As part of a series on the influential, colorful, historic people, places and things along Illinois Route 66, we present…
Ernie Edwards, The Pig Hip Restaurant
Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame Class of 1990
100-198 N Frontage Rd, Broadwell, IL 62634
Here’s the story behind this historic landmark:
Ernie Edwards bought what would become the Pig Hip Restaurant, the Harbor Inn, in Broadwell, Illinois 1937. Until 1991, he served up his famous Pig Hip Sandwiches along IL Route 66, featuring fresh, uncured ham which, as Ernie claimed, “came only the left hip of the pig, never the right.” What went into this special culinary creation? A Pig Hip sandwich consisted of that aforementioned fresh ham, tomato and lettuce on a toasted bun with Ernie’s proprietary special sauce. His motto for the sandwich was, ”it made its way by the way it’s made.” In the early days, “Ernie’s Pig-Hip Special” came with a Pig-Hip sandwich, French fries and Jell-O salad and cost 65 cents. The sandwich’s popularity prompted a change to the name of the restaurant itself in 1939.
During WWII in 1942, there were two lanes added to Route 66 because of its strategic military status. Because a portion of the Pig-Hip’s property was in the path of the new road, Ernie’s house was sold and moved to Elkhart (south of Broadwell) and his restaurant and small filling station also had to be demolished. A new restaurant was constructed with funds he received from the government on a short stretch of road that was added to the west of the military lane in 1943. That same year, Ernie went into the Army, working as a cook in the South Pacific and Japan.
Once home from overseas, Ernie settled down into a bustling few decades which included rubbing elbows with such famous names as bandleader Guy Lombardo and Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.
Entrepreneurship ran in the family; his brother owned their Phillips 66 station next to the restaurant and his sister Bonnie and her husband built and operated the Pioneer Rest Motel on the property.
Despite construction of Interstate 55 through central Illinois in the mid 1970s, Broadwell’s overpass and freeway exit allowed easy access to the Pig-Hip, sparing it from the decline in patronage suffered by many other businesses along old Route 66.
Ernie goodnaturedly adopted the nickname, “Old Coot on 66” while serving hungry travelers and locals alike throughout the decades. And when Route 66 was decommissioned n 1985, he soon thereafter joined with fellow local fans of the Mother Road including Tom Teague and Springfield artist Bob Waldmire in founding the Route 66 Association of Illinois.
For his contributions to the character of Route 66 in Illinois, Ernie Edwards was inducted into the Route 66 Association of Illinois in 1990.
Ernie closed the restaurant in 1991 and converted the building into a Pig Hip/Route 66 museum which he ran for 17 years. People continued to visit over the years: tourists from around the world, those with fond memories of the restaurant, even the famous like Arnold Palmer and former President Jimmy Carter stopped by.
The building burned down on March 5, 2007. All that remains is an informational plaque attached to a boulder and a restored Pig Hip sign on the original site of the restaurant. Artifacts from the Pig Hip that survived the fire are now located at The Mill Museum on 66 in Lincoln, Illinois.
Ernie Edwards passed away in 2012 at the age of 94.
Click to read stories about the ever-growing list of Hall of Fame inductees.