Do you remember a special restaurant in Bloomington that no longer exists?
Take a trip down memory lane by visiting Order Up! from the Monroe County History Center! exhibit featuring over 30 Bloomington-area restaurants of yesteryear. But don’t wait, the showcase is open until November 5th.
From Howe’s Café, which opened in 1901 at 121 N. College Ave., Ladyman’s Café and Boxman’s Restaurant, the exhibit features photos, menus and recipes for people to view and take home.
The exhibit was popular, according to curator Hilary Fleck, but not all-inclusive. “We couldn’t include them all this time,” she recently told an audience of about 90 people having lunch at the American Legion Post 18. The history center is already planning another exhibit. older restaurants more popular in 2025.
Remembering the village inn
As Steven Day sat at a table to listen, he recalled his time at the Village Inn in Ellettsville. Although it’s in a different location now, Day said he had breakfast there before coming to the Order Up! talk.
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“I started out as a dishwasher,” he said. It was in 1976, when he was 16 years old. He worked in the evenings after school.
“In 1979, I started frying chicken,” he continued. “Everyone who worked there at that time was like family.”
This included Day’s grandmother, Ida Day, who baked the pies. She started working at the Village Inn for Wayne and Betty Cooper. When her grandson started working, Ina Lentz was the owner. Day was treated like family, being allowed to spend nights in the upstairs flat and eat the food since he was “sort of homeless”.
Day worked at the restaurant until 1985. He recalled the all-you-can-eat Thursday chicken special. He remembered how it was dipped in batter, rolled in flour and spices, and plunged into one of two long cast-iron pans filled with hot oil.
“We had people lined up outside around the building waiting for a seat,” Day recalled. “We had the upstairs dining room full and the downstairs banquet room full.”
Day also worked for about three years at the East Fork Restaurant, which was included in the exhibit, and at the MCL Cafeteria, which was not.
Memories of Pancho’s Villa
Liza Pavelich smiled when people started talking about Pancho’s Villa, the restaurant that her father, Danny Pavelich, owned and operated from 1967 to 1987. Danny was originally from the east end of Chicago, a place full of people from different cultures. When he came to Bloomington, he started making tacos for his roommates who had never eaten Mexican food. This led him to drop out of college and open a restaurant.
Liza, born in 1972, grew up with her father who ran one of the first Mexican restaurants in Bloomington. “Everyone knew my father and everyone loved Pancho’s,” she recalls. “People still, when they find out who I am, they talk about my dad.”
If Danny Pavelich were alive today, Liza thinks he would be part of the local food truck community, finding new ways to deliver food and a little joy to everyone he meets.
Home cooks can bring back some of those flavors with Liza’s cookbook on the Remembering Pancho’s Villa – Bloomington, IN Facebook page.
The exhibition is ending soon
Order! Restaurants in Monroe County will close Nov. 5. Hours of operation for the center, at 202 E. Sixth St., are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children 6-17, and free for children 5 and under.
Some of the restaurants included: Howe’s Café (opened 1901); Coyle’s Café (opened 1909); Graham Hotel; Ladyman’s Cafe; Bender’s Cafe; Boxman’s Restaurant; Dewdrop Inn; the village inn; May coffee; the Penguin, now Chocolate Moose; Bruce’s Cafe; Nick’s English cabin; Cafe Pizzeria; The gables; the Grove Restaurant; BG Pollard Lodge and “The Hole”; Tao Restaurant; Rudy’s Bakery and Deli; Taylor Coffee Mug; The Inn by the Fireside; The Jordan Grill; Ryan’s cafe; The shelter ; East Fork Restaurant; and Stardust Cafe.
Do you have a favorite restaurant from the past that should be considered for the 2025 Expo? Email Hilary Fleck at [email protected] or call 812-332-2517.
Contact Carol Kugler at [email protected], 812-331-4359 or @ckugler on Twitter.