Looking for good fried chicken in the city is like searching for a good martini in the sticks. The best fried chicken in the area requires a journey to the Land of Lincoln, to a former summer health resort between Highland and Pocahontas, Illinois, 40 minutes from the Arch. In its heyday in the late nineteenth century, Diamond Mineral Springs was a hotel and nature reserve that offered cleansing springs. "Its forty acres," reads an excerpt from an antiquated brochure, "abound in graceful trees, charming and unexpected paths that wind through the cool groves...." In 2005 this beauty has been condensed into the chicken: Lightly battered and seasoned, it's firm and substantial, never greasy. The price: a thigh/wing combo, a breast, two drumsticks and a back for $10.95. Best, it arrives family-style. Bowls of green beans and bacon, beets, mashed potatoes, cole slaw and rolls are replenished when licked clean. A handpainted wall menu in the farmhouse room tells the story. Order liver and gizzards, if you want. Not in the mood for chicken? How about pork sausage, barbecue, catfish, fried walleye, chicken-fried steak or frogs' legs? For dessert, the fabled "Mile Hi Pie," offered in banana, chocolate, coconut cream and lemon meringue, is a must. Totally worth the drive. (Unless you go on a Monday or Tuesday, when they're closed. Now, that would be a tragedy.)
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