Metro-East Living

Torch passes to Fischer daughters at iconic Belleville restaurant

Fisher’s Restaurant in Belleville is operated by, left to right, co-owners and sisters Annette Allan and Kathy Bingheim, and general manager Corea Buck.
Fisher’s Restaurant in Belleville is operated by, left to right, co-owners and sisters Annette Allan and Kathy Bingheim, and general manager Corea Buck. snagy@bnd.com

Fischer’s Restaurant in Belleville is a holiday hotspot because of its festive decorations, traditional menu, full bar and nine party rooms.

It’s also open on Christmas Day, when just about every other restaurant is closed.

“It’s quieter and calmer (than Thanksgiving),” said co-owner Annette Allan, 54. “And it’s really personable because it’s mostly families and mostly people from Belleville. We know everyone.”

All employees share the work load, signing up to work either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It’s just part of the job.

“I always take off on Christmas Eve, and I work Christmas, and I love it,” said party coordinator Brandi Snyder, an employee for 23 years. “This place and the people who work here are like my family, and so are the customers.”

You hear the word “family” a lot at Fischer’s. It’s the go-to restaurant for many families celebrating special occasions or just getting out of the house for a relaxing meal.

The business is also family-owned, with roots going back to Annette’s grandfather, Ardell Fischer, who opened an ice cream shop down the street with his wife, Inez, in 1935.

Okaw Dairy Shop was serving plates lunches and other food by the time it moved to its second location. Ardell bought the third and current location at 2100 W. Main St. in 1941 and operated a drive-in.

“The Dutch Girl, as it was called, did a great business serving sandwiches and all types of ice cream and soda,” according to a menu history.

Over the years, additions made room for a nicer sit-down restaurant, a WIBV radio station, miniature golf course, A&W Root Beer stand and hotel, which recently was converted into Lindenwood University student housing.

Annette runs the iconic restaurant with her sister, Kathy Bingheim, and general manager Corea Buck, who is like family. She joined the staff nearly 25 years ago.

“We used to be more fine dining,” she said. “We used to do table-side cherries jubilee and Chateaubriand, but young people aren’t interested in that. Now it’s fine casual dining and family-oriented. We still have linen on the tables.”

Fischer’s is perhaps best known for its fried chicken, prime rib and pizza, but it also serves appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, seafood, steaks and chops.

The Fischerburger is a customer favorite with its one-third-pound, ground beef patty topped with bacon, cheese and grilled onions.

“I just think of it as a nice family restaurant,” Brandi said. “I wish more people realized that you don’t need to dress up to come here. It might have been fine dining with a dress code back in the day, but it’s not anymore.”

Fischer’s has an in-house bakery, overseen by Kathy’s daughter, Jamie Dominique. Kathy’s son, Bryan Bingheim, is a chef. Annette’s daughter, Meagen Holtman, helps out when not caring for her triplets.

This will be the first Christmas without Ken Fischer, Ardell’s son, who died in January at 84.

“He was sick for a long time, so he wasn’t always around,” daughter Annette said. “But he’d make an appearance (and greet customers by name), even if he was on his scooter.”

During the holiday season, Fischer’s is filled with bright-red poinsettias, giant wreaths and greenery with gold and red ornaments and white twinkle lights.

On a recent weekday, customer Robin Ross was having an early lunch with her father, Tom Bagley, and daughter, Shelby Ross.

“I’ve been coming here for 26 years, and the food has maintained the same standards,” said Robin, 58, of O’Fallon, formerly of Belleville.

“They have excellent salads, especially the Fischer’s salad. I like the French dip. The soups are usually good. I’ve ordered the pizzas before, and they’re good.”

The restaurant’s nine party rooms can accommodate 10 to 1,000. They’re rented for everything from wedding receptions to baby showers, seminars to wakes.

“One time, we served about 2,500 people at a recognition dinner for Francis Touchette (Democratic political leader),” said Kathy, 62. “The whole restaurant was for him. We had tables inside, outside, everywhere.”

Fischer’s is throwing a New Year’s Eve party from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dec. 31 with music by the Jorrells and a midnight buffet. The cost is $45 in advance; $50 at the door.

Christmas Day hours are noon to 5 p.m. Customers will eat off a buffet with six meats, sides, a salad bar and dessert station. The cost is $23.95 for adults and $13.95 for children (3 and under free).

“There are a lot of people who don’t have big families, and they don’t cook,” Annette said. “Everybody who comes in the door thanks us for being open on Christmas.”

At a glance

  • What: Fischer’s Restaurant
  • Where: 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
  • Christmas Day hours: Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Seating: About 150 in main dining rooms
  • Party rooms: Nine of them can accommodate 10 to 1,000 people
  • Handicap-accessible: Yes
  • Carry-outs: Yes
  • Information: Call 618-233-1131, visit www.fischersrestaurant.com or email fischersrestaurant@hotmail.com

On the menu

  • Fischerburger — One-third-pound, ground-beef patty topped with cheese, bacon and grilled onions, $6.99 with one side
  • Baked Whitefish — Baked, boneless Icelandic cod topped with spiced crumbs, $14.99 with dinner salad or cup of soup and one side
  • Rarebit — Turkey sandwich topped with rarebit sauce, bacon and tomato then broiled, $7.49 with one side
  • Chicken Inez — Lightly-breaded boneless chicken breast topped with broccoli and basil cream sauce, $14.99 with dinner salad or cup of soup and one side
  • Fischer Salad — Romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, almonds and cheese, tossed in creamy Italian dressing, $8.49 for full or $6.49 for half
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