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|Mom and Pop|
|Genre||Casual Dining & Drinking|
|Headquarters||311 N. Main
Ladd, Illinois 61329
Rip's Tavern is a mom and pop casual dining restaurant and bar located in Ladd, Illinois. They specialize in fried chicken and provide a recognizably unique atmosphere to their customers. The taste of Rip's chicken has been enjoyed all across the United States as well as Germany.
Founded in 1936 by Silvio "Rip" Gualandri, Rip's Tavern has been able to stay in business because of its ability to adapt to a changing society. The current location for the tavern has not changed since 1937 when it was moved across the street from its original location.
Since 1936 when Rip's Tavern opened in Ladd, Illinois by Silvio "Rip" Gualandri, it has been valued by its patrons from the local area. The tavern received its name because of the founder's nickname, Rip, which he received from the time he spent working on the Repair, Inspect and Paint Track on the railroad. According to Rip's website, their fried chicken has traveled as far as Germany and Alaska, and an order is sent to Las Vegas every year.
Rip's Tavern, up until recent years, has been solely a family run and operated business. This was due to the lack of trust by the owners to anyone outside the family. The Chicago Reader reports that Gualandri's nieces and nephews would cross the Atlantic Ocean from their hometown in Italy to come to work at Rip's. The tavern has now transitioned from having only family employees to hiring area college students like Dean. This transition has been one of the many obstacles that Rip's has overcome to maintain their business.
Rip's Tavern was originally located on the west side of S. Main St., but after just one year of operation, it relocated across the street to its current location. The building remained unchanged until January 28, 1985 when an electrical fire in the kitchen burned down the tavern causing $200,000 of damages to Rip's and other buildings in the vicinity. After the fire had completely burned down the existing building, Rip's purchased the adjacent building to increase the size of their establishment. With the increase in size, Rip's was able to add more space to the kitchen, move the location of the bathroom and expand the waiting area.
A unique aspect of Rip's is the fact there is no tangible menu. The menu is given by word of mouth to the customers as they are waiting in line. This particular type of menu makes the ordering process simple; Bill Rounds, a current co-owner, asks each customer waiting in line if he or she would like to order a quarter light or a quarter dark. Depending on the day, he could also add chicken strips or fish to this question. The informal nature of the ordering process distinguishes Rip's from other taverns. Once seated, customers receive crispys and pickles, Rip's signature appetizers. Crispys are the spare batter pieces dropped from the chicken during the frying process.
Changing with the times
Originally, Rip's primarily served fish because Gualandri would clean and fry the fish the locals had caught so the customers could enjoy fresh fish. The menu made its first major change when its signature item, chicken, was added. As a result, Rip's put farmers into business to raise chickens for the tavern. Now Rip's customers consume 4,000 pounds of chicken each week. The Chicago Reader also mentions that pasta was removed in the 1950s because the kitchen was over its workable capacity and could not handle the volume. The only other change in the menu would be both the addition and subtraction of onion rings during the 1980s.
Like many other small mom and pop businesses, Rip's Tavern has experienced many setbacks resulting from a changing society. Recently, Dean’s bought out the company that used to make the pickles for Rip's, and they threw out the customized recipe, which was crafted to Rounds’ specifications. Events like this make it nearly impossible for small businesses to survive without the ability to adapt and overcome changes. Another concern of the owners is their fear that the specialized cooking oil, which is derived from three different types of vegetable oil, may no longer be available. The owners still try to maintain the quality that Rip’s was founded on, and they believe that the consistency of their products keep customers coming back. Although times are changing, Rip’s is adapting without losing sight of their standards.
Rip’s chicken is not the only attraction that brings people to the tavern. The atmosphere of this small town tavern is what makes it different from other fried chicken establishments. Some customers can remember back to when they would wait two and half hours, not just for the chicken, but for the enjoyment of the waiting line atmosphere. The line of customers waiting to eat is a melting pot of people. “Area high school graduates gather with former classmates for miniature class reunions. Businessmen and women meet with their clients. Coaches treat their teams after a win. Parents bring their children, and as the years pass, these children eventually come back with their own families.” Also in the waiting area, current friends socialize while new friendships are made, and old friends are reunited. Rip’s website says that the average wait is about an hour which has been shortened from several decades ago, but the atmosphere has not changed. The Chicago Reader mentions that, on average, the waiting customers can see people from about 15 different towns in the restaurant. Most of these towns are within a 20-mile (32 km) radius, but some regulars drive over an hour to enjoy the atmosphere at Rip's. Actually, it is still about 2 hours, but still very much worth the wait. As far as travel distance, I have only been outdistanced once and that's when I stopped there on a drive back from California, folks driving 100 miles or more is not unusual. One very interesting phenomenon is the number of people walking out with take-out orders after they have already eaten dinner. We always place a to-go ordering when we go there to eat. It still tastes great the next day.
Chicken serving hours
|Day of the Week||Hours|
|Wednesday||4:30 PM – 9:30 PM|
|Thursday||5:00 PM – 9:00 PM|
|Friday||4:30 PM – 11:00 PM|
|Saturday||4:30 PM – 11:00 PM|
|Sunday||2:30 PM – 10:00 PM|
Rip’s Tavern is closed on Monday and Tuesdays. Historically, Rip's was closed on these two days so that the owner could pick up the live chickens on Monday and slaughter them in the basement on Tuesday. Rip's continues to remain closed on these days despite the change in their chicken preparation practice. Rip’s new practice is to have 3 shipments of fresh chicken delivered from various sources each week which they then prepare to their exacting specifications.
- Dallam, Katie. "Making the Trip". Detour Magazine. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
- Day, Nicholas. "The Wait Makes You Salivate". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
- "Rip's fire loss estimated at $200,000". News Tribune. January 28, 1985.