Bring a watch.
“This is what America is all about!” a Glen Ellyn resident and book store owner exclaimed. While I do not doubt her patriotism, I would say that downtown Glen Ellyn is what suburbs should be all about. The stores are densely huddled together, the sidewalks are wide and welcoming, and Main Street is decorated with colorful awnings with tempting windows below. The entire area, encompassing little more than three or four blocks, is extremely pedestrian friendly and while small, gives all that you could ask for.
Getting there is an easy thirty to fifty minute trip from Ogilvie Transportation Center traveling on the Union Pacific West. Once you get off the train the downtown is not immediately apparent. Follow the train west for a block and you will arrive at Main Street. To your left and right is the heart of Glen Ellyn.
To the left is the Illinois Prairie Trail which stretches for miles and runs parallel to the Metra tracks in some places. There seems to be a constant supply of runners and bikers keeping the trail feeling alive and welcoming but not congested. A nice stop on the trail is Bistro Monet: a slightly pricey but pleasant French Restaurant which offers half-price bottles of wine on Tuesdays.
I cannot wait any longer to write about 2 Toots. If you have a child this will be the highlight of their trip. 2 Toots is a diner as close to the train as any business gets on Main St. It has a 1950s feel, wonderful diner food, and a toy train that delivers all your food to you. Somehow things taste better when it is brought to you on a tiny freight train of yellow baskets.
If you’d like something more grown-up to the south on Main St. there is Shannon’s Irish Pub, Santa Fe, Tap House Grill, Cab’s Wine Bar and Bistro, and Gratto Tratoria and Tapas Bar. For dessert, Bells and Whistles is the place to go and marks the southern end of the downtown. The north has fewer places to eat but still a few worth mentioning. Beside 2 Toots there aren’t any restaurants on Main St. To the left is a cozy Italian place, to the right is Thipi Thai, and for those on a budget: Buy One Get One Free Pizza.
The North side also has the majority of places to shop. M and Em’s is the clothing store of choice, while “String Theory” offers a great place for knitters to stock up on supplies and help on projects. There is also a bike shop, aptly named “The Bike Shop,” which can take care of any bike-related problem or question you have. Another big draw is “The Glen”; an old timey theatre that shows blockbusters and harder to find releases. Also note “Bundles of Books and Gifts,” a used bookstore that offers free coffee and hot cocoa in the winter.
Downtown Glen Ellyn offers a glimpse of the original objective of suburbs: a clean, beautiful place offering the best parts of country and city. Entrepreneurs seem to have a passion for what they do and nearly every store and restaurant aims for individuality. If you live in the city and want a day in a quiet place, Glen Ellyn offers the same appeal that it did one hundred years ago. If you are a suburbanite that is tired of strip malls, downtown Glen Ellyn offers some relief. Before going check the city’s website as well as the Downtown Business Alliance’s to see what events are coming up. The cardboard boat race in the Spring sounds like something to mark on the calendar.
Glen Ellyn- www.glenellyn.org
Chamber of Commerce- www.glenellynchamber.com
Downtown Alliance- www.downtownglenellyn.com