s a Toluca native who started here in 1971 as a busboy and worked his way up to the top! Baby Bradlee will probably be running things in about thirty years! And last, but certainly not least, is our pretty waitress for the evening, Jaclyn! Wait a second...waitress? That must mean it’s...
Dinner Time At Mona’s!
Yes, after hours of carousing and road-tripping, it’s time to have our steak dinner for the evening! There’s Star and Kevin at our table!
And Jaclyn wasted no time in delivering our first course. We got salads, bread and the star of this first course is one of Mona’s home-made, signature appetizers: Mona’s Fat Pretzel. Wow, that is one giganzo pretzel, it’s bigger than Alfredo Garcia’s head! It comes with two tubs of dipping sauce, home-made marinara and their secret cheese sauce. I can safely say that this is not only the biggest pretzel I’ve ever seen, it’s also the most delicious one I’ve ever tasted! It’s crisp and salty on the outside and inside it’s like soft, bakery-fresh bread just out of the oven! Both sauces were fantastic, but I liked the cheese sauce the best. It was rich and creamy and had a nice zip to it.
We made it about halfway through and finally surrendered to this delightfully mammoth pretzel! Taking a cue from Steely Dan, it just seemed the logical thing to do!
The Main Courses
And now the main courses have arrived! Star stayed with the steak theme and ordered the petite filet with a baked potato. Kevin was a rebel and veered away from the steak tour and got Mona’s famous fried chicken with french fries and a side of their authentic Italian spaghetti. Both Kevin and Star raved about how incredible the food was, now it’s time for the steak dinner of the week!
Steak Dinner of the Week!
They have a steak entree on the menu called the Hoof & Snoot. It’s two links of Italian sausage and a six ounce cut of sirloin steak. I’ve never seen a steak entree like this anywhere else! I got the wild rice as a side dish and it was really tasty! I wasn’t expecting much from a rice side-dish and it really was delicious! Jaclyn said one of the secrets to of this wild rice is that they add some Alfredo sauce to it. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret! Okay, now it’s time to sample this week’s steak!
The steak was cooked to perfection, nicely seared on the outside and juicy and tender inside. It was a lean cut of steak and had a lot of nice flavor to it. The sausage links were equally tasty and had nice Italian seasoning with just the right amount of spice and zing! The combination of steak and Italian sausage was a wonderful one-two punch to the taste buds and this was a fantastic, flavorful steak dinner!
Of course when you order the world’s biggest pretzel, you end up with the world’s biggest doggie bag! Thanks to everyone at Mona’s and the other stops along the way for the great hospitality and food! And thanks to Kevin and Star for driving, plotting this wonderfully fun road trip and hanging out, it’s always a blast and I'm already looking forward to our next trip in December! We’ll see you all tomorrow!
Four Elsie The Cows—The Hoof & Snoot was an unusual and very tasty steak dinner! And when it’s served in a classic Italian restaurant like Mona’s in Toluca, well life doesn’t get much better than that! Vieni qui e finisci di mangiare!
202 N. Main Street