Metro-East News

Rio Grande opens in Fairview, 4204 Brewing Co. selling eatery to focus on beer

Rio Grande opens in Fairview Heights

Rio Grande, a new Mexican eatery in Fairview Heights, has opened for business.
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Rio Grande, a new Mexican eatery in Fairview Heights, has opened for business.

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.

From cheesy burritos served with a tiny Mexican flag in the center ($9.75) to sweet-and-sour mango tacos served with rice and beans ($11.75), Rio Grande offers a wide range of traditional and adventurous Mexican cuisine.

Pro tip: The restaurant also has a long list of options for seafood lovers who want to stuff their tacos with fish and shrimp. Chances are your children will easily find something fun on the menu, too. This Mexican eatery has 10 kid friendly-dishes ($5.75) for children under 12.

You’ll find fried ice cream ($5.75) and traditional sopapillas ($2.75) on the menu along with flan ($3.75) and chimi cheeescake ($5.75) served with ice cream. If you want to drink your dessert, Rio Grande also serves nine traditional Mexican sodas made with real sugar cane.

The flavor combinations are endless at Rio Grande where you can chose from more than 20 margarita flavors. From strawberry and mango to a spicy jalapeno margarita, the restaurant has plenty of flavor options.

A classic margarita served with salt or sugar on the rim goes for $4.50 a glass. If you’re hanging out with a crowd, large pitchers at Rio Grande cost $18.75 for a classic mix. The restaurant has also has a full bar, soft drinks and three lemonade flavors: cherry, blue raspberry and strawberry.

It’s a total gut job inside. The former home to Applebee’s has been flipped into a Mexican oasis from top to bottom. New seating, fresh paint, new floors and mosaic tile will transform the former home of Applebee’s into a Mexican restaurant with a new look and a new vibe. Rio Grande, located at 47 Ludwig Dr. in Fairview Heights, is open from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 618-213-7200.

4204 Brewing Co. owner selling popular Belleville restaurant to focus on making beer

After four years of running a restaurant and a brewery, 4204 Brewing Co. owner Todd Kennedy wants to get out of the kitchen and focus more on the production of his popular craft beer brand, 4204 beer.

Kennedy confirmed Wednesday that his restaurant and original brewery, located at 4204 W. Main St., is for sale. The brand name 4204 Brewing Co. is not for sale, Kennedy said, and he plans to concentrate on brewing and distributing the popular beer.

The restaurant will continue to operate until the property is sold, Kennedy said.

His new banquet hall and distribution center at 6435 W. Main St. will become the brewing company’s focus as it continues to expand.

“We have to focus on where we are going,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t make sense to be in the restaurant business and the brewery business.”

Listed for $3.2 million, real estate brokers Matt Barriger and John Eichenlaub from Barber Murphy group will handle the sale. Eichenlaub said the deal will include the 3,138-square-foot building next door. 4204 Brewing Co. used the space for storage.

The 11,000 square-foot restaurant and brewery opened in 2014, giving craft beer connoisseurs a place to taste the beer Kennedy and his team produced. The brewery company opened the distribution center and banquet hall in 2017. That facility also has a tasting room where customers can try new brews, order food and hang out. That is where Kennedy will continue to brew 4204 beer.

Kennedy hopes getting out the restaurant business in Belleville will allow him to collaborate with more restaurant owners who initially saw him as competition. Focusing on beer and soon the production of coffee and tea will put the company on a growth track that includes distribution in other states, he said.

“We just built the big brewery” Kennedy said. “ That’s our future of what we want to be.”

Kennedy wants the brand to be as big as Stag Beer, which was originally brewed in Belleville and is still a local favorite.

“Stag didn’t sell steaks,” Kennedy said after explaining that he doesn’t have enough time and manpower to run the restaurant and brewery.

4204 Brew Co.’s restaurant isn’t the only popular restaurant to hit the market in recent years. The iconic Fischer’s Restaurant and Banquet Hall is still up for sale, more than a year after the Belleville establishment closed. Listed for $575,000, the restaurant at 2100 W. Main St. closed after nearly 80 years in business.

In a 2017 auction, Fischer’s owners rejected a bid of $800,000.

Kennedy said the 4204 property has an on-site brewery, all-season patio, half-acre outdoor beer garden, two private party rooms with two full-service bars and a three-tier kitchen.

Cara Anthony covers restaurants and retail for the Belleville News-Democrat, where she works to answer readers’ questions about restaurant openings, business closures and the best new dishes in the metro-east. She attended Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and grew up in East St. Louis.