The Centralia House restaurant has a rich and storied history, one that’s evident before you walk in the door and one that contributes to what owner Danny Ramey calls a “true dining experience.” But what will keep you coming back, Manager Rod Garnier said, is the food, and he ought to know. He’s the chef, too.
“I started here about three years ago, and I like to think that I have brought a freshness to the place, a fresh aspect and attitude to brighten things and broaden the offerings,” he said.
The menu features classic Creole and American dishes, including a fan favorite, Centralia House Shrimp.
“It’s our own recipe with New Orleans-style barbecue,” Garnier said. “The shrimp are braised in the sauce. That’s one of our staples, but we have modernized things a bit, changed some things, but kept some of the classics.
He’s particularly proud of their “farm-to-table” offerings.
“We try to keep everything as local as possible,” he said.
The Centralia House was a landmark on the original Illinois Central Railroad. Built about 1854, it was the restaurant for railroad travelers in the days before the dining car, and the social center of the town until it was destroyed by fire in 1918. The building that houses the restaurant now was built more than a century ago as a saloon and boarding and gambling house.
The restaurant still retains its pre-1900 bar and back bar. Except for an addition for the kitchen and the conversion of the stable to a storage room, The Centralia House is exactly as it was more than 100 years ago, down to the Budweiser lamp, a gift from the first August Busch. The Old National cash register is still in use and the spirits warehouse in a stone cellar.
Many famous people have dined at The Centralia House, including Stephen Douglas and generals Ulysses S. Grant, George B McClellan and William T. Sherman.
The service is as top-notch as the cuisine, Garnier said. “And if you join us on Friday or Saturday night, you can also enjoy our live piano entertainment.
“I have a very good team in the back and the front of the house,” he said. “It’s a pleasure for us to do what we do.
“I cordially invite you to visit. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the food and the dining experience.”
Hop on the northbound Amtrak train to arrive about 5 p.m, he said. The southbound will pick you at 8:30. “It’s like a mini-vacation,” he said, “truly a unique experience.”
For more information, visit www.centraliahouserestaurant.com or check out their Facebook page and the week’s featured menu.