Comfort food garbs your tongue in luxurious velveteen knickerbockers of flavor, as opposed to discomfort food, which clings to the face like an overtight ascot. Avoid the embarrassment of culinary crampers with today's Groupon: for $7, you get $15 worth of fare from the Orchard Cafe & Grill and Family Style menus at Eckert’s Belleville Country Restaurant on Greenmount Road.
For the past century, seven generations of Eckert’s have served family-grown foods to other hungry families. Let your tongue stroll through heirloom orchards with the orchard picnic sandwich, stuffed with a house-made chicken salad with fuji apple accompaniment ($7). Eckert’s family-style dinners include passable bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans, and sweet corn. Families and groups of Gigantomachy reenactors also get fried biscuits topped with apple butter churned from freshly milked fruits. Try the all-you-can-eat fried chicken ($12.99), then sample your seventh cousin’s pork sausage ‘n' kraut, made with Eckert’s own seasoned sausage ($12.99). Other family features include meat loaf and beef roast, while cafe options include sandwiches, burgers, and pizza. See the full menus here.
Although online reviews for Eckert's Restaurant are still growing, Yelpers give the farm itself a four-star average:
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.