Brunched the other day at a delightful new eating spot in Bloomington — Egg Republic.

Delicious food, nice urban environ, a great addition to dining-out crazy Bloomington-Normal.

A diner at a nearby table was overheard to ask: “What did this place used to be?”

“No, no — before that?”

That spawned a bit of groping.

In B-N, as with many other cities, you don’t want to oversleep or go on an extended vacation, because it changes all too fast.

That is especially true of restaurants where you need a scorecard to keep track of what is, and what once was.

Or … wait a minute … a quiz!

Pencils out! Eyes on your own paper!

1. An Aspen Dental, at Clearwater and Veterans just east of Hy-Vee, is where not that long ago you instead put chips and tacos in your mouth, in a popular eatery there. Can you name it?

Divino, The Fishmarket

Bloomington’s Divino and The Fishmarket Bar & Grill opened in 1998 and 1999, respectively, and closed in 2001. The site, 400 N. Veterans Parkway, later became Valentino’s.

Karen Hansen

2. Over the past 30 years, already having been the eastside site of Phil’s, Divino, Tuxedo Junction, Valentino’s and the neighboring Fishmarket Bar & Grill, do you know what restaurant is there today?


In this file photo from July 2016, employee Therese Knapp lights candles in the dining room as Beningo’s restaurant prepares to open.

3. The changing scenes of B-N dining? Can you name the decade when Turn Of The Century, The Caboose, Barney’s, Sinorak, Bob Johnson’s Brandtville and Beningo’s were the big B-N mouth pleasers?

4. Today where there’s a Noodles & Co., Jersey Mike’s and Chipotle, across from State Farm’s corporate offices, were in the late 1970s and ‘80s what two marginal restaurants that nonetheless were standing-room-only nightspots to meet your next date or life mate? (Extra clue: Late great actor Patrick Swayze even danced there one night in October 1983 while in this area filming the movie “Grandview USA.”)

5. Of the major fast-food chains, one of these in B-N is said to be the largest one of its kind in all of America. Is it a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell or Burger King?

Flick: A ‘quiet, helping, wonderful’ endeavor

6. A Dollar Tree store is across from Illinois Wesleyan University. But decades ago, it was the locale of what pizzeria that since has moved but remains one of B-N’s favorite pizza haunts?

7. Today you can sit on a couch and chairs inside Fat Jacks in downtown Bloomington. But before that you used to able to instead buy couches and chairs in the furniture store that was there. Remember its name?

8. A marijuana dispensary is proposed for the Mandarin Garden building in Normal. But 35 years ago, when Mitsubishi Motors came to town, it was B-N’s first Japanese restaurant by what name?

9. Garden of Paradise along Empire is a fun breakfast place today. It used to be what?

10. The McLean County Health Department building at Front and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington — what popular restaurant was that back in the 1980s?

11. Jason’s Deli along the B-N beltline has great soups and sandwiches, but its predecessor was known for its great pies. What was it?

12. Today it’s Mystic Kitchen downtown and before that, A.Renee, and before that a popular nightclub called Far Shores. But what was it before even then? (Hint: Not a restaurant, it still has a prominent B-N presence.)

The first Steak ’n Shake

Gus Belt opened the first Steak ’n Shake at Main Street and Virginia Avenue in Normal (now home to Monical’s Pizza), after he added food to a Shell service station lineup of gasoline, tires and turtleburgers. The chain restaurant, which includes a sit-down dining room and drive-thru lanes, was founded in 1934 in the Twin Cities.

13. The Monical’s Pizza along South Main in Normal is site of the world’s first Steak ‘n Shake. But today what eateries are in what once were the No. 2 and 3 Steak ’n Shakes here?

14. Alexander’s Steakhouse in Normal? What was it before that?

15. OK, just what was Egg Republic even before it was Caffe Italia?

(1) It first was a Chi-Chi’s, then Ruby Tuesday; (2) Kobe, the Japanese steakhouse; (3) The 1970s; (4) First Smuggler’s Inn, then Bombay Bicycle Club; (5) the Dairy Queen Grill and Chill at Veterans and Eastland Drive is, according to the company, the largest such DQ in the U.S.; (6) The first Tobin’s was at 1108 N. Main, where Dollar Tree is. Tobin’s next place was 525 N. Main, later Country Nights, most recently, Six Strings; (7) Fat Jacks was once Loeb’s Furniture; (8) Kiku; (9) the Fifth Wheel; before that, Red Wheel; (10) Maxwells; (11) Baker’s Square; (12) Mystic Kitchen is where Jack Lewis Jewelry began; (13) Those would be Keller’s Iron Skillet on Hannah Street and Marco’s Pizza over on Clinton Street, both former and original Steak ‘n Shakes; (14) It was a Showtime Pizza Palace; (15) Wings Etc.

1 to 5 – Not bad. Trying to remember all the good eats in a town that LOVES dining out isn’t easy.

6 to 11 – Very good! You are a true B-N dining-out connoisseur.

12 to 15 – Wow! I made up the quiz and missed two.

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