The last time we dined at Station Two Twenty -- then called Central Station -- disappointing would not begin to describe the mediocre, overpriced fare being passed off as dinner. So, imagine our surprise when we were encouraged to give it another go and found the restaurant supplies a top-notch dining experience that may be one of the best in central Illinois. It is amazing what new managers and a new executive chef can do. The menu is about half the size it had been, and the entrees are simple, fresh and prepared from scratch. The waiter was able to provide the genesis of every ingredient and, with the exception of the lamb, all of it is harvested from local or Illinois-based farms. We sampled seasonal items, like the pulled pork with cracklings, spinach, spring radishes and corn bread ($18), and found it to be out of this world. The pork was buttery, tender, succulent and tossed in a hint of vinegar; adding fresh dill to top was brilliant. The corn bread arrives covered in spinach and radishes, a seemingly odd combo until it hit the taste buds. Perfection. Other, permanent menu items we drooled over: an heriloom beet salad with Bibb lettuce, feta cheese and a sherry vinaigrette; and house-made smoked Andouille sausage, served with fresh veggies.
Be aware that the menu does not reveal when the chef substitutes one veggie for another, so if you're picky about that kind of thing, be sure to ask. The pork was to come with mizuna, but we received spinach instead. Another problem: The Central Station name remains emblazoned on the outside of the building. If this place wants to get the word out that it's changed for the better, it should probably update the sign. Regardless, we'll definitely go back for more.