The drive to Galena is relatively short, three hours, and pretty typical up until about the last half hour or so. That’s when the road (route 20) starts curving up and down the hills that make this part of Illinois unique. We had been this exact same way before, on our way to Dubuque, which is just across the Mississippi from Galena, so we knew what to expect. Even so, the view still amazed us.
Our accommodation for the weekend was the Lamberson Guest House, which was perched at the top of a hill in the historic district, overlooking the city. We were invited to stay as their very first guests with a group of other travel writers from around the Midwest. The house was beautifully renovated and is run by a wonderful couple, Brian and Michelle.
The B&B has four suites, each with its own color scheme and décor. We had the Mary Room, at the top back corner. It was a cute, private nook with its own walk-in closet and bathroom. Our hosts graciously gave us a tour of the house, and we loved all the thoughtful touches throughout. I especially loved the homemade shower bombs (lavender scented, and later when Michelle found out I was getting sick, eucalyptus) and makeup remover wipes in the bathroom.
We wanted to go out and explore, so they gave us a brief explanation of the layout of Main Street and reminded us to be back at 5pm for wine and cheese hour. The guest house is in a perfect location because downtown is literally just down the stairs from where the house is, the catch is that there are 220 stairs to go down.
The “Helluva Half Mile” is chockfull of cute boutiques, antique stores and restaurants. We decided to explore the south half of the half mile, saving the other half for the next day. We popped in and out of the cute stores, admiring the window displays and Christmas decorations along the way.
One of our first stops was to pick up some delicious coffee to go from Kaladi’s Coffee Bar to keep us caffeinated while we shopped. We particularly liked the Celebrity Hat Shop, Gustafson & Grey (for their beautiful antique jewelry), and Peace of the Past antique store (for their stacks and stacks of used books). What was so great about this main drag was that each of the stores were so unique, which was a fun departure from the strings of chain stores on other main streets we’ve explored.
After a while of wandering, we headed back up the stairs to the guest house to freshen up for dinner. We came down from our room for wine and cheese at 5pm on the dot and found a beautiful spread of cheese, crackers and dip. Brian and Michelle served us glasses of wine and we met another couple in our group, Denny and Tracy.
Soon after meeting them, we knew we would be in good company for the duration of our trip. As we chatted and enjoyed the cheese, our guide for the evening, Chris (the CEO of Visit Galena) joined us for introductions and then ushered us into a huge Mercedes van to head to dinner. Our destination was the Log Cabin Steakhouse back on Main Street, a Galena staple and the oldest operating restaurant in the city.
The restaurant had supper club vibes with dim lighting and wood paneling on the walls; I felt right at home. Log Cabin is a Greek steakhouse, so of course we started out with saganaki (and onion rings), which came to the table in a blaze of glory. It was delicious.
While we were deliberating over the menu, two more joined our group, Michelle (different from the B&B owner) and her husband, Robert; they blended into our conversation seamlessly. Our meals came with soup or salad and a “relish tray”, which consisted of fresh vegetables and homemade beer cheese that was amazing. Though Chris had warned us that the steaks were huge, it was still a shock to have a plate-sized T-bone placed in front of me.
The food was so good and so filling. After we finished, we all just had to sit for a minute. Once we could move without groans of pain, most of the group went back to the guest house, and Mike and I headed to Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape. This wine bar is located just down the street from the steakhouse, which can be said about almost every other place on the half mile, making it easy to navigate. The bar was so cozy, especially with all the Christmas decorations. There was live music provided by the Aaron Kelly Band.
The music was great! During their break, Mike and I went to say hello to the band and found out that he and the lead singer have some friends in common. Small world, huh? We continued our little bar crawl at the Galena Brewing Company, and had a beer at the bar. There was more live music here, a gentleman with a twelve-string guitar. The beer was fantastic.
I had the Miner’s Treasure, their Amber Ale, and we liked it so much that we got a small growler of it to bring back to the B&B. The bar was very laid back, with friendly bartenders and a jovial crowd. It was a nice place to end the night. I will say, climbing back up those stairs after a huge steak and a couple of drinks is no small feat. We made it to the top and collapsed into bed, looking forward to another great day.
To be continued…