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RESTAURANT VIEWS

Carius: Memories of Green Gables, an iconic local landmark

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Green Gables is gone. It did not take long for a windswept fire to destroy the 1929 building, often described as an iconic local landmark and known for its legendary double cheeseburgers. Although located near Lake Bloomington and with a Hudson address, Green Gables was usually on top or near the top of the list when someone would ask on Facebook where to find the best burger in Bloomington-Normal.

Another question sometimes asked on Facebook: What local restaurant should Guy Fieri of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" visit if he came to B-N? Green Gables and Lucca Grill were usually the overwhelming favorites for Guy to visit.

There are many Green Gables stories, however, one of my favorites was the Budweiser draft beer story told to me last summer when I interviewed Green Gables third-generation owner Amy Tague.

Amy said Green Gables has had only one draft beer on tap since her family put in draft beer years ago, and for all those years, it had been Budweiser. Then, one day during the pandemic, Amy was told there was a problem. The beer distributor had not received Budweiser draft, so what did she want to do? Amy said to put in Bud Light draft as a temporary replacement until the next Budweiser draft delivery.

Carius: Bloomington-Normal has plenty of eateries to tempt out-of-towners

Amy was still smiling when she told me, that surprisingly to her, the Bud Light draft sales were so much better than the Budweiser draft sales had been that they decided to keep Bud Light as the single draft, no more Budweiser draft.

If Amy and her husband Kyle decide to rebuild Green Gables, I truly hope they can, and good luck to them.

From Larry's notebook

  • Jim's Steak House — Be sure and congratulate owner Greg Comfort on 37 years last month of being at the helm of a top flight, traditional steak house. Greg still enjoys telling the story about his dad, whose name was Jim and founded Jim’s Steak House in Peoria, buying The Brittany in Bloomington in 1985. He sent the then-27-year-old Greg and a young chef to Bloomington and gave them a week to convert The Brittany to a Jim’s. Greg still uses the original broiler that is designed to reach 1,200 degrees and has been rebuilt four times. His USDA high choice or prime steaks are dry aged 28-30 days and cut in-house.
  • Bloomington Texas Roadhouse, by the numbers — Averages serving 5,500 steaks a week to 7,000 guests a week with bar sales 15% of total sales and a cost of $6 million-plus to build/open the restaurant. The numbers were given to me by Chris Hernan, managing partner of the Bloomington Texas Roadhouse, who added that the numbers were above the company average.
  • Merna Tap — Now has an expanded $50,000 kitchen with a new cookline. In 2019, co-owner/general manager Katie Schott purchased what she describes as a “Busch Light & Burger Bar” and has made many changes, including the new kitchen, new restrooms, a new dining room floor and a large patio/beer garden. “A great American Roadhouse” is how some describe the venerable tavern that dates back to the 1920s and is only 4 miles from the edge of Normal.
  • Herradura Mexican Restaurant — Has 69 different tequilas. Owner Armando Martinez recently told me that when he opened in 2009 after spending much more money than he had planned converting the former La Peep to Herradura, all he could afford was two bottles of tequila. His wall of shelving above the back-bar with the bottles of tequila is often called the “Wall of Tequila.” He says he sells a lot of margaritas.
  • Fusion Crunch — Was recently opened at 616 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington. The owner describes the menu as a fusion blend of cuisines featuring appetizers, salads/noodles, fun foods, burgers, tacos/quesadillas/open sandie, pasta, bowls, platters and sides. It currently is open for carryout for dinner.
  • Panda Express — Construction has started for a Panda Express at 1901 W. Market St. in Bloomington, with the plan to open late this summer. This is the long-vacant site of a demolished Citgo station.

A Larry Favorite Menu Item — The Pork Tomatillo entrée at Medici.

Carius, of Bloomington, is a former food program and plan review supervisor for the McLean County Health Department. His Facebook blog, Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene, has 33,000 followers.

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