Fans of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” will recognize the name of a new bakery in Fairview Heights.
SmallCakes Cupcakery, located at 5200 North Illinois St. next to Jimmy John’s in Fairview Heights, opened a few weeks ago with fans lined up at the door, owner Ben Early said.
“The first thing they say is that it smells amazing in here,” Early said. “Everyone just gazes at the cupcakes for five minutes before they start ordering.”
Early, a former fast-food chain manager, arrives at 3:30 a.m. every morning to bake. He decided to open the franchise after his wife, Rachel, chose to continue her work at Scott Air Force Base for three more years.
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Early said his sister-in law owns SmallCakes shops in the Chicago area, so the couple decided to take a chance. He’ll run the shop while Rachel, a tech sergeant, is deployed for six months in Afghanistan.
The shop offers discounts to military and first responders. They also donate leftover cupcakes to local hospitals.
Plans are in the works to add cookies, coffee and milk to the menu.
“It’s all slowly coming together,” Early said. “But it’s getting there.”
The cupcake shop has 16 signature flavors, including a signature small cake for dogs and puppies. From chocolate and carrot cake to lemon drop and red velvet, the menu has a wide range of flavors.
Early’s favorite flavor is Kentucky Bourbon, a specialty flavor at the shop. He’s also a fan of Boston Creme, which is available everyday. Gluten-free cupcakes — chocolate and vanilla — are sold Fridays.
The cupcake franchise has more than 200 locations across the country, including one location in Dubai.
This is the second location to open in the St. Louis region. The franchise has a location in Kirkwood, Missouri.
New Cahokia bar has pool tables, dartboards
Pool players in the metro-east have a new destination for casual games and small tournaments.
The Pregame, a new bar with pool tables and dartboards, opened last week at 1491 Camp Jackson Road near the Cahokia Walmart.
Owners Sean Martin and Justin Snodgrass said the opening is a dream come true. It took six months to renovate the former pawn shop that was “totally decrepit,” Martin said.
He grew up playing pool in the area with his dad.
“Cahokia used to be one of the best places to shoot pool,” Martin said. “There have been a lot good tournaments down here. We want to bring that back.”
Martin’s dad, Jimmy Martin Sr., was a professional pool player who played along side some of the best players in the country. His son, Sean, followed in his footsteps and fell in love with the game.
Snodgrass, a railroad worker, enjoys the game, too.
They met at Big Daddy’s in downtown Belleville where they learned a lot about the business of owning a bar while working together.
“Working at the bar has always been an experience that I liked,” Snodgrass said. “I’ve always wanted to open my own.”
Their place will have a laid-back atmosphere. Food will not be served, but customers can bring in their own. Electronic slot machines and games will be installed in the future.
“It’s just a comfortable nice place you can come in and enjoy a couple games of pool and a couple games of darts,” Snondgrass said. “It’s just a very nice calm place.”
New St. Clair Square restaurant serves wings and beer
It’s the only place in the mall that serves shoppers cold beer. Now, a new restaurant at St. Clair Square wants to become a destination for gaming, too.
Wing It, a fast-causal restaurant with a blue-collar feel, plans to add electronic slot machines to its dining room, assistant manager Melanie Pinion said.
Olga’s Kitchen previously occupied the space located on the lower level of the mall near Dillard’s. For 36 years, the restaurant served Mediterranean dishes. The establishment closed in 2015, but former Olga’s customers still drop in to reminisce.
“Sometimes they want to see their old booth,” Pinion said.
Seating and decor hasn’t changed inside the restaurant. You’ll find the same patterns and lighting fixtures in the dining room. The cash register is in the same spot, but instead of ringing up soup and salad, customers are ordering wings with a side of fries.
Wing It offers four different flavors: hot, barbecue, Teriyaki or spicy garlic ranch.
Spicy garlic ranch is the most popular flavor, Pinion said. She expects more customers to roll in when the electronic slot machines arrive in a few weeks. There’s already a pool table in the back of the restaurant that has become a popular hangout for mall employees.
Luke Emmons is one of them. He said the restaurant provides an alternative to the food court, which lost a vendor last year.
Fitopia, the healthier option for shoppers at the mall, closed in September. It moved into the space previously occupied by Chick-fil-A.
That space remains vacant.
Mexican restaurant in O’Fallon suddenly closes
The dining room was dark last week at La Parrilla Mexican Restaurant in O’Fallon.
A note near the entrance said the establishment, located at 1333 Central Park Dr., was closed due to sewer problems. But it might be gone for good if the second sign on the front door is true.
Someone wrote the word “forever” under the closed sign that usually indicates the time a business will return.
Shopkeepers in the complex said no one has been around for weeks. St. Clair County Health Inspector Brian Eckert said his department didn’t receive notice of a sewage issue, but would look into what happened.
Eckert said the restaurant’s last inspection was in October. According to online records, La Parrilla scored 92 out of 100.
Eckert said if the restaurant closed because of a sewer issue it would not be able to reopen until the health department does another inspection.
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