Barely off the beaten path in Effingham, nestled right along Lake Sara, this gem has sand play for kids before or after dining
We happened to be driving down I-57 on a summer holiday and were running into issues finding somewhere unique to eat. Many spots were closed and we were looking for something other than chain fast food. Thankfully, our internet search pointed us towards Pinky’s, which turned out to be exactly what we were in the mood for. Located less than 90 minutes from Champaign-Urbana, Pinky’s is definitely on our list to return to this summer.
Pinky’s was rocking when we pulled up and we were told there would be a 45-minute wait for a table. We were intrigued so we decided to stick it out and wait for a table. This is when we discovered Pinky’s is much more than just a place to grab a bite.
We walked down a staircase towards Lake Sara to check out the water up close and came upon a large sand area with some beachy decor and — and! — sand toys. And this is when we noticed that children were playing in the sand right outside Pinky’s!
We have found restaurants like this in the past, like Bobber’s in Wisconsin Dells, so we knew right away what a find this was. Whether you’re waiting for a table (like we were) or just want something fun to do after eating, the Pinky’s sand play area is a huge draw for families wanting to have a unique, beachy, outdoor meal.
While we were waiting, we sat at a picnic table near the sand play area and could have ordered a drink from the bar down there, if we had wanted. There was live music playing at Pinky’s, which was easy to hear from where we were waiting. (A quick glance at the calendar on its website shows live music weekly on Thursday through Sunday.)
Almost 45 minutes after we put our name down, we were called for our table. The seating was back up the stairs, on a deck a level above the lake. The views were great! Now we were much closer to the music, and having a conversation was a little challenging while they were playing. But the atmosphere was fantastic and the service was FAST once we were seated.
All of the food we saw being carried past our table looked good. Pinky’s describes its food as “savory food on the lake” and that seems to be accurate. Think of your typical beachside/lakeside menu (which you can browse on its website). One of us ordered the “Lifeguard Burger” and the other got “Captain Kev’s Fish and Chips.” Both were enjoyed but the grouper fish, battered and fried, definitely stood out. The cocktails looked amazing but after a full day outside we opted for water instead. Maybe next time.
The kids menu includes standard kids’ menu options, with popcorn shrimp included on there, too. Our kids weren’t with us on this visit, but the fact that the kids’ items are served on a souvenir frisbee is sure to be a memorable meal when we take them next time. (It reminds us of the famous Pink Pony Pub on the Gulf Shores of Alabama — no fried alligator on the Pinky’s menu though).
Pinky’s gets an enthusiastic thumbs up following our first visit and we will definitely be returning. This was just a “passing through Effingham” trip, but we will make Effingham our destination the next time we head south for a day.
Looking for more ways to enjoy a day in Effingham? Check out our ideas here.
Some ideas on trips you can take with your family:
- Visiting the Indoor Waterpark at Grand Bear Resort Near Starved Rock
- Midwest Indoor Waterparks Within a Few Hours of Champaign-Urbana
- Winter Road Trip: Visiting Ice Castles at Lake Geneva, Wis.
- 20+ Unique Summer Day Trips from Champaign-Urbana
- How to Rent a Boat on Lake Shelbyville with your Family
- Road Trip: Visit St. Louis as a Family
- Visiting Imagination Grove Near Bloomington-Normal
- Best Midwest Summer Road Trips for Champaign-Urbana Families
- Road Trip: Visiting Wisconsin Dells
- Day Trip from Champaign-Urbana: Living Large in Casey
- Head North for Family Fun: What To Do On Your Chicago Trip
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- Effingham, a Trip to the Crossroads
- Winter Break Day Trip: Family Fun in Peoria
- Travel Back in Time at Lincoln Log Cabin