Fifty years! Yes, 50 years for the Ozark House restaurant this month!
Kudos to owners Larry and Connie Weaver, who own/manage the successful dinner restaurant at 704 McGregor St. in Bloomington, known for its hickory-smoked baby back ribs, hand-cut steaks, seafood, fried chicken, and prime rib every Friday and Saturday nights. .
Larry told me during a recent interview that his father had always wanted to serve ribs, so his parents, Ike and Marguerite Weaver, opened the Ozark House at 506 Regency Drive on November 3, 1972, which he said was one of the first Bloomington – Normal restaurants to serve ribs. The Ozark House was moved to its current address after State Farm made an offer in 1988 to purchase the Regency Drive property.
Ike and Marguerite had owned/managed the Ranch House restaurant on McGregor Street before selling it to open Ozark House in Regency, so it was like coming home.
Larry, who grew up in the family restaurant business, said he and his brother Jay took over the restaurant shortly after moving to McGregor Street. Larry and Connie have had it since 1998.
Larry and Connie were married in May 1975, and Connie, who had worked part-time at the restaurant, started full-time in September. One of Larry’s favorite lines is that he “saved her from State Farm,” where she worked when they got married.
According to Connie, her mother-in-law was in charge of the kitchen at the Ozark House, so when she joined the family and began working at the restaurant full-time, Marguerite taught her how to cook and run the kitchen. Larry still smokes the ribs for 6 to 8 hours and cuts the steaks by hand.
The restaurant opens at 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday.
Again, kudos to Larry and Connie!
From Larry’s Notebook
• The cabin of love Aaron Francis, owner of the successful Pop Up Chicken Shop, recently opened The Love Shack in Ephesus’ former Turkish Mediterranean restaurant at 1406 E. Empire St. He describes The Love Shack as a shop that serves “elevated, nostalgic burgers,” and his The plan is to have similar success with the burgers as it has with the Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches at Pop Up.
• Craves hot dogs and barbecue — The first Crave in Illinois recently opened at 2401 E. Oakland Ave. Only air fryers are used, no cooking oils or deep fryers, and the beer pour wall has 24 taps. Crave is a small, fast growing chain based in upstate New York.
• Cookies by Design/Mary’s Cakes — Maria Alvarez recently acquired and reopened the Cookies By Design franchise in Normal. She also moved her part-time business, Maria’s Cakes, to the Cookies By Design location. Maria makes custom cakes and she told me that she is known locally for making quinceanera cakes.
• Main Street Scoop — Owners Janet and Brett Mariani recently permanently closed the very nice ice cream shop on North Main Street in downtown Bloomington. Their Facebook ad said they were retiring to spend more time with their family.
• Gracie’s Tacos and Wings — Owner Gracie Kelley recently closed the restaurant on South Main Street in Bloomington. She said on Facebook that she was understaffed and some days she worked alone. Word on the street is that the old Gracie’s won’t be vacant for long. Gracie’s was one of my favorite take-out restaurants.
• Underground Cafe — The non-traditional subway at Uptown Station has closed permanently. Since it was located in a train and bus station, my records show it was a newer concept for Subway when it launched about 10 years ago with the first “Metro Décor Package” in Illinois and the third in the United States. It had lounge type seating and was open longer hours including breakfast with additional menu items not found in a conventional Subway.
• Green gables – Owners Amy and Kyle Tague have announced they will rebuild the iconic Green Gables restaurant that was destroyed by fire in May. Plans are being drawn up, but they don’t expect construction to start until next spring. Amy is the third generation owner of Green Gables.
A favorite menu item of Larry’s: The seared salmon salad at Biaggi’s.
Carius, of Bloomington, was a food plan and program review supervisor for the McLean County Health Department. Her Facebook blog, Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene, has 36,000 followers.