A Weekend in a Small Town

This past weekend I took the train from the city out to see my family. My brother had just returned from a year at Grinnell College and my mother was having a party to celebrate her soon to be retirement. John met us Friday night and on Saturday afternoon he and I decided to visit a new bakery in nearby Crystal Lake that had been recommended to me. Located in the old downtown area we found Dawn's Bread: Le Petit Marché.


The store is small and nicely decorated with indoor seating and a couple of chairs outside. The focus of the store is clear: bread, wine, cheese, olives, meats, and some sweets. We ordered a large brioche, an olive bread, some morbier cheese, and some olives. There were two employees. One was presumably Dawn and the other was perhaps the slowest moving woman I have ever encountered. It took us a very long time to get our things. We were in no rush, so it was purely comical, however the couple behind us did seem to be in a rush and were still waiting for their goods when John and I had finished eating and left the store.

This was no serious bread review, but I will say the olive bread was quite good, though from some nondescript tradition. The brioche was overly yeasty and the crust was tough and tasted over-baked. It was alright, but it didn't seem very brioche-like. The cheese and olives were lovely.  Dawn's is a great addition to the Woodstock area where is can be difficult to get quality breads, meats, cheeses, and olives without driving quite a ways.  I will be back on my next visit to see my family.

Paul met us Saturday evening and drove John and I back to the city on Sunday. I convinced the two of them to take the scenic route up route 31 in order to stop at one of my favorite restaurants: The Algonquin Sub Shop. I was first here a handful of years ago with a past boyfriend. He always ordered the California: grilled chicken seared with honey and garlic and topped with melted cheddar, dried tomatoes, red onion and lettuce and California honey-mustard dressing. I always ordered the Where's Waldorf: crisp apples, grilled green bell peppers, toasted walnuts, spinach, melted brie cheese and Vidalia onion dressing. A lot has changed since those days of driving to Algonquin in his shiny new black Jetta for the sole purpose of getting a sandwich, but I still always order the Where's Waldorf and I would bet he still orders the California.


The restaurant is a brightly colored yellow box set back from route 31 between a gas station and a strip mall. The small interior has bright orange seats and tables much like you would find in the fast food restaurants of past decades (there is also a bit of outdoor seating). Fake wood-paneling borders the window into the kitchen where one employee will take your order while the other starts to make your sandwich. This isn't Subway junk, which is clear in the options (over 23 different gourmet subs are on the menu, along with salads, and burger-fare), the quality of ingredients (everything is fresh, much of the meats and cheeses are imported, and everything tastes flavorful), and the price: $7 and change (with tax) will get you the best sandwich on earth. Not a bad deal.


A very sweet man named John Ryals runs the place and can more often than not be found making your sandwich. One winter, as I was preparing to fly back to Portland, Or I decided a nice addition to the aforementioned past boyfriend's birthday present would be a California. I called, a bit dubious about how such a warm and juicy sandwich could ever withstand a more than 4 hour flight across the country. I reached a helpful voice, perhaps Ryals himself, who did not seem at all taken aback by my request. In fact, he casually mentioned they had been asked the same question more than once before. He said they would be happy to help me out if I could come by the next day on the way to my flight after they opened. To my horror I realized they opened an hour later than would be necessary. So, get this, they opened AN HOUR EARLY for me! Upon my arrival, they all greeted me enthusiastically, gave me two small paper bags, and proceeded to show me each individually packaged ingredient while explaining how best to warm the chicken, toast the bread, and assemble the sandwich. They then refused to take the $10 tip I was trying to give them. I ended up throwing it on the counter while running out the door yelling my thanks.

This restaurant goes far and above the norm with both their food and their service. The Algonquin Sub Shop is worth the trip, regardless of the length.

Dawn's Bread: Le Petit Marché
19 N. Williams St.
Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Algonquin Sub Shop
105 Filip Street
Algonquin, IL 60102