Cassandra Staley and her brother, Paul Staley, have talked about going into the bar business for years, but the right opportunity didn’t come along until this summer.
That’s when they renovated an historic brick building on Centreville Avenue and opened it as the Corner Chill and Grill.
“I was a union laborer,” said Cassandra, 43, of Fairview Heights. “I still am. I took a year break.”
On a recent afternoon, Cassandra was bartending and chatting with regulars Rosanne and Bob Keck. Rosanne has been patronizing the bar for nearly four decades, when it was called Bernie and Gene’s, The Oldtimer and Snowden’s. At one point, Rosanne was president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union local, and she held meetings upstairs.
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The Kecks like the new place, which has been extensively renovated.
“I think it’s great,” said Rosanne, 65, of Belleville. “The food’s good. The prices are good. The service is good. We’ve been coming here on Fridays every since it opened up, and we have no complaints.”
Rosanne enjoys the loaded baked potatoes, Philly cheese steak sandwich, fried pickles and fried cauliflower dipped in cheese and bread crumbs.
“And the beer is cold,” said Bob, 62. “That’s the best part.”
Another regular is David “Bubba” Miller, 54, of Belleville, who usually gets a chicken breast sandwich. David likes the friendly, neighborhood feel of the restaurant and bar, which has an electronic dart board, jukebox and popcorn machine.
“They’ve torn down all the old taverns,” he said. “There used to be one on every other block on West Main Street. My dad used to be a pool hustler way back when.”
The Corner Chill and Grill opened Aug. 27. Cassandra hadn’t worked in food service since the mid-1990s, when she managed Maggoo’s Fine Dining in National City.
Cassandra and Paul tuck-pointed the building on Centreville Avenue, painted it burgundy, built a deck and re-asphalted the parking lot.
Inside, they left exposed brick walls and tall ceilings with open wood beams, but renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, installed new windows and doors and bought six flat-screen TV sets and a 100-inch projection screen for sports.
“The stairwell to the basement has a barrel roller,” Cassandra said. “That’s what they used in the old days to get the barrels of beer down there.”
The restaurant serves hand-pattied burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, salads and homemade chili every day. Daily specials include Meatloaf Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wing Wednesdays, Corner Burger Thursdays, Fish Fridays and All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Sundays.
“Everything we make is homemade, and that includes the ranch, peanut-butter, garlic-parmesan and sweet-and-spicy sauces for the wings,” Cassandra said.
The most popular item on the menu is the Wainwright, patterned off burgers at the old Wainwright Restaurant in Belleville. “Just like John and Alice used to make!” the description reads.
“It’s a cheeseburger topped with grilled onions and pickles on a grilled bun,” said server April Staley, 34, of Alton, Cassandra and Paul’s sister. “It’s very good.”
Everything we make is homemade, and that includes the ranch, peanut-butter, garlic-parmesan and sweet-and-spicy sauces for the wings.
Cassandra Staley on food preparation
Cassandra manages the Corner Chill and Grill, while Paul, 46, helps out evenings and weekends. He also owns a trucking company.
Uncle William Stell washes dishes. Aunt Kim Stell does food prep, and Aunt Penny Stell helps with paperwork.
“This is a family oriented place,” Cassandra said. “We get the older crowd. We get police officers and lawyers and construction workers. We have a lot of repeat business.”
At a glance
What: Corner Chill and Grill
Where: 341 Centreville Ave. in Belleville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 1 a.m. Sundays
Seating: 70 inside and another 20 on the deck
Information: Call 618-416-8603 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
Wainwright Burger — Quarter-pound, hand-pattied ground beef cooked on the “flat top” and topped with American cheese, grilled onions and pickle, served with fries, $5.95
Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich — Thinly sliced sirloin beef, grilled onions, peppers and cheese on a hoagie, served with fries, $7.95
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato — Bacon, lettuce and tomato on Texas toast, served with fries, $4.45
Buffalo Chicken Spud — Giant baked potato with buffalo chicken and cheese, served with ranch dressing, $6.95