BEAST Craft BBQ's David Sandusky knows where to go for food on the East Side.
David Sandusky, owner and pit master of Belleville's BEAST Craft BBQ, has seen a lot of changes to the Illinois side of the river since he began calling it home at the age of three. The mom and pop joints have dwindled, storefronts in Belleville's historic downtown remain vacant, and the businesses that are coming into the area are of the chain-in-stripmall ilk.
Still, he insists, there is reason to cross the river for more than just BEAST's legendary pork steaks. "The spectrum is broad, but these places are original, they have character, and they're some of the my favorite spots to dine on the east side," says Sandusky. "Just get off your ass and cross the river."
106 N. Main Street, Edwardsville, IL; 618-307-4830
"You won’t find a better restaurant than Cleveland-Heath in the metro east. This is 'gourmet comfort food' by easily the best duo in the area, and we’re damn lucky to have them. Their attention to detail is top-notch, and their passion bleeds into their plates. If you can’t appreciate your meal here, check your pulse because you’re either dead, or dead-wrong. You may need to take your shoes off upon entry, because you’re standing on holy ground."
2. Peel Wood-Fired Pizza
Multiple locations including 104 S. Cherry Street, O'Fallon, IL; 618-726-2244
"There aren’t enough restaurants opened by chefs these days, especially on the 'ILL-side.' These guys are masters of combinations, and their house-brewed beer is surprisingly as good, if not better, than anybody’s. The pizza is perfect, but you’ll be just as blown away by their badass salads. Don’t fuck with me on this — this place is the 'shiz.'"
3. Fletcher's Kitchen & Tap
6101 W. Main Street, Belleville, IL; 618-239-3317
"Listen... go here for salmon and zucchini grilled over hickory. This tavern-ish place is the best at making you feel at home. It’s a traditional American menu, and as pretentious as you want to be, you’re not too good for that. This is my 'go-to' spot."
4. The Chuck Wagon
10212 Lincoln Train, Fairview Heights, IL; 618-398-0230
"It’s not every day you walk into a place that hasn’t changed in over 45 years. This place is so brown and full of horse figurines, you’ll think you’re actually in a stable. Don’t discriminate, though. The perfectly fried 'Super Taco' shells are the real deal, and they boast the best cherry Coke in the area. Don’t be pissed about the nachos — have a sense of humor, and ask for them with peppers."
5. The White Cottage
102 Lebanon Avenue, Belleville, IL; 618-234-1120
"This ice cream bar deserves respect. I know, I know: Ted Drewe’s... yada yada. Whatever. You need to get out more. [My wife] Meggan and I stop several times a season for the great ice cream and fried fish on white bread. Damn right, I get mine with tater tots."
Editor's note: This post was updated after publication to reflect Peel's multiple locations and to specify the one referred to by Mr. Sandusky. We regret the error.
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