Unch's Bar and Grill in Cahokia
A father and son have completely transformed a building that’s been operating as a tavern for more than 100 years at Camp Jackson Road and Illinois 3 in Cahokia.
Unch’s Bar & Grill opened in December, serving soups, salads, appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, entrees and daily specials.
“The kitchen closes at 9 p.m., so before that, it’s a good place for families or anybody to eat lunch or dinner,” said co-owner Randy “Unch” Fisher Jr., 42, of Belleville. “After that, it turns into more of a bar atmosphere.”
Former tavern patrons will hardly recognize the interior. Randy Jr. and his father, Randy Sr., tore out walls to create one large, open dining room with booths, tables and high-tops and a horseshoe-shaped bar that seats 18 people.
“Years ago, it was two businesses,” said Randy Sr., 64, of Cahokia. “There was a barbershop over there, and they had a little window, and they used to serve beer to the guys getting their hair cut.”
Randy Sr. is particularly proud of three new features. One is an eight-person party table with a built-in cooler that holds ice and up to three cases of beer in the middle.
“I deliver beer for a living, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said customer Tyler Edgar, 29, of Millstadt.
Randy Sr. also likes to show off the bar’s clean, remodeled bathrooms — which he considers vital, particularly for female customers — and its carousel of video-gaming machines in the corner.
Years ago, it was two businesses. There was a barbershop over there, and they had a little window, and they used to serve beer to the guys getting their hair cut.
Co-owner Randy Fisher Sr. on historic tavern building
Randy Sr. has been in the amusement business for 25 years, furnishing bars and restaurants with pool tables, dart boards, golf games and now video slots and poker.
“You only see (the carousels) in casinos,” he said, noting they allow more customer privacy.
Randy Sr. has owned several bar buildings in the metro-east and formerly operated Cuz’ in Soulard for three years.
Randy Jr. has worked mostly as a union laborer, but he always wanted to own a bar, having grown up around his father’s businesses. He got the nickname “Unch” as a baby.
“That’s the only word he knew for a long time,” his father jokes.
In the past two months, a few customer favorites have emerged at the restaurant: Housemade spinach artichoke dip ($6.50), nachos ($6.50), chef salad ($8), chicken Parmesan sandwich ($8.75 with side) and cod sandwich ($8 with side).
Cooks also whip up daily specials, such as fish plates on Fridays, ribeye steaks on Saturdays and fried chicken on Sundays.
“They needed a restaurant in Cahokia in a safe, clean location, where you can bring your family,” said customer Mark O’Donnell, 42, of Belleville. “Everything is delicious. I’ve never had a bad meal here.”
Mark was eating lunch with a fellow real-estate investor. On this day, he ordered a salad, burger and fries.
At a nearby table, Wanita Rutledge was enjoying a half club sandwich with a cup of Cheddar-broccoli soup ($7). Grandson Cory Sturdevant tried the buffalo chicken wrap ($8 with side) and son Marion DeRossett went for a double bacon cheeseburger ($9 with side).
“It was all delicious,” said Wanita, 81, of Dupo.
They needed a restaurant in Cahokia in a safe, clean location, where you can bring your family. Everything is delicious. I’ve never had a bad meal here.
Customer Mark O’Donnell on Unch’s Bar & Grill
“It’s a lot different in here than it used to be,” added Cory, 32, of East Carondelet. “It wasn’t as open. It’s got more space. It’s got more of a restaurant feel to it.”
The Fishers don’t know the exact age of their building at 103 Water St. in Cahokia, but during the 13-month renovation, they pulled out many square nails and 2-by-10 boards.
“People used to tie their horses up front and come in and drink,” Randy Sr. said. “And you can see the building in an aerial picture that Lindbergh took when he flew over.”
The building most recently housed the Brandy Inn, but it had been vacant for about a year.
The renovation cost more than $250,000, and it’s still going on. The Fishers are installing a patio with a covered bar, TV set and build-your-own pizza station out back.
“We wanted wanted to bring a great restaurant to the city of Cahokia,” Randy Jr. said. “So we took a chance on something that nobody else wanted to do.”
At a glance
- What: Unch’s Bar & Grill
- Where: 103 Water St. in Cahokia
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for the kitchen; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays for the bar
- Seating: About 75
- Patio: Coming this summer
- Handicap-accessible: Yes
- Carryouts: Yes
- Information: Call 618-646-9700 or visit the Facebook page