Flavor for days

This breakfast and lunch spot in western Madison County is a hidden treasure.

It’s a family-friendly diner housed in the back of an aging plaza and a little hard to see. The name of the restaurant is painted on the building’s door and window, but it’s subtle and unassuming. A large paved parking lot in front of the building makes for plenty of room for patrons.

You enter through a small vestibule, opening into a spacious dining room. Booths line the outside walls, with square tables sprinkled through the middle of the room. An old-school diner counter stretches along the back wall, with cushioned brown swivel chairs situated in front. An open window peers into the kitchen behind the counter.

There’s dark carpeting throughout the dining area. There is also a small stage to the right of the counter with a couple more tables. A blue railing is featured around the stage area. The walls are painted a two-tone, with a tan top and blue bottom.

The recently updated menu is huge. The only knock you might find is it’s only open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, making it difficult for some to visit; but if you do, it’s well worth it.

Quickly perusing the monster menu, I landed on the breakfast portion and ordered a slinger with American fries. If you aren’t familiar with a slinger, it’s the bad boy on the breakfast block. It scares most eaters away, but not me because I’m a professional. The slinger is a cousin to the horseshoe, which should both be accompanied with some antacid for dessert.

Here it starts with a slice of toast served open-face and topped with a burger patty, chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese, chili, two eggs of your choice and a form of breakfast potatoes. I went with American fries and sunny side up eggs. The fries were served to the side as golden brown medallions. I quickly mixed them in, poked the yolk on the eggs and let it meld with the chili to create a thick, creamy concoction.

The chili and eggs were oh so creamy, and the hearty and smoky taste of the chili was definitely the star. The toast on the bottom enhanced the flavor, along with the crispy fries, which never lost their texture through the mush of chili and eggs. My only complaint would be the burger’s bland taste not adding much to the flavor; other than that, it was top notch. This is a seasonal item, unfortunately.

My dining companion ordered the monster chicken tenders with fries and coleslaw. Only four tenders were included, but he had to get a to-go box because of their enormous size. He raved about the taste.

There are some mouth-watering dishes on the rest of the expansive menu. Check out the burger shop on the lunch menu, with options like the Cajun burger, the chili burger, the black bean chipotle burger and the brunch burger with bacon, ham, American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, an over-medium egg and bistro sauce. There’s also a chicken shack portion of the menu worth checking out.

Breakfast offers plenty of French toast, waffles, pancakes, omelets, skillets, wraps and sandwiches, plus more. You can build your own breakfast sandwiches, too. I’m intrigued by the chicken and waffles, which will be on the docket for my next trip.

There’s also great service here. 3

Any idea of the name of this heavenly diner in western Madison County? Scroll down to see if you’re correct.

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ANSWER: Joe K’s Family Restaurant, 2530 State St. in Alton