Besides Italian-American cuisine, be ready for the farm animals.

In fact, when you're parking at the Farm, watch out for the peacocks.

The animals, even the overall shape of the restaurant, all make sense. After all, Hank's Farm used to be a dairy barn.

Now it's one of the go-to sites in Starved Rock Country for fine food served in a rustic atmosphere.

Situated on 15 acres of flowing landscape with a menagerie of wildlife on the roam, Hank's Farm is a family-run restaurant.

Owned and operated by Ed Allen Sr. and his wife Zelda, along with their three children and six grandchildren, Hank's regularly draws return customers from a 60-mile radius.

"They feel welcome — we know them by name," Allen said. "We've known four generations of customers. They have their favorite (dishes)."

Hank's opened in Naplate in 1941, a one-room tavern and restaurant owned by Hank Mucci. The Allens purchased the restaurant in 1975 and in 1985 moved it to its current location on Illinois Route 71, just south of Interstate 80.

The building in its original state was a working dairy barn, and later housed a smorgasbord. The Allens gutted the inside and remodeled it to reflect a cozy, intimate dining experience.

Hank's boasts a full bar on the main level and in the restaurant's loft and offers a wine list, nightly specials and an extensive menu with meals in the $15 to $30 range. One of the restaurant's draws is the early bird special, offered daily from 4 to 6 p.m. with select meals priced in the $10 to $11 range.

Allen says the restaurant strives to purchase locally as often as possible and in season raise their own herbs and vegetables.

Specialties include lobster, fried chicken, prime rib, char-grilled steak, hand-cut steaks, baked breads, specialty desserts and the salad bar, which is offered with every meal and stocked with an array of fresh salads, breads and a block of fresh cheddar cheese from which customers can slice their own cheese.

"They come back for the salad bar," Allen said. "And our breads are baked here. Those are always popular. Our raisin bread is real popular. People call in to order three, four loaves ahead."

A trip to Hank's is as much about the grounds as it is about the food. Patrons often make a day of it on Sundays by dining at brunch, walking the grounds and browsing Curious Goods, the gift shop next door owned by the Allens' daughter, Marie Koepke.

The landscape offers two ponds and island and two gazebos — one that can be used for small weddings. Hank's offers luncheons and private parties for 50 or more guests and have hosted wedding receptions for up to 120 guests.

There is plenty of wildlife to be seen including chickens, ducks, geese, sheep, turkeys, miniature horses and roaming peacocks.

And the Farm is growing. The Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit land and watershed protection organization, bought surrounding land in 2013 and named it the Dayton Bluffs Preserve.

"All the land surrounding us was recently acquired by the preserve — it will make a forest preserve to the back," Allen said. "We're in the process of creating five acres of more parkland to the south — planting trees, more walkways and fountains.

"It's a five-year project. We've been building since we bought it, adding trees and shrubberies."

Hank's Farm
ADDRESS; 2973 Illinois 71, Ottawa
PHONE: 815-433-2540
HOURS: 4 - 9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 4 - 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; Sunday Brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday dinner 3:30 to 9 p.m.