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posted: 1/27/2013 2:31 PM

Restaurant shuffle in the Tri-Cities

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  • A new restaurant will be opening soon in the space previously occupied by Mike & Miguel's on Anderson Boulevard in Geneva.

      A new restaurant will be opening soon in the space previously occupied by Mike & Miguel's on Anderson Boulevard in Geneva.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


When a restaurant closes, I almost get tired of hearing my familiar reaction -- "Gee, I kind of liked that place."

Well, "kind of liking" a place hasn't done a lot of good for restaurants during the economic climate of the past five years. Look around the Tri-Cities and you'll see that many places people appeared to "like" at one time have since gone belly-up.

I liked Mill Race Inn, Rex's Cork 'n Fork and The Hideaway, but had dined at each maybe once in the past five years prior to their closing.

If restaurants are to have a fighting chance, diners have to love the place, or at least like it enough to be regular patrons. Not an easy task when money is tight and, when you do go out, you want to try different places.

That theory also comes into play for smaller operations that have recently closed. One such restaurant is Mike & Miguel's on Anderson Boulevard in Geneva.

So, now where can we grab a hot dog and fries before watching the Swedish Days parade? Unfortunately, that might have been the only time some people made a point to stop in at that decent food stand.

I liked the place because it had fries that greased up the brown bag, letting you know you had some good "street food" to eat.

It appears a new Mexican restaurant may be opening soon at the location, which isn't the worst spot in the world if you can offer something that might interest the nearby high school teachers and students in some fashion.

In the meantime, I'm stuck with this: I liked the place, but didn't go very often.

Ordering the thin: Those of us who have been around the Tri-Cities for a long time may recall that if you wanted to get a tasty thin crust pizza, you went to a place called Tom's Pizza on Riverside Avenue just south of the Illinois Street bridge. This was during an era in which thick crust or stuffed pan pizza hadn't joined most pizza menus.

But stuffed or thick crust eventually became all the rage, as places like Tom's drifted off into our memories.

But thin crust pizza has made a decent comeback it seems, and there are more than a few places where you can get a pretty good one.

I haven't been to all of them, of course, but I have declared some good choices in the thin crust pizza at Morano's, Aurelio's or California Pizza Kitchen in Geneva.

Readers tipped me off to try a new one in Batavia at Bella Olivia's Pizza and Grill, at the 2014 W. Wilson site off Randall Road that used to house CiCi's pizza buffet. Bella touts itself as having "Batavia's Best Thin Crust Pizza."

It has enjoyed a few spurts of customers, been it's been slow going for Bella Olivia since it opened nearly two months ago. Opening a local restaurant without a national brand or reputation as winter is setting in often equates to a slower start.

I did try this pizza, and it was quite good. The place offers sandwiches, pasta, entrees, soups and salads. Now it just needs a few more people to give it a look-see.

Sweetest paradise?: That's enough about greasy food.

Let's move onto the sweets. Don't look now, but we're overflowing with cupcakes, it seems.

The Sugar Path at 315 W. State St. in Geneva is getting some good reviews, but who would say anything bad about a place offering cupcakes, artisan cakes and pies?

Don't look now, but Geneva has transformed into a bakery wonderland. The city is now home to the likes of The Latest Crave, Hahn's Bakery, Geneva Cocoa Bean, the All-Chocolate Kitchen, Graham's 318 and Sweet Natalie's. If I missed one you consider a favorite, let me know.

With these kinds of temptations, is there any way to keep the waistline from expanding?

Bling wars?: It's not like Perlman Jewelers didn't know State Street Jewelers also operated in downtown Geneva when owners decided to take up stakes in the former Kiss the Sky music shop location at the corner of Third and State streets. State Street Jewelers now plans to move a few storefronts west into the empty Mera-Lee location across the street at the southeast corner of this important downtown intersection. So the jewelers will be within shouting distance of each other in their quest for buyers of fine jewelry.

Habitat's great gesture: Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity made a significant improvement in the life of a Batavia single mom and her three kids last week, handing over the keys to a home it rebuilt for her in Aurora. Renee Fortuny and her children will now call a ranch house on Michigan Avenue their home thanks to the efforts of Habitat, which has been helping people get lives on track for years.

It marked the 50th home the local Habitat has dedicated to people who need help.

The fact that Fortuny celebrates her 47th birthday Feb. 4, this will be an especially excellent gift when the family moves in Feb 2. The city of Aurora donated the townhouse through the Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and Habitat volunteers worked on it since last September.

First Baptist Church of Geneva deserves recognition, having donated bathroom supplies and furniture and decorations for the children's rooms.

Prolonging inevitable? From a nice story about a home rehab project, to one that isn't nearly as pleasant.

St. Charles is giving Cliff McIlvaine more time to get his longest-rehab-project-in-history moving forward on his house. If not, the place could eventually come tumbling down from a city wrecking ball.

So how can I best put this so that everyone will understand and, more importantly, time and money won't be wasted any longer on this sad affair? How's this: If it hasn't happened since 1975, guess what folks? It's not going to happen now.

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