Just off of Interstate 57 east, in the little town of Casey, about 30 miles west of Effingham, is a barn. It was built in the 1930’s on the Richards Farm and was used, as most barns are, to shelter livestock, store grain and be the centerpiece of the farm. In 1976, it quit being a place to feed livestock and started being a place to feed folks.

Gary and Diane Richards remodeled the old barn and have been running the wonderful, rustic, Richards Farm family restaurant there every since. They tore down old barns in the area to get enough material to add onto the old place, creating an environment like no other. There’s a huge dining room that seats 300 in the back with a most unusual horizontal paddle fan running the length of the ceiling, and complete with wagon wheel chandeliers.

The south end is the original barn building, with multiple levels of dining that lead all the way to the peak of the timber-framed roof. Nooks and crannies abound with a huge assortment of rural memorabilia from milk separators and plow shears to washboards and early American art. There’s an outside garden area on each end of the property, perfect to help walk off a hearty meal.

On Sunday (the day I was there, fortunately enough) they have a HUGE country-style buffet. I believe I counted 10 kinds of meat (including complete fixings for breakfast if that’s what you desire) as well as vegetables galore.

In typical Richards Farm style, the buffet is lit with lights in upside-down galvanized ‘milk buckets’ hanging from the ceiling. Five varieties of homemade pie and ice cream are guaranteed to round out the meal.

Upon leaving I heard a gentlemen explaining to his young grandson what a milk separator was for and how it was used…history and great food all in one place…can’t beat that!

It’s hard to find restaurants like this one, displaying the charm and warmth of Central Illinois in such a unique setting. When you’re in the area, stop by and see them or better yet, make it a destination. It’s as much a museum as it is a restaurant.

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- Ed Baumgarten