Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
alert top story

Carius: Taking a look at Bloomington's 'new' Restaurant Row

  • 0
DR McKay's

DR McKay's Bar & Grill is at 909 N. Hershey Road in Bloomington. It is among several eateries that make up Bloomington's current "Restaurant Row," according to Larry Carius. 

Restaurant Row is my name for the six very successful restaurants on the east side of the 400-900 blocks of North Hershey Road in Bloomington. (The restaurant blocks are consecutive but numbering skips 600 and 700).

This string of six restaurants reminds me of the first “Restaurant Row” in Bloomington where the first restaurants opened in the mid-1970s when Bloomington-Normal was beginning to boom.

However, let’s first take a look at the current Restaurant Row. When coming north on Hershey Road from East Washington Street, Hacienda Leon is the first of the six restaurants. Next is Pop Up Chicken that was recently relocated from the Bloomington VFW to the former Hooter’s/JP’s Wheel and Ale House location. Rob Dob’s is the third, then across Castleton Drive to the north is Culver’s. Finally, kind of hidden behind a tire and auto service store, are both DR McKay’s and Herradura Mexican Restaurant.

Another restaurant opening soon that will be the seventh on Restaurant Row is Egg Republic, although it is located one block to the east of Hershey Road on Chancellor Drive in the former Caffe Italia building that is undergoing a major remodel. Egg Republic is described by the owners as an upscale breakfast/lunch restaurant.

A possible eighth restaurant for Restaurant Row is Kegler’s Pub located in the 800 block on the west side of Hershey Road. The general manager told me Kegler’s will have an entirely different look later in 2023 after undergoing a $600,000 bar, kitchen and dining room remodel.

Now, let’s go back almost 50 years and take a look at the first Restaurant Row. The first two restaurants on the 700 block of Eldorado Road that soon would become known as Restaurant Row were the current Monical’s Pizza and the long-gone Ireland’s. Both, I believe, opened in 1974. They were followed in no particular order by Denny’s, Sirloin Stockade, Western Sizzlin’, Red Lobster, Butterfield’s, Bill Bailey’s Speakeasy, Dixon’s Fish Dock, Shakey’s, Bonanza, Eldorado Dining Co., Hardwood Café, Taj Mahal, Jose Wong’s, Yen Ching, Eric’s Great Steaks, Redmondo’s, Smiling Moose and many others over the years.

Maybe sometime just for fun, I should make a list of all the restaurants that have been on the 700 block of Eldorado Road. I suspect that possibly 40 restaurants or more have called that block home.

From Larry's notebook

Chicken Salad Chick — The fourth location in Illinois is planned for Veterans Place at 506 IAA Drive, Bloomington. It was founded in Auburn, Alabama, when a stay-at-home mom began selling her chicken salad door-to-door and the local health department told her that she needed a permit, since selling food made at home was prohibited.

She devised a plan to open her own store in 2008 and now it is franchised with 205 restaurants in 17 states.

Scooter's Coffee — Scooter’s is a drive-thru and will be located at 1508-1510 N. Main St., across from Tobin’s Pizza on the former Shooting Star/Owen’s Nursery & Florist location. It was founded in 1998 by a husband and wife in Bellevue, Nebraska, and now is approaching 1,500 locations in 30 states.

Grand Café — Owner Jimmy Mapugay announced that the Grand Café on East Oakland Avenue in Bloomington will double in size when it expands into the vacant space to the south that formerly housed Hanson’s Cleaners. The new area will have a dining room with seating for about 100 and a full bar.

Lupita's Mexican-American Grocery Store — New owners have had the store for about a year and have made many changes that in my opinion significantly improved the store located in Market Square Shopping Center at 1512 W. Market St. They have greatly expanded their produce section and now twice a week use their own refrigerated truck to bring produce they personally select at an International produce market in Chicago. They said business is up at least 70%.

Jimmy John's — Bloomington resident Marc Largent is the local Jimmy John’s franchisee who now, at age 35, owns 35 Jimmy John’s franchises. He purchased the five B-N Jimmy John’s from Mary Strack in 2018, then in the last three years has added 30 more franchises in Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois.

• A Larry's favorite menu item — A 14-ounce charbroiled ribeye and salad bar on Saturday nights at the Longbranch Again in Cooksville. 

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 34,000 followers.


* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News