Candlelight Inn: Cross the Street for Chicken George

The original home of the Chicken George remains a firm fixture in the Sauk Valley. But there’s far more to its menu than this iconic fried chicken.

The famous Chicken George at Candlelight Inn features hand-battered, deep-fried chicken tenders served with Jan’s sauce, a secret concoction that combines sweet, sour and spicy in delicious proportions.

When a restaurant finds an enduring claim to fame, it can be hard to hold on to it. The Candlelight Inn, however, is an exception. With locations in Sterling and Rock Falls, Ill., this hometown eatery has a reputation that has centered around chicken tenders for decades. It’s no wonder patrons have flocked to savor the flavors at the Candlelight Inn since 1967.

Home of the original Chicken George, the Candlelight Inn credits a chef named (what else?) George, who created these famous hand-battered chicken tenders in the early 1970s. Since then, customers have been lining up to satisfy their cravings.

Today, the Candlelight Inn dishes out more than 6,000 pounds of Chicken George per week. Customers can choose a grilled chicken option, have it tossed in a spicy buffalo sauce, dashed with prime seasoning and served with mac and cheese – or they can order a sweet and sour version. To top it off, the dish is served with Jan’s sauce, a condiment that perfectly complements the meal.

While the ingredients of Jan’s sauce are under wraps, there is no mystery behind the appeal. Upon its creation, word of the dish spread like wildfire, and it soon became a forever staple.

Candlelight Inn’s delightful chocolate lush whips together creamy layers of whipped cream and chocolate pudding.

Second-generation owner Matt Prescott is proud to follow in the footsteps of his parents, Bob and Jan Prescott, who took sole ownership of the restaurant 20 years after it opened. In 2004 he built the Candlelight Inn in Rock Falls, in 2010 he expanded to another location in Clinton, Iowa, and in 2021 he opened the newest Candlelight Inn in Lake Carroll, Ill.

“I’ve been part of the Candlelight Inn since I was 15 years old,” says Matt Prescott. “I’ve done everything and was happy to learn and work alongside my mother and father for many years. While my parents have passed, I am proud to continue their legacy of casual dining and hospitality. We are grateful for the support of our community and to be a long-standing favorite of our customers.”

The Candlelight Inn also serves a tasty assortment of other menu selections, including starters like crispy sprouts, shrimp and cheese curds. Black Angus burgers, delicious salads, sandwiches, steaks, chops and a wide variety of seafood choices round out the menu. The restaurants are open Tuesday through Sunday and dine-in customers can enjoy daily features for dine-in, take out or catering.

Seasonal options are also available. Currently, you can enjoy a pumpkin treat after your meal or finish with a dessert that’s almost as famous as the Chicken George itself.

“To end your meal on a sweet note, you’ve got to try our Chocolate Lush,” says Prescott. “It’s a wonderful dessert that is freshly made every day by June Hibbard, who has been with us for 15 years. It is a big favorite and really delicious.”

The Candlelight Inn locations in Sterling and Rock Falls are open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.