There is something uniquely charming about taking a long drive to go out to eat. After all, most dining out experiences in these towns involve simply settling for second best: grab hold of what strikes you immediately, look at your array of choices in town and get a table. Sigh.
I’ll be the first to state it clearly: these towns really fail me in terms of offering up a good selection of places to eat out. I mean, not just kind of, but pretty much across the board. In fact, there are only four restaurants that honestly excite me in Champaign-Urbana. That’s not saying much for towns like these and I am not even really a food snob.
So, that said, the drive to Gibson City to take in a meal at Bayern Stube, an authentic German restaurant that translates literally to “Bavarian living room,” was filled with a certain anxiety. I have become accustomed to disappointing experiences when dining out ‘round these parts, so my expectations were light, to put it mildly.
Upon arriving, we were pleasantly surprised to see a number of high-end vehicles parked out front. And it’s not that I keep this kind of company regularly, it’s that I am of the mindset that most people with money eat well, and so, I walked in expecting the prices to be steep.
And that was all right by me in the end. Bayern Stube lives up to its reputation of being one of the finest dining experiences in the area.
We were greeted warmly by waitresses wearing authentic Bavarian outfits. They led us through the packed house into the corner of the restaurant, and even turned on some additional lights to accommodate us. First, we were served mettwurst, which is a spread made from savory sausage, along with a sourdough bread. We got our menus, and were immediately tended to by our waitress, Nicole. She was fantastic from start to finish.
The specialty at Bayern Stube is the wienerschnitzel. And while most dumb Americans are probably under the assumption (like myself, for years, until around 1996) that this dish is nothing more than a hot dog served in a triangular restaurant, it happens to be much more that that. Traditionally, it is veal or pork that is dipped in egg, breaded and then fried. They had a variety of options, and we went for the “Emmentaler” version, which was essentially the traditional version, covered in the traditional Swiss cheese, along with ripe tomatoes.
But wienerschnitzel isn’t the only thing that Bayern Stube is famous for. Sausage, or wursts, are a big part of menu, and they had a nice sized selection to choose from.
Because we were hungry, and had driven 30 miles to a Bavarian restaurant, we decided to splurge and get the Himmel and Hölle, a four wurst sampler plate. These included the Bavarian brat, which is a pork and veal sausage from south Germany, the Thuringer brat, which is grilled, a weisswurst, which is from Munich, and a smoky link with a demi-glace.
Both dishes came out after about 20–30 minutes and were served with sauerkraut, spatzle and German fries (which are nothing but home fries with bacon and onion).
For the most part, this was a fantastic meal and a breath of fresh air from the average restaurant fare in C-U. The prices ranged from $14 – $27 for most meals, but for the amount of food and freshness of the ingredients, it was honestly money well spent.
Our waitress also pushed spezi on us as well, a popular German drink that all the kids love, and for good reason: it’s simply orange soda mixed with cola. It was surprisingly delicious and kind of went well with the cholesterol-ridden meal that we were ingesting.
Don’t get me wrong: this place is nothing like some of my favorite restaurants in the world. The prices are a bit too high considering what they are serving and the food is simply not to my particular tastes when it comes to my “ultimate list” of favorite foods to eat. But that said, this was a welcomed addition to the “local list” of places to dine on a special occasion.
Bayern Stube is located at 209 N Sangamon Ave, Gibson City, IL. To get there, go to Google.com. After all, it’s 2008.
Photos by Justine Bursoni