Let’s take a quick look at the many places to eat in McLean County outside of Bloomington-Normal.

I am always ready for a good ribeye steak, and steak nights at The Longbranch Again in Cooksville and The Town Well in Stanford certainly are fun. The Longbranch Again has a weekly steak/rib night every Saturday. The Town Well has two steak nights a month — the second and fourth Thursday. Be sure to try the twice-baked potato at The Town Well.



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Two venerable beer and burger places are Kicks Bar & Grill, on the edge of Towanda, and the Merna Tap in Merna. Kicks has become a popular stop for Route 66 travelers and some call Merna Tap “a Great American Roadhouse.” The Merna Tap opened circa 1925.

This is Fred “Fats” Underwood’s 43rd year owning/operating Fat Albert’s and serving the Fat Burger, which certainly makes him the dean of the three restaurants on U.S. 24 in Gridley. 

Scott Hamilton, owner of The Vault Bar & Grill in Danvers, has meticulously retained many of the historical features of the building, built in 1911 for a bank that later did not survive the Depression. 

Bumpers Pub and Play in downtown Colfax is one of the unique restaurants in Central Illinois. Owner Jim Fitzpatrick kept and refurbished four of the eight lanes of the Colfax Lanes bowling alley and replaced the other four lanes with a bar and grill. 

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Kemp’s Upper Tap, Lexington Social, The Shake Shack and Uncle Vait’s Route 66 are popular destination restaurants on Main Street in Lexington.

Veteran restaurateurs Tom and Elaine Kapotus have been operating the Dixie Truck Stop restaurant since 2010. Many may remember Tom and Elaine from when they owned Bloomington Square and later the Woody’s in LeRoy, El Paso and Minonk.

The three restaurants in downtown Downs are in historical buildings and Gameday Grill recently opened across Interstate 74.

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LeRoy, the third largest municipality in McLean County, has the most restaurants (10) outside of Bloomington and Normal. I enjoy stopping by Millie’s Grill & Chill and picking up a Maddie Melt ribeye sandwich, special ordered with pepper jack cheese.

Two of the three popular Heyworth restaurants underwent major remodels before opening under new owners.

The locally owned Chenoa Family Restaurant opened in 2013 and was an investment of approximately $900,000. 

Carlock, Saybrook and Bellflower also have restaurants. I don’t believe any place in Hudson is serving food at this time, except for Casey’s.

Why did I zero in on McLean County restaurants? I retired from the McLean County Health Department and am much more familiar with most of the restaurants and the towns in McLean County than outside of McLean County.

From Larry’s notebook:

Firehouse Pizza drive-thru and delivery: The third Firehouse Pizza in Bloomington-Normal has opened in the former Teresa’s Italian Ice location at 1525 Fort Jesse Road. The owner calls it the “World’s Smallest Free Standing Pizza Place.”

The Chanticleer: The owners have closed the successful restaurant in Eureka and have it for sale. This was a Larry and Kay favorite.

Arby’s: The franchisee decided not to renew the lease and closed the restaurant at 610 W. Raab Road after 20 years. 

La Patrona taco trailer: The father/daughter owners recently moved it from West Market Street to 1012 S. Main St., Bloomington.  

A Larry favorite menu item: The chorizo taco salad (shredded lettuce) at Gracie’s Tacos & Wings, 1414 S. Main St., Bloomington.

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 28,000 followers.