Review: The Cabin at Judy Creek in Glen Carbon
If someone says they’re taking you to The Cabin in the middle of the night, you might fear you’re headed for some B horror movie murder shack. But if they mean The Cabin at Judy Creek, you’re in for a good, not-scary-at-all time. The Glen Carbon, Illinois bar has the quaintness of a hole-in-the-wall with all the trappings of more upscale whiskey joints.
With wood everywhere – the walls, bar, tables and floor – and plenty of kitsch – old photos, newspaper clippings, a metal skeleton riding a bike – The Cabin lives up to its name with a warm, cozy feel. It’s eclectic enough to please a city slicker like me and down-home enough to keep good old boys at ease. Out back, there’s a patchwork patio of picnic tables and fire pits lit on cooler nights for all the joys of a backyard bonfire, but with a much better drink selection served in interesting glassware. Some beers come in a snifter, others in a pint glass sporting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. My whiskey sour came in the bottom half of an upcycled 750-milliliter beer bottle. On weekends, live music is played inside, and drunk people yell requests like “Wonderwall.” It’s a home away from home.
The cocktails are strong. Billed as being made with “all five white liquors,” the Just Made Right L.I.T. was the standout. I’ve had more than one lifetime’s worth of Long Island iced teas, and this one hits that dangerously drinkable sweet spot. I could tell where other cocktails were trying to go, but they didn’t quite get there in execution or concept – like the Real Men Don’t Drink Whiskey Sours … Until Now! Aside from the horrible, gendered name, the drink could not have been twice-shaken and double-strained, as described on the menu. I gave up on that one after sipping slimy albumen through my straw.
Local and comfort beers, as well as a short wine list, round out the menu if you’re not in the spirit for spirits. Shout out to Deschutes Brewery from my birth state of Oregon, whose Mirror Pond Pale Ale helped me through some long college nights.
The food isn’t just frozen bar fare, and nowhere is this more evident than in Napa’s Nachos. Tortilla chips are piled with queso, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, jalapenos and a mound of house-smoked chicken or pork. Think ballpark nachos meets succulent barbecued meats. They’re the perfect complement to any meal, drink or hangover.
I’ve renamed the My Nolen, “My Favorite Panini.” Brie is pressed with bacon, peanut butter and roasted apples, served drizzled with fancy D&W local honey. Gooey and crunchy, it brought back memories of brown bag-school lunches. It was so rich I almost wanted a milk to go with it, but Stag was just as good.
The hoagie pizzas are also worth investigating. The name doesn’t quite convey how fun and satisfying they are – like a dolled-up Red Baron French bread pizza. The Trashed is chef’s choice and adds the entertainment of figuring out what all is baked on top. Mine had red sauce, Parmesan, cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, mushrooms, sausage and balsamic, if my eyes and tongue did not betray.
The Cabin at Judy Creek is good enough to be a new regular haunt; I had as great a time as the skeleton up on that bike. If you’re lucky enough to be in the neighborhood, this should be your corner bar.
The Cabin at Judy Creek
3730 S. State Rt. 157, Glen Carbon, Illinois, 618.205.8556, thecabinatjudycreek.com
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