BND Magazine

August 24, 2014

Route 157 Diner: At the crossroads of Asian and American

A new restaurant in Collinsville reflects the multicultural background of co-owner Lum Clayton.

He emigrated to the United States from Vietnam in the early '70s.

The Route 157 Diner serves both American and Asian dishes.

"Most of the Asian recipes are my mother's," said Lum, 48, of Hillsboro.

He was speaking of Mai Clayton, who married a U.S. serviceman, moved to his hometown of Hillsboro and operated Mai's Oriental Restaurant for 15 years.

Asian dishes at Route 157 Diner range from Sweet and Sour Shrimp to Mongolian Beef, Pork Fried Rice to Chicken Chow Mein.

"The Egg Rolls and Crab Rangoon are handmade," Lum said. "They were my mom's specialty."

The restaurant also serves American appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and homemade pies and desserts.

Entrees range from Pork Chops to Country Fried Steak, Open Faced Roast Beef to Chicken Livers and Gizzards, as well as fish and steaks.

"Everything's good," said waitress Tekla Lohman, 20, of Hillsboro.

Lum has a varied past, serving in the U.S. Navy, working for the Department of Corrections, shearing sheep and shoeing horses, in addition to the restaurant business.

He opened Route 157 Diner about a month ago with his friend, Todd Lohman, Tekla's father; and her brother, Cody Lohman.

"It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing," Lum said.

He also owns the Whistle Stop Diner in Morrisonville and co-owns the Cozy Cafe in Hillsboro. Staff includes daughters Erica, 21, and Alexis, 16.

The Collinsville location has housed a variety of restaurants and bars since opening as a Rax.

"This place has kind of a black eye," Lum said. "It was a bar, kind of a rough bar. That's what the locals tell us. We're trying to make it into more of a family cafe."

Lum and the Lohmans renovated the building, keeping the curved atrium windows along the front.

They used landscaping blocks to build a base for a 125-gallon aquarium with blood parrot cichlids in it.

"I've always had fish tanks in my restaurants," Lum said. "People like to look at them. Kids like to watch the fish."

The owners have applied for a liquor license and expect to begin serving drinks soon.

On a recent afternoon, customers included Kenny Clayton, Lum's brother, who was on his way back from a vacation in Branson, Mo., with son Tanner, 10, and step-daughter Taylor Compton, 18.

They weren't too hungry so they shared an order of their favorite dish, Shrimp Lo Mein.

"It's close to what my mom used to make," said Kenny, 44, of Hillsboro.

At a glance

What: Route 157 Diner

Where: 115 N. Bluff Road in Collinsville

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Seating: 135 people

Handicap-accessible: Yes

Carryouts: Yes

Information: Call 618-344-3225

On the menu

Egg Rolls -- $1.50 each or six for $6.50

Unlimited Salad Bar -- $6.50

Fried Chicken Sandwich -- $6.50 with one side and salad bar

Horse Shoe -- $8.50 with hand-pattied burger, one side and salad bar

Pork Steak -- $12 (barbecued or grilled) with two sides, salad bar and bread

Fried Rice -- $8.50 large or $5.50 small with shrimp, beef, chicken or pork

Homemade Pie -- $3.50 slice with choice of nine varieties

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