August the Mansion is a perfect historical dining destination in O’Fallon, Illinois (2024)

Kate Pogue

The oldest home in O’Fallon, Illinois, once again welcomes visitors as August the Mansion, a dining destination quietly resting behind the houses and office buildings that have overtaken the surrounding farmland in recent years. Built in 1857 by wheat farmer Augustus Wastfield, the mansion was first converted into a restaurant in 1998. The repurposed home saw several concepts come and go before closing its doors in 2019.

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The restaurant reopened in late March 2024 thanks to new owners Candice and Justin Mills, who purchased the property in 2020 after observing its decline from their neighboring business, Tera Vetta. “My husband and I first came here for our anniversary when it was Paolo’s at the Mansion back in 2014,” Candice says. “In 2019, they listed it for sale after it changed ownership to become The Grille at the Mansion. It was being advertised as turnkey and nobody ended up buying it, so it went into foreclosure and we were the only ones bidding on it. If you looked at the Google Maps images, you couldn’t even see the building because everything was so overgrown, but we saw the potential of what was here. The building just evokes a feeling of wanting to be here and we felt like it could really be successful again if it had the right care and attention and planning.”

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After making progress with renovations, the Mills enlisted the help of industry veterans Alejandro Molina, general manager, and Jessica Hickman, executive chef, to helpbring the space to life and execute the menu. August the Mansion currently seats 132 people between the dining room inside the front entrance and the co*cktail lounge just down the hall, with a brick patio off the back entrance. Plans are underway to expand for events upstairs and better utilize the adjoining lot.

“You can see a bit of contrast between the front dining room and the bar,” Molina says. “Which is fun because you can either have a very nice dinner in a certain part of the restaurant or drinks and small plates with friends at the bar. We want people to feel like they can come for either one. [The restaurant] hasn’t been that casual in the past and that’s the mindset that we’re trying to change.”

Regulars are already working their way through the unique menu, which offers something for everyone – from filets and fresh fish specials to a house burger and seasonally rotating specials made with ingredients from local farms. “We’re not caging ourselves into just one thing,” Molina says. “We can’t say we’re a steakhouse; we don’t want to say we’re Italian or New American. People are very open-minded when it comes to the menu, and that gives us a lot of leverage to work with different things in the kitchen.”

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The Peruvian chicken is a house favorite, served with aji verde, chili lime potato wedges and roasted cauliflower. “We wanted something different,” Hickmansays. “Initially, I thought, ‘Oh, we’ll do a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and jus,’ but it didn’t sit right with me … I’ve had multiple people call me out for that dish. It usually looks like they licked the plate clean – they ask for additional sauce because they love the aji verde. Everybody wants to take cups home regardless of whether they have leftovers.”

The beef short ribs are another standout dish so popular that guests call ahead to make sure they’re still available. “They’re slow braised all day and served in a red wine demi-glace over creamy polenta made with a local white cheddar from Marcoot Creamery,” Hickmansays.

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The team has tried to honor the history of the home and its original owner, known for his hospitality, while also setting a new standard of quality with the experience they hope to offer. “There are records that say [Augustus] and his wife were known for being good guests to visitors, so they would host and give people drinks when they were passing through town – this being a stop because of the train station, which is sort of how this area came up,” Candice Millssays. “There have been stories that Abraham Lincoln was here [and also] that this was a path on the Underground Railroad. There have been stories that Charles Dickens was here, but the house wasn’t even built when he came to St. Louis. I did find an article saying that [Augustus] went to California for the Gold Rush, so that’s one of the pieces I’d love to confirm to see if it's how he got the money to purchase the land to build the property. He also went to Placerville, California, where I was born, so it feels full circle.”

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She adds: “We’re making sure that we’re staying true to the home and seeing what we feel we’re ready for. As much opportunity as we see, we’re also very committed to ensuring that whenever we move onto that next step, we’re not sacrificing service. [We want to] make sure we’re doing it in a way that’s thoughtful and intentional. It’s about being able to make a place that we’re all proud of and that the community can be proud of. So – creating the best food, the best service and the best environment that we can with what we have available.”

August the Mansion is open Wednesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.For more information and updates, follow August the Mansion on Instagram.

August the Mansion, 1680 Mansion Way, O'Fallon, Illinois, 618-607-8040, augustthemansion.com

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August the Mansion is a perfect historical dining destination in O’Fallon, Illinois (2024)
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