There are certain places you hear about but never get to, despite your best intentions.
For me, that was Ted’s Garage.
This family-friendly theme restaurant has developed quite a following since it opened in 2004, and I’d seen it featured in various local media. Although only about 45 minutes away from the western edge of Champaign, its Clinton location isn’t somewhere we pass through on a regular basis.
But the other night, with my parents in town and some free time on our hands, I decided it was time. I knew that my parents would appreciate the 50s theme and hoped that the food would match the decor. So we went on a Saturday night for dinner.
We were hardly disappointed.
The restaurant is full of history and memorabilia related to the car scene of the 1950s. (They even have Green River on the menu. Nothing says the 50s quite like a Green River). It misses few details, including the napkins which look like old shop rags. The facility is clean, bright and cheery. The front of the restaurant features a classic car on exhibit, usually from a local owner. When we were there, the car was a convertible with Santa driving and full of toys.
Ted’s is a locally-owned diner, but the food at Ted’s is not your typical diner fare, although they do have that. The dinner menu was far more interesting than I expected, with everything from burgers to steaks to pork tenderloin to some Mexican-inspired fare.
With the exception of the uninspired green beans (we think they were frozen), we were satisfied with our food. My grilled chicken was quite tasty, and my parents (who are quite the foodies) enjoyed their steaks. My mom and I both ordered sweet potatoes, and they were delicious — they didn’t even need any butter or brown sugar that was offered to accompany them.
The kids had chicken and fries, and didn’t need much coercing to eat them. Their kids meals were less than $2 and included a drink and ice cream. I don’t think any of the children’s items were over $3.
We ended up with an extra diner at our table. Despite our best efforts, somehow my 3-year-old’s new Kermit stuffed toy came into the restaurant with us. Because we were a party of five, we had an extra seat at our table. So Kermit sat there.
Our server didn’t miss a beat, bringing Kermit his own dinner plate with lettuce and tomatoes. It was a moment that will go down in family lore and something my kids won’t forget for a long, long time.
Ted’s Garage is one of the most family-friendly restaurants I have encountered in Central Illinois. From the affordable children’s menu to the friendly service to the above-average food (and great value), we left impressed — and ready to go back again, real soon.
What: Ted’s Garage
Where: 808 West Van Buren, Clinton. From Champaign-Urbana, take I-72 west to the Clinton exit (172). Take Illinois 10 all the way west to Ted’s.
When: Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed Sundays.