Good food is worth driving for, but great food is worth embarking on a road trip to experience for yourself! Today we take a trip to Ladd’s own Rip’s Tavern, the iconic fried chicken restaurant that is now offering convenient curbside pick-up.
Rips Tavern, located off of Interstate 80 in the small town of Ladd (population 1,200), has been a magnet for fried chicken fanatics for several generations. This unassuming tavern has made appearances on culinary television shows, been favorably written up in major food blogs and has built a dedicated fan base that drives from states away just to enjoy their truly classic fried chicken.
In 1934, one year after the repeal of prohibition, Silvio “Rip” Gualandri and his wife, Emma, opened up a small bar called The Old Tin Front in Ladd, then a bustling coal mining town. To differentiate themselves from competing saloons, Gualandri began offering free deep-fried chicken with the purchase of every drink.
Soon, the popularity of this signature dish was bringing in too many customers for The Old Tin Front to accommodate, so Gualandri moved the business to a larger building across the street in 1936. He gave the operation its new name, Rip’s Tavern, and a new focus, their signature deep-fried chicken.
So, what separates Rip’s from other fried chicken destinations? Authenticity and atmosphere. While the entire food industry and supply chains have changed drastically over the near century they’ve been in business, Rip’s has been dedicated to keeping every ingredient and prep step strikingly similar to what was implemented back in the ’30s.
They use fresh — never frozen — chicken that’s trimmed, hand cut and brined, all before it reaches the battering stage. This is a labor-intensive process that harkens back to the era before fast food.
The original fry oil used at Rip’s is no longer manufactured, so to retain that signature taste, they’ve concocted a house combination of three oils that perfectly replicates the flaky golden exterior that Rip’s Chicken is so well known for. This special concoction, and their hand blended flour, are just a few small examples of the many ways Rip’s has steadfastly stayed true to its roots.
All this effort is on full display in the final product. Each piece of chicken has a substantial crust that lends a pleasant crunch to every bite. One taste, and it is clear why Rip’s legions of fans rave about the delicious ridges of crispy crust (so much so that you can get a side order of just “crust crispies”).
This savory exterior gives way to the impossibly moist and flavorful chicken inside. Unlike other fried chicken, the outside is perfectly dry while the inside traps in all that brined and never-frozen goodness. On each plate, you’ll also find a generous helping of crispy french fries. Forks are available, but it’s customary to enjoy Rip’s by hand, off of the paper plate it’s served on.
The dinner menu at Rip’s is simple and efficient: six varieties of chicken and a few delicious signature apps. The lunch menu, available only on the weekends, features a gambit of sandwiches like the deep-fried burger and pork tenderloin, along with wings and house-made chicken strips. For a real treat, drop by Rip’s on a Friday night when they’ll be serving their catfish and whitefish specials.
Rip’s is legendary for one other thing as well: its lines. It’s not uncommon to see a queue of hungry customers waiting to get a peek at the classic tavern decor and delicious freshly fried smells inside the restaurant. This year, due to the restrictions of COVID-19, Rip’s has made the curbside pickup process simple and convenient.
These lighter crowds make 2020 the ideal time to plan your trip to this iconic dining destination! No matter where you choose to tuck into your meal, you’ll still get to enjoy that sumptuous, deep fried, traditional chicken that’s earned Rip’s such a lasting reputation in Starved Rock Country and far beyond.
For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/ripstavern
311 N. Main Ave.
Ladd, IL 61329