Route 66 update:  Joliet Jr. College’s new downtown building is progressing

Wecome, 66 roadies!  Are you keeping warm?  Don’t know if you realized it, but there’s a great spot to eat on Route 66 in Joliet that is about to get better.  Joliet Junior College, the nation’s very first junior college, has been building a new structure for its downtown City Center campus, right on Chicago Street.  The $58 million City Center expansion has beenn underway since autumn of 2013.  When it’s finished, it will have new space for the school’s hospitality and culinary school — new classrooms, new up-to-date kitchens.

The new six-story building will have 96,000 square feet of space.  The culinary school currently has a dining room in the historic former Chamber of Commerce Clubhouse on Ottawa Street, aka the Renaissance Center.

JJC city center building under construction, Sept 2013 - blog (Google street view)

The JJC culinary staff have fielded award-winning culinary teams in the past, and this will give them a new edge (you can check out their culinary faculty here).  Chef Tim Bucci won two silver medals competing for Team USA in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2012.  Chef Andy Chlebana won a “challenge” episode on the Food Network.  Meanwhile, the department’s head guy, Chef Michael McGreal, is chairperson of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to fight childhood obesity.  And their food is still tasty!!  (We ought to know:  we’ve eaten there often enough.)

The building at Chicago and Webster streets in downtown Joliet, which should be completely enclosed by now, has been progressing all year and should be ready some time in 2015.  That doesn’t mean the culinary folks will be abandoning their historic dining room in the old CofC clubhouse — that connects on the ground floor to the Joliet Area Historical Museum’s Route 66 Welcome Center next door. One cannot imagine that they’d let that connection go; but still, the historic building, designed by the Burnham Brothers, undoubtedly needs updating inside.

If you haven’t eaten yet at the weekly luncheon that the culinary students and staff serve at the CofC Clubhouse dining room, you’re missing fabulous food for an extremely reasonable price.  Among the things you missed at today’s Bistro 214 lunch, for example:  maple bacon glazed chicken wings for starters, Creamy BLT Soup, Basil Ricotta Zeppole with Salsa Pomodoro, and a great charcuterie plate with pork rillettes, ham, smoked sausage, red wine onion jam and crostini.  Yummy!!!  They also have a freaking terrific Friday Night Out dinner menu that beats anything else in the greater Joliet area.  You can check the RenCen culinary events calendar here.

Until next time,
your Route 66 tour guide, Marie


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