Tasty Tidbits – January/February 2024

January and February were bustling months for restaurants in the Bloomington-Normal area, with a mix of openings, anniversaries, remodels, and unfortunate closures. Let’s take a closer look at the notable happenings during this period.

Recent Openings

Bonchon, 1413 Leslie Dr. Bloomington

Bonchon

If you’re in the mood for crispy double-fried chicken and tantalizing Korean cuisine, look no further than Bonchon. This exciting new addition, located in the Parke Regency hotel, is a franchise owned by Uma and Krishna Balakrishnan, the hotel owners. Bonchon has taken the place of the short-lived Central Parke Bar & Grille, which was operational in 2023. Notably, the location was home to Braize from 2017 to 2020.

Located at 1413 Leslie Dr, Bloomington, IL

Revery

The highly anticipated Revery opened its doors for a “soft opening” on February 20th. Revery aims to provide an extraordinary dining experience by combining high-quality food and drinks with a fun and enjoyable ambiance. This is the second location for Revery, with the first situated in Greenwood, Indiana. Mark Henrichs, a Bloomington-Normal native, is the proud owner of Revery.

Located at 704 McGregor St, Bloomington, IL

Heaterz Hot Chicken

Located in Uptown Normal, Heaterz Hot Chicken occupies the former Merry Ann’s Diner location. Known for serving authentic Nashville HOT fried chicken, they also offer adult slushies and their famous chicken tenders.

Located at 100 S Fell Ave Suite 101, Normal, IL

Social Taco

Social Taco is a must-visit destination for those looking to savor unique tacos and quesadillas inspired by flavors from around the world. From the Spicy Masala Chicken Taco to the Nashville Chicken Taco, Filipino Breakfast Taco, Falafel Taco, and Fried Cauliflower Taco, their menu is bursting with creativity. Using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients, Social Taco ensures an outstanding culinary experience. The restaurant is owned by managing and local partners, including Jimmy and Kelly Mapugay, who are also the owners of Grand Cafe.

Located at 507 Veterans Parkway, Normal, IL

Tequila’s Mexican  Restaurant 

Located in Heyworth, Tequila’s offers a traditional Mexican menu and a full bar with seven margarita flavors to choose from.

Located 1280 W Cleveland St, Heyworth, IL

Anniversaries

Anju Above

Celebrating its 10th anniversary on January 19th, Anju Above is a self-proclaimed “farm-to-table 2.0” restaurant. Nestled in a historic building in downtown Bloomington, it offers a unique blend of sushi, pizza, and an urban vibe.

Located at 220 E Front St, Bloomington, IL

Original Pancake House

Original Pancake House, or OPH as it is known to regulars, marked its 6th year in business on February 19th. This breakfast spot is renowned for its traditional favorites and signature dishes like the Dutch Baby and Apple Pancakes.

Located at 115 Veterans Pkwy, Normal, IL

Seoul Mama

Since its opening on January 31st, 2019, Seoul Mama has been the go-to Korean restaurant in the greater Bloomington area, breaking a 30-year drought. The menu features classic home cooking recipes, many of which are original creations by owner Yongae Park Lee and her mother.

Located at 2103 Veterans Pkwy #312, Bloomington, IL

Tailgater’s Pub

Celebrating 12 years in business this January, Tailgater’s Pub, located in Le Roy, is a popular bar and grill known for its welcoming atmosphere. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, Smoke’n Aces Poker League, or karaoke, Tailgater’s has something for everyone.

Located at 509 N West St, Le Roy, IL

Theo’s Microcreamery

On February 6th, Theo’s celebrated three years of delighting customers with their handcrafted, small-batch, super-premium ice cream. Owners Mindi and Aaron Theobald opened the location after ending their franchise with Emack & Bolio’s which was in the same location. Fun fact: Theo’s has a walk-up window!

Located at 107 E Beaufort St, Normal, IL

Remodels

Chick-fil-A

Currently closed until February 26th, Chick-fil-A is undergoing a remodel. Once it reopens, only the drive-through will be operational from February 27th to March 5th. The remodel includes various changes, such as the removal of the play area, new dining room floors, an updated team member area, new equipment, and improvements to the drive-thru area.

Located at 101 S Veterans Pkwy, Normal, IL

Country Aire

After a $300,000 dining room remodel, Country Aire reopened its doors on February 15th. This Atlanta, IL-based family-style restaurant is a favorite among Route 66 travelers and features a menu full of variety. And you’ll never leave hungry when you indulge in one of their all-you can eat specials like chicken, walleye, shrimp, ribs and more!

Located at 608 E South St, Atlanta, IL

Lucca Grill

Lucca Grill temporarily closed on February 4th for renovations. The updates included improvements to the kitchen equipment and the dining room. As part of the renovation, they also replaced their walk-in cooler, which may have been the original cooler from 1936! Lucca Grill reopened on February 16th.

Located 116 E Market St, Bloomington, IL

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Both the Normal and Bloomington locations of Moe’s Southwest Grill underwent renovations, with each location investing $200,000 into the updates. The dining areas were redone, and changes were made to the cookline. They added two Rational SelfCookingCenter combi ovens, which will help them cook faster and improve efficiency, especially for larger orders like catering jobs.

Normal location: 1730 Bradford Lane, Normal, IL

Bloomington location: 2401 E. Empire Street, Bloomington, IL

Closings

UTG Memory Book
Under the Ground BloNo

We’re saddened to share our least favorite update, as it involves the closure of the beloved vegan restaurant, Under the Ground BloNo. The plan is to close its doors this Sunday, February 25th. The news was communicated through a heartfelt Facebook post in early January. The decision to close was not an easy one, considering their years in business, including two years in their downtown location. Unfortunately, the restaurant has faced numerous challenges, including personal hardships and unfortunate incidents like flooding in their space, which ultimately led to this difficult decision. Patrons have been leaving well-wishes for the owners in a book on the counter.

Located at 608 N Main Street, Bloomington, IL

Zeta Coffee – Downtown Bloomington location

Zeta Coffee announced the closure of its Downtown Bloomington location, which was situated inside Red Raccoon Games. The closure took place on January 31st, as the owner, Joel Aper, decided to focus efforts on the Downs location and explore partnership and community opportunities. Zeta Coffee acquired the Downs location in the summer of 2023 after purchasing the former Union Cafe.

Downs location: 201 S Seminary St, Downs, IL

Alexander’s Steakhouse – SPRINGFIELD location

While we don’t typically mention businesses from Springfield, we believe it’s important to highlight the significance of supporting local restaurants before they announce their closure. Unfortunately, Alexander’s Steakhouse in Springfield recently announced its closure on February 16th. However, following the announcement, the response and traffic to the restaurant have been overwhelming. Reservations for weekends are quickly filling up, and people are rallying to show support and keep the restaurant open. Despite these efforts, it is regrettably too late, underscoring the importance of supporting your favorite local establishments or exploring new ones before it’s too late.

It’s worth noting that the closure of the Springfield location comes just two years after the announcement of the closure of the Champaign location. Alexander’s Steakhouse is owned by Mercedes Restaurant Inc., which also owned Famous Dave’s in Bloomington, a restaurant that closed its doors in May 2022. The Normal and Peoria locations of Alexander’s Steakhouse remain open, providing continued dining options for their patrons.

Located at 1503 E. College Ave. Normal, IL

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