Metro-East Living

Fischer’s Restaurant will be missed by many

Fischer’s Restaurant is no longer a staple of midtown Belleville.

The Belleville landmark closed Feb. 15. Change is inevitable. We move forward, like it or not.

Fischer’s hosted congressmen, actors, astronauts, military brass, U.S. senators, mayors and bank presidents. It was a city landmark where everyone felt comfortable, whether you were eating fried chicken in the restaurant, having a drink at the bar, or attending a shower or reception party in a backroom.

I wonder how many important photos retired News-Democrat photographer Bill DeMestri took at Fischer’s over the years?

Growing up, going to dinner at Fischer’s was a rare treat. The Mackins of East St. Louis were more of a Reidel’s or Howard Johnson’s family. A bucket of chicken was like a pot of gold.

Through our eyes, Fischer’s was one of the local fancy restaurants, along with Augustine’s on Centerville Avenue in Belleville, The Hitching Post on West Main Street, Santanello’s at the bottom of the Edgemont Hill, or The Stop Light in East St. Louis, near the old Assumption High School.

Going to Fischer’s for dinner? We had to wash our face and hands. Comb our hair. Splash some of Dad’s Vitalis on the red curls. Wear dark socks and a clean shirt.

“Show some manners,” Mom warned. That meant no stabbing one another in the hands with a fork, fighting over bread or butter, or burping out loud.

Going to Fischer’s for dinner? We had to wash our face and hands. Comb our hair. Splash some of Dad’s Vitalis on the red curls. Wear dark socks and a clean shirt.

Terry Mackin, BND columnist

I’m not sure what the future holds for the old restaurant or site. There is a public auction scheduled for March 2.

I took Fischer’s for granted.

Just figured it’d always be there.

I’ve attended many events at Fisher’s. Weddings. New Year’s Eve dances. Charity fundraisers. Civic meetings. Jimmy Buffet-theme parties in the parking lot. I realize that list can be duplicated by just about every other person of my generation who grew up and lived in the greater Belleville area.

Fischer’s wasn’t always my first choice for dinner. There were always newer, more hip restaurants. But I never left Fischer’s disappointed, either. Food was always good. Drinks cold. Service friendly. It was a classy, comfortable restaurant, in a Belleville way.

It was hard to beat the pizza, fried chicken or prime rib at Fischer’s.

As a kid and adult, I always got busted for taking a handful of the tasty mints that sat on the main hostess podium in the entrance of the restaurant. No willpower.

If there was a big event at Althoff Catholic High School in the mid-1970s, it was held at Fischer’s Restaurant. It’s where our sports awards banquets were always held. Where I heard Terry Metcalf as a banquet guest speaker of the Bid Red tell us to keep working hard and keep it clean in life. Where I surprised everyone and won a big football award my senior year and made my mom cry. Where I wore a tacky, three-piece brown corduroy suit to the annual Father-Son Dinner.

Fischer’s “backroom” once was one of the area’s premier rooms for wedding receptions. I went to many wedding receptions there. Did the Hokey Pokey. Turned myself around.

Every important civic or political meeting was held at Fischer’s. Mayor prayer breakfasts. Belle-Scott dinners. All-city football awards banquets. Chamber dinners. You knew you were going to Fischer’s.

In recent years, Fischer’s was where I took my late Aunt Marie for dinner a few times before she died last April. She loved their fried chicken and french fries. Aunt Marie loved fried anything.

I’m not sure what will happen at the restaurant’s site. I always figured Fischer’s would be here forever. It will be, in my mind.