Even In The Pandemic, Restaurants Offer New Flavors | WGLT

Even In The Pandemic, Restaurants Offer New Flavors

Oct 26, 2020

The pandemic limits dining out, but nine restaurants are under construction and more have just opened in the Twin Cities.

Larry Carius writes about the Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene on Facebook.

Carius said among the nine is Texas Roadhouse. Construction began in September. The Roadhouse will be between the former Toys "R" Us and the Olive Garden off Veterans Parkway in Bloomington. 

“Everybody’s waiting for this, of all the places in the last 15 years that I’ve heard people mention ... Texas Roadhouse has to be No. 1,” said Carius. 

Another restaurant that particularly excites Carius is a new pizza place called Original Pinsaria. He said it makes a Roman style of pizza with a higher water content than is typical in American pizza crust. Carius said Pinsaria has 90% water in the crust, and U.S. dough is about 60% water. 

“It’s crispy on the outside, soft on the inside ... pinsa is a version of the pizza in Rome,” said Carius.

The location is 211 N. Veterans Parkway.

If people tire of Italian pizza, Carius said another new restaurant will offer Hawaiian cuisine on Airport Road, between Ancho Agave and VisionPoint. It will feature two volleyball courts, a tavern and coffee shop, said Carius.

Also in the works is Shannon’s Cafe Downtown. Carius said Shannon Patterson is returning to downtown Bloomington and keeping her Shannon’s Five Star on Veterans. 

“She closed the Federal Cafe, after she opened the Five Star. Two restaurants (were) just too much for a mother and her young family. But she is returning to downtown in the former Scout’s location, which is just around the corner where the Federal Cafe used to be,” said Carius. 

In Uptown Normal, builders are busy on a brewpub that Carius said will open in February or March. He said the timeline has changed several times.

“It’s moving along at not a fast place, but that’s not an easy site to build a new building. This is in between two buildings, I was talking to the general contractor and he said, ‘It’s putting a big building on a small footprint,’” said Carius. 

Ryan Fiala, who owns DP Dough in Uptown, and his brother who owns DP Dough in Champaign, will own the brewpub.

Along with the nine restaurants under construction, seven restaurants have made it from a list of separate ingredients to a dish ready to serve on the menu of options for Twin City diners.

Carius said Five Guys opened in August in the parking lot in front of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Office Depot and Shoe Carnival in College Plaza. The building permit valuation was nearly $400,000, Carius said

Carius said locals are especially happy for Apolinar Sotelo, who sold his baked goods at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market for years. Sotelo has opened Espiguita de Oro, a panadería (Mexican bakery). 

“People know him. When Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene announced he was going to open his own restaurant, it was an amazing reaction,” said Carius. “Everyone is happy Apolinar is doing his own bakery.” 

Over on the west side of Bloomington, at 1107 W. Locust St., 1107 West Bar & Grill opened in September under General Manager Tommy Hubbard. 

“It is just a complete remodel. When people walk inside this place they’re going to look round...just a complete change. I think it is really nice we had something like this open on the west side,” said Carius.

Hubbard owns the building where 1107 is located and he was the original owner of Copper Top Lounge, opening it in 1981, then selling it in 2001. 

On South Main Street, Gracie’s Taco and Wings opened in April and Carius said Gracie has cooked and managed at several Bloomington-Normal restaurants, but has always wanted to have her own restaurant.

“They call their wings fried-hard wings, they are more crispy than the usual wings,” said Carius. “Some people are not going to care for their wings, but I personally like their crispy, fried-hard wings.” 

Another full-service, Mexican restaurant that opened in July is La Margaritas that has a very colorful theme. Owner Arturo Reyes said margaritas are the house specialty. La Margaritas is located at 3805 Ballybunion Rd, off Ireland Grove Road in southeast Bloomington. 

Reyes and co-owner Julio Pural completely refreshed the former El Toro Mexican restaurant, said Carius. Pural, who also has worked with and been trained by a professional chef, will be the executive chef, and he enjoys experimenting with recipes and dishes. 

Carius’s Facebook page, the Bloomington Normal Restaurant Scene, has more than 24,000 followers.

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