Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket
On the road to great chicken in Willowbrook
Chicken dinner plate
There’ a lot to take in at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook.
First thing’s first: a large neon sign that dates back more than 70 years and a cheerful red and white awning. Then there are the chicken motifs, with visuals of feathered friends on everything from the restaurant’s logo etched on the front glass door to chicken-festooned curtains to chicken figurines set atop the bar. Visitors, especially history and car buffs, will take heed of the many Route 66 signs and references, a testament to the eatery’s location on the historic thoroughfare that connected American cities and exemplified Americana. You’ll spot photos of famous visitors, including Food Network star Guy Fieri, who featured Dell Rhea’s in a 2009 episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Those who flock to Dell Rhea’s — who can resist a poultry pun? — don’t just use their sense of sight to enjoy the experience. The food stands out because it’s a tasty throwback to a time when dining rooms served up fare made from scratch. Dell Rhea’s chefs put time and care into their dishes, much as Grandma would back in the day. The chicken soups, including the chicken dumpling and cream of chicken varieties, bring back memories of soups Grandma used to make — part remedy, part sustenance and part love.
After a compliment about the chicken dumpling soup during a recent visit, the server remarked, “That’s because it’s homemade, hon. Everything here is like that.”
She’s got a point. Recently sampled menu items have that sumptuous, made-with-love taste, including battered sweet Vidalia onions, expertly-made chicken wings and powdered sugar-dusted corn fritters that are surprisingly light and fluffy.
The main event — fried chicken served in namesake chicken baskets or as a dinner plate — lives up to the lofty reputation Dell Rhea’s earned when it first attained a spot on the food lover’s map. It’s a lighter coating, and the meat is juicy, tender and, importantly, served at a nice hot temperature for crunch. The menu highlights reasons behind the quality, including that the birds are cage free and free of antibiotics, hormones and GMOs and that the marinated and hand-breaded portions are fried in soy bean shortening without any trans fats or added cholesterol.
It’s not birds of one feather here, though, as the menu offers other dishes that are equally flavorful and juicy. The char-broiled chicken, for example, tastes like it came off a backyard grill. Other options include zesty buffalo chicken and savory blackened chicken, chicken pot pie, fried chicken gizzards and sautéed chicken livers.
Red meat fans might steer toward Pat’s Roast Beef, Black Angus hamburgers or founder Dell Rhea’s favorite, a char-broiled Italian sausage patty topped with pepper-jack cheese, marinara sauce and grilled onions and peppers. Seafood options range from fried catfish to grilled shrimp. For a little bit of everything, stop by Dell Rhea’s weekday all-you-can-eat buffet
Chicken baskets and
root beer floats
Chicken basket: $8
Entrées: $8 – $18
Lunch Buffet: $12
Sun - Thur: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
F – Sat: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Buffet: M – F, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Catering; ordering via downloadable app or online; delivery
645 Joliet Road (Historic Route 66), Willowbrook, 630 325-0780