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Illinois’s First Luxury Campground Returns With a Blockbuster Pop-Up Lineup

Camp Aramoni’s summer dinner series features Gale Gand, Paul Virant, and John Manion

A safari-style tent in a rural location.
After five years, Camp Aramoni is preparing to launch at full capacity.
Camp Aramoni

An 96-acre upscale campsite and event space advertised as Illinois’s first “luxury campground,” will at enjoy a full season this year with all its amenities. After five years of planning and a series of pandemic delays that forced a staggered opening, Camp Aramoni will reopen on Friday, April 29, according to a rep.

The site, a historic, wildflower-laden property just outside of Starved Rock, is designed to attract comfort-seeking campers, wedding parties, and honeymooners, Camp Aramoni is located about 90 minutes south of the city in the small town of Tonica. The expansive venue aims to set itself apart with food from Chicago chef Cleetus Friedman (Theatre on the Lake, City Provisions). He oversees dining operations at lodge-style dining room the Barn, coffee and cocktail bar the Burlington (located inside a vintage 1971 Airstream Overlander RV), and catering for private events.

Friedman is tapping into his Chicago hospitality network for a monthly dinner series starring decorated guest chefs including Paul Virant (Gaijin, Vie), Gale Gand (Tru), and John Manion (El Che). Each chef will present a cooking demonstration and three-course family-style dinner, and appear at a meet-and-greet at Bricks & Stones, a private event space that was once an 1800s-era blacksmith shop. Additional collaborations are also in the works, with plans to highlight nearby distilleries, breweries, and purveyors.

The former 19th century brickyard is now utterly transformed with 11 safari-style tents (complete with hardwood floors, en-suite bathrooms, king-size beds, a mini-fridge and air conditioning), each with a personal campfire. The hotel-style approach also applies to activities, such as yoga classes, lawn games, canoeing, and massages.

Though COVID-19 has presented significant obstacles for the site’s team, Camp Aramoni is equipped with an irreplaceable asset for the pandemic era: an abundance of rural, wide-open space where patrons may feel more comfortable dining after two pandemic years.

Even in March 2021, Friedman knew that major changes were afoot in the restaurant industry, and his unusual position at the campsite could be a good vantage point to observe and implement fresh approaches. “I feel like hospitality is going to look and feel a little bit different and it’s up to us to figure out what it is and write the next chapter,” he told Eater at the time. “This project Camp Aramoni is an incredible opportunity for me to redefine what hospitality means, what it is, and how it looks and feels.”

The public can tour Camp Aramoni at a grand opening party from noon to 3 p.m. on May 15. More details are available on Facebook.

Camp Aramoni, 818 N. 2219 Road in Tonica.

Camp Aramoni

809 N. 2199 Road, Tonica, IL 61370 Visit Website

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