Food & Drink

Our restaurant scene changed a lot in 2018. Here are notable openings and closings.

2018 Metro-East restaurant openings and closings

Some notable 2018 openings and closings of restaurants in Southern Illinois.
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Some notable 2018 openings and closings of restaurants in Southern Illinois.

Still trying to wrap your head around all of the restaurant openings and closings in the metro-east this year? The food scene in the metro-east lost almost as many restaurants as it gained.

From highly anticipated openings to surprising closures, here’s a list of notable restaurant changes this year:

Closings in 2018

The Sandwich Shop

After more than 40 years in downtown Collinsville, The Sandwich Shop on West Main Street closed in March. The Collinsville restaurant had been at 216 W. Main since 1974, when Judy Johnson and her then-husband bought the place and changed it from a shoe store to a restaurant. Johnson was ready to retire, and announced plans to sell at the end of 2016.

IHOP in Belleville

After 45 years of serving short stacks in Belleville, the IHOP location on Carlyle Avenue permanently closed in August. A sign taped on the door confirmed the closure. “Attention to all our valued customers, we are sorry for the inconvenience, as of Aug. 29, 2018, we are going out of business,” the sign stated. “Thank you, management.”

Arbor Room at Bel-Air Bowl

After 58 years in Belleville, the Arbor Room at Bel-Air Bowl closed in May. The bowling center opened as Panorama in 1960 with the Arbor as its bar. More than 30 years ago, the Arbor Room was a disco in the 1980s. Before that, it was one of the first places in the metro-east where the lunch crowd could find a soup and salad bar.

Rachel’s Garden

It started as a floral shop with gifts on the west end of town, then their business bloomed into one of the best places to have lunch in St. Clair County. After 30 years of doing business in Belleville, Gladys Boisseau and her family closed their restaurant and gift shop, Rachel’s Garden, last spring. Boisseau owned and operated the restaurant along with her husband, Don, daughter Pattie Walton and son-in-law Larry. The restaurant permanently closed April 28.


After 24 years in Fairview Heights, Houlihan’s closed its doors in July and reopened with a new name and concept — TBD Bar + Social. Houlihan’s opened in 1994 as a casual dining restaurant at 15 Ludwig Drive.

Cozy Diner

Tax trouble forced this Belleville restaurant closed last summer. When Cozy Diner opened last spring, Sandra Vargas Bravo and her husband, Jesus, had long-term plans for their new restaurant. They wanted to add a buffet, put up a new exterior sign and focus on their food. Getting their business license revoked wasn’t on their list.

Coal Miners

The craft barbecue scene in the metro-east lost a destination when Coal Miners in Glen Carbon closed in the fall. In a Facebook post , the Madison County restaurant announced plans to close Sept. 8, less than a year after opening. “To our staff - We couldn’t have done this without you (and) are forever grateful to you for being a part of this journey,” a statement on Facebook said. “We are very thankful for all of the support we have gotten from all of our loyal customers and are excited to announce that big things are still to come!”

Fifth Quarter

A year after reopening under new ownership, this Uptown Collinsville pub and grill suddenly closed its doors last summer. Fifth Quarter, located at 118 E. Main St., closed sometime in June, the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce confirmed.

Openings in 2018

Belleville Pancake House

Chinese restaurants long occupied the red and green building at 3605 North Belt West. Now it’s filling a breakfast void left since the closing of Belleville’s IHOP. Belleville Pancake House opened in December with breakfast, lunch and dinner on the menu. The new restaurant moved into the former home of the Cozy Diner, House of Chiu and, long before that, Hsia’s Garden.

Sugarfire 64

The nationally recognized St. Louis barbecue operation opened in April. The 3,800-square-foot restaurant is located at 1405 Green Mount Road on the north parking lot of the Green Mount Professional Building, known as the Blade Building.

“Sugarfire is an award-winning restaurant known for its succulent brisket, pulled pork and ribs, as well as its signature sandwiches and sides that shine light on (partner Mike) Johnson’s dynamic capacity,” Brown said. “With six locations (and counting), Sugarfire has consistently been ranked best barbecue in St. Louis, and Johnson continues to establish himself as culinary master and renowned competitor.”

