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Crandall's makes good food mobile with Lil Red Hen

Crandall's makes good food mobile with Lil Red Hen

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HEBRON, ILLINOIS — The caboose-red trailer with the word “chicken” on its roof stands out as much as the sunflower maze in Von Bergen’s Country Market.

Across from where people wander among the tall, yellow flowers lies the Lil Red Hen, a new endeavor that allows Crandall’s Restaurant to bring its food wherever the fun is.

Yes, the Crandall’s Restaurant — the one with the world-famous broasted chicken on Route 47, where a large chicken statue greets guests.

And yes, it appears its broasted chicken really is world-famous.

Crandall’s owner Judi Beck said a woman from Germany ate at the restaurant last week because she heard about the chicken.

The week before, they had a guest from Australia.

Even at Von Bergen’s sunflower maze, two patrons spoke in reverent tones when they read the name Crandall’s on the bottom of the Lil Red Hen sign.

“I didn’t know they were out here,” one of them gasped.

Beck said the general reaction has been surprise among the Von Bergen’s sunflower maze crowd. “I think they kind of like that, after they walk through the maze, then they can get something to eat,” she said.

How do people hear about Crandall’s? Beck isn’t sure.

Maybe it’s because they only use fresh, locally-sourced food that has never been frozen, or because the chicken is hand-breaded — or because broasting is something many do not have the tools to try.

“You could do it at home if you have a pressure cooker, but most people don’t,” Beck said.

The Beck family purchased the trailer after Von Bergen’s approached them last winter about serving food near the sunflower maze.

Currently, the menu at Von Bergen’s includes chicken drummies, Wisconsin cheese curds, chicken and waffles, Bavarian pretzels, funnel fries and Crandall’s own sunflowers garden salad.

Judi’s son, Dean, found the trailer for sale online, equipped with much of what they needed to cook and serve Crandall’s cuisine on the road.

Dean is the manager at Crandall’s, which Judi owns with her husband, Dan. Other Beck family members also work at the restaurant.

Judi named the trailer after the classic children’s fable “The Little Red Hen,” about a hen who seeks help from other farm animals gathering materials to bake bread.

She hopes Lil Red Hen can serve food at other attractions in the area, as well as the annual car and tractor shows that Crandall’s traditionally hosts in its parking lot.

The trailer is one of numerous changes involving the restaurant, which the Becks have owned for seven years.

They have repainted the restaurant, which has resumed such popular services as the Friday fish fry and Sunday brunch.

General business itself has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Employees are now wearing face coverings. Hand sanitizer stations can be found every 10 feet. Stronger cleaning practices are also followed.

Now, guests can sit indoors or out at Crandall’s. Open Friday through Sunday evenings, the tent in the parking lot provides 15 tables.

Social distancing is part of the new normal, not only at Crandall’s but at Von Bergen’s.

Beck said it has been hard, but moving forward has been positive.

She recalled how, the first Friday fish fry after they closed to inside service due to the pandemic, they set up for carryout and saw a line of cars waiting.

“You try to help your town as much as you can,” said Beck, “and to see people out there, all these people I knew, it was really humbling and I was really grateful.”

Crandall’s is a fixture in the community.

They hold the car and tractor shows to raise funds for Hebron’s high school sports and 4-H programs, respectively.

In turn, people from the community helped create some of the Lil Red Hen decorations.

Since the state of Illinois allowed restaurants to reopen, regular customers are starting to return to Crandall’s.

“It feels wonderful to see people,” she said.

Visit www.crandallschicken.com or call 815-648-2609 for more about Crandall’s, 10441 Route 47, Hebron, Illinois.

For more about Von Bergen’s, visit vonbergens.com.

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