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Carius: B-N restaurant scene surprisingly healthy in 2021

Restaurant food and packaged foods are often high in salt to make them more palatable. The FDA wants to see the food industry gradually reduce sodium levels in these foods.
Eric Savage
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Several pizza places were among the 20 new restaurants that opened in 2021 in the Twin Cities, according to Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene maven Larry Carius.

An Illinois Restaurant Association survey shows severe stresses on that industry in 2021 could force a lot of eateries to shut their doors, but that does not match the picture in Bloomington-Normal.

Last year "overall was a good year for restaurants. I'm really surprised because restaurants had so many problems last year, especially with the lack of help, and with rising food costs," said Larry Carius, who writes about the Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene on Facebook.

Carius said twice as many Twin City restaurants opened as closed last year, and the number is not far off from a non-pandemic year.

"Twenty opening is almost two per month if you think about it. And that's a lot of restaurants opening," said Carius, adding about 10 restaurants closed in the Bloomington-Normal area in 2021.

So far this year, Carius said several new restaurants have opened: Shannon's in the former Kelly's Bakery site in downtown Bloomington; Chi Family Express in east Bloomington; and The Local Tap in a refurbished Dairy Queen in El Paso.

Tony's Tacos will relocate from its Front Street location in downtown Bloomington to the east side, in the former Carmella's restaurant off Washington Street, said Carius, who's still waiting for Dunkin' to open in the former Fazzoli's in Normal and the relocated Cold Stone Creamery to open next to Five Guys Burgers in Bloomington. Those projects have been delayed by several things, including difficulty in getting parts for new floor drains — an example of global supply chain challenges, Carius said.

"But they are underway now," he said during a Sound Ideas interview.

Carius gave a nod to Ivy Lane Bakery for punching above its weight class. He said the downtown Bloomington business owned by Susan Goekner filled an order for 7,000 cookies for Rivian. That's seven times its previous record, and required staff adjustments and the loan of a cargo van to deliver the goodies for an employee and family day at the auto plant. Goekner thanked Rivian for using local vendors, said Carius.

And Carius gave a tip of the hat for unusual longevity in a grueling business to Mike Svob, who recently retired after 36 years at Schooner's in Bloomington — 27 as general manager, said Carius. Svob was asked to fill in as a temporary bartender for two weeks and never left. Before that, he was a general manager at Red Lion for four years, Carius said.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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