Sometimes you just need to get out of town. I’d say that it’s also nice to have a change of scenery, but that’s a little more than a quick day trip around these parts. Last week a couple of friends and I took a mental health day and drove a little east, to Homer, to grab some fancy sodas and sandwiches and ice cream from The Homer Soda Company’s Main Street Belly Deli.
The Main Street Belly Deli is located within the same space as The Homer Soda Company in Downtown Homer. The deli serves Boar’s Head cold cuts, although the selection is limited to the basics: ham, chicken, turkey, pastrami, roast beef. You won’t find all sorts of other concoctions like bologna and olive loaf; the sandwiches and meat selections are pretty straightforward. Everyone working on the day I visited was super nice and patient (which I noticed because I stood in front of the menu for about five minutes before ordering).
The deli is located inside of The Homer Soda Company, so there are plenty of choices for beverages. (If you need a reminder of the vast and delicious soda options, check out SP’s reviews of the Homer Soda Festival in 2014 and 2015.) You can get a cold one to drink with your meal, and you can get a six-pack to take home.
Named for mid-century movie stars, sandwiches range in price from $5.95 to $6.95. There are also some soups (Desi Arnez: cheesy chicken tortilla soup; Audrey Hepburn: clam chowder; Clint Eastwood: chili) ranging in price from $3.75 for a small, and up to $5.25 for a large Clint Eastwood. Salads — Johnny Cash and Judy Garland — are $3.95 to $6.50.
I ordered the Humphrey Bogart ($5.95; ham, American cheese, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, olives, tomato, honey mustard, mayo on French bread). The sandwich was pretty well packed, and wrapped in some paper to ensure the components stayed between the bread. My friend ordered the Cary Grant ($6.50; chicken, Havarti cheese, spinach, bell pepper, tomato, Cajun mayo on ciabatta), which was equally stuffed and delicious. Sandwiches were made to order and served with a pickle. I also added a bag of hot chips, which were the perfect foil for Humphrey’s sweetness. The ingredients were fresh. The bread was soft, but held together. The pickle was crisp and dilly. There was a lot of sandwich there, and I was quite satisfied with my meal, but the temptation of ice cream was too great.
The Main Street Belly Deli serves Michigan-based Ashby’s ice cream, which was delicious. But eaters beware:
Feeling slightly shamed, I ordered a kid-sized milkshake with cow tippin’ ice cream ($2.25; vanilla, caramel swirl, little chocolate cow-shaped chips). It came in what I’d call a “souvenir” cup, and was the perfect amount for a little afternoon treat. Other ice cream treats include fancy soda floats — also named for dead (or nearly dead, sorry Doris Day) celebrities — for $4.25. The flavor combos sound delightful.
Seating inside seems to be sufficient, and when we were there it was actually a bit crowded considering it was the middle of the week. If the weather is nice and indoor seating is unavailable, there are plenty of nearby green spaces for a picnic.
My lunch was filling and the sandwich was tasty. I’m not sure, though, that I’d drive to Homer just for the sandwich. The Belly Deli is an excellent option if you’re in the area, or driving on I-74 and in need of something other than fast food (though it is a bit off the highway). However, the deli, ice cream options, and Homer Soda Company offer an interesting attraction to visit without having to go very far from C-U. It’s a great way to escape the monotony of unstructured free time. It might also be a lovely option for avoiding U of I student move-in weekend. You could do what my friends and I did: drive to Homer, have a lazy lunch, drive the 15 minutes to Oakwood, drink wine at Sleepy Creek Vineyards. Think of it as agri-culinary tourism. Not such a bad way to spend a day, right?
The Homer Soda Company/Main Street Belly Deli is located at 118 S Main Street, Homer. Parking is ample, and free. The deli is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Soda Company is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.