Casa Maria

Casa Maria in Downtown Belleville recently opened a second location at Scott Air Force Base. Located at 817 Seibert Road, Casa Maria Express offers burritos, enchiladas, puffy chicken tacos and more. Owner Daniel Gonzalez opened the restaurant’s first location three years ago at 100 N. High Street in Belleville. The new express location is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The express location is closed Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 618-416-2151.

Rio Grande

One of the newest restaurants in the metro-east has quickly become a popular place to go for authentic Mexican dishes, desserts and margaritas. Rafael Onale and his partners recently opened Rio Grande in Fairview Heights in the former home of Applebee’s Bar and Grill near the Marcus St. Clair Cine. The restaurant, located at 47 Ludwig Drive, serves lunch and dinner seven days a week.


After years of construction and multiple delays, the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery in Belleville quietly opened its doors to the public in March. This location is the eighth Hofbräuhaus in the country, and the Belleville location, located at 123 St. Eugene Dr., is the largest one in the United States with room to host 1,100 people at a time between the beer hall, private room and outdoor beer garden, according to the Hofbräuhaus.

Copper Fire

After a massive renovation of an historic downtown Belleville building, the Eichholz family opened the Copper Fire Bar and Eatery. Located at 200 E. Main St., burgers; beef brisket with au jus; beef Wellington; “drunken,” or brined, chicken; lobster Rangoons; BBQ shrimp and sausage and chili have been some of the popular menu items ordered by Copper Fire customers.

The Dog House

After a nearly four-year hiatus from running restaurants in Belleville, Gary Raymond is jumping back into business. The Dog House is Raymond’s latest venture and will feature ballpark franks, sandwiches, salads and pies. It’s located in the former Nanny Lou’s Kitchen at 1926 W. Main St. near Lindenwood University-Belleville.

Bennie’s Pizza Pub

Bennie’s Pizza Pub took over the space where the Righteous Pig barbecue restaurant was located, at 124 E. Main St., before it closed in November 2017. Owner Bennie Parr Jr. joined the downtown Belleville scene by opening the pub, which features pizza by the slice, salads and a bar. New ovens in the pub cook pizzas in just over four minutes at about 550 degrees.

TBD Bar and Social

Having a hard time letting go of Houlihan’s? It’s understandable. The franchise wooed the metro-east with dinner and drinks for 24 years, then it suddenly asked for a break only to re-emerge as a trendier and noticeably brighter version of itself. TBD Bar and Social, 15 Ludwig Drive, is a lot to take in at first glance, but the new Fairview Heights hangout wants locals to give it a try. The bar features free games, themed nights and more.


Two years after EdgeWild was named one of the best winery restaurants in the country, the restaurant opened its third location inside of the former home of the Bull & Bear Grill & Bar in Edwardsville. Bull & Bear closed in April after 10 years in Edwardsville. Before that, the restaurant was known as Krieger’s Bar and Grill. EdgeWild’s owner, Andy Kohn, took over the operation before Bull & Bear closed at 1071 S. State Rte. 157. His team has reimagined the inside of the restaurant and has expanded the patio features a fire pit.

Coffee with Christ

After nearly 20 years of teaching elementary school in the metro-east, Belleville native Melissa Schwalenberg is taking a long coffee break to give back to local kids and adults in a different way. The mother of five opened Coffee with Christ, a new cafe and meeting place, at 6 Wade Square in Belleville. At first glance, the shop looks like a typical coffeehouse, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find Schwalenberg’s ways of giving back sprinkled throughout the cafe.

Coffee Mill Cafe

Warming up on a chilly day won’t be hard to do in Millstadt this winter now that Coffee Mill Cafe has opened in the heart of town. The quaint coffee shop, located at 115 E. Washington St., opened earlier this year with specialty coffee, tea, doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches on the menu. Biscuits covered with gravy and waffles are coming soon, owner Jeff Voyles said.

Valle Express Taco

Flipping an old Swansea gas station into a modern taco stand isn’t easy. But Michael Cruz and Ken Lavender are determined give the metro-east a new place to go for Tex-Mex this winter. Valle Taco Express, located at 1341 N. Illinois St., has opened. The duo is waiting for a green light from the village before a grand opening. Their Tex-Mex menu features classic favorites with a twist.

BND Reporter Mike Koziatek contributed to this report.