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Romance is on the menu at Sterling’s Candlelight Inn

There’s a love affair with food, especially the Chicken George, at the Candlelight Inn in Sterling, Illinois.

There's a love affair with food at the Candlelight Inn in Sterling, Illinois.

"I was a little on the nervous side and didn't know what to expect," said customer Les Guenzler.

"It was beautiful," added Judy Lavelle.

The couple met for the first time in person there on a blind date in 2013.

"We sat here from 5 o'clock until 9 o'clock talking," Les recalled.

A year later, they're back at the same booth to celebrate their engagement.

"It means a lot," Judy said.

And they're enjoying the signature dish, Chicken George.

"I think it's really wonderful," Les said.

Chicken George is synonymous with the longtime family business.

"Wow, that stuff is awesome," said owner Matt Prescott.

That's one reason why the kitchen is such a busy place. Many years ago, a chef tried to stretch his meal allowance and devised the legendary dish.

"The cook's name was George," Prescott recalled. "And he said, 'If you want to have that when you come in, ask for Chicken George.' And that's where it came from."

The hand-dipped delicacy features fresh chicken from, where else?, George's farm in Virginia. There's also a special dipping sauce developed by the owner's mother.

"Every time I've asked her about it to this day, she tells me it's an old family recipe," Matt said. "She won't tell me any more."

They'll sell a thousand orders of Chicken George on a busy night.

"The good thing about Chicken George is you can eat part of it tonight and have the rest of it tomorrow," said customer Bob Donnell.

Candlelight Inn is the oldest locally-owned full service restaurant in Sterling-Rock Falls. Run by the Prescott family since 1967, it's comfortable and friendly inside.

The longtime staff represents hard work and determination each day.

"The trick to the business is to take good care of your employees, good care of your customers," Matt said. "You've got it made."

That family tradition keeps the Candlelight Inn shining brightly into its second generation. It's going on a half-century of service and success in Sterling.

Nearly 50 people work inside the landmark restaurant at 2907 Locust Street in Sterling. Prescott also operates newer locations in Rock Falls and Clinton.

Everybody knows their role and makes it happen. Magic comes together on plates seven days a week, but every night is like opening night.

"Everyone is nice, and everyone is pleasant," said customer Bonnie Donnell. "And it has been ever since the beginning."

That's why families keep coming back to celebrate special occasions. A 50th birthday party for Lisa Hogenson is one of the latest.

"The people here are great," Bob said. "The food is fantastic, and we've always had a good time here."

That tradition and consistency make it a special place to eat in Whiteside County.

"It's just got that home, rustic feel that people have known as home for so many years," Matt said.

For Judy and Les, it's just the place for a romantic meal. That means Chicken George and wedding bells.

"They're doing a wonderful job," Les said.

"Everything is always red hot and delicious," Judy concluded.

At the Candlelight Inn, a love affair with food, by George...Chicken George, that is!

The Sterling location is open Monday through Saturday from 11-10, and it's open on Sunday from 11-9. Carry out or drive-through orders are welcome at (815) 625-2600.

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