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BLOOMINGTON - We often say things like, "Hey, I'll be happy if I'm wrong about this." Once in awhile we actually mean it.

A lot of us who think we know a lot never thought Michael's Restaurant at 110 W. Washington St., Bloomington, would reach its first anniversary.

There were reasons behind our nay-saying. Even good restaurants struggle in a grueling industry, and it's especially hard for the independents. Add to that a location in a downtown, which tends to get a lunch business but struggles for dinner customers.

But Michael's has passed its seventh anniversary.

Here's one thing we know-its didn't know: Restaurant operator Ron Nurceski, from Chicagoland, has some amazing grit. You don't want to know how many hours he works.

Everything else aside, I think he is the reason Michael's still is kicking. But the food is pretty good, as is the service.

His father is Michael, and he is the owner. Michael Nurceski remained in Chicago with other ventures and sent Ron downstate to run this one.

Michael's has a range of American dishes and a lineup of Italian food. I went for a house favorite the other night: Chicken ala Michael's.

First order of business is Italian bread. I think it's best when dipped in olive oil rather than buttered, and the oil already is on your table. Next came a basic side salad. Pretty good warm-up. Soup is an alternative.

The entree included a massive chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms, cheddar and feta cheese and topped with a Marsala wine sauce.

The meal came with a vegetable medley - broccoli, carrots and white onion. It was served on rice. Also served on the plate were thin-sliced potatoes. That surprised me, as the menu made no such promise, and frankly I didn't see it as fitting. Plus, I knew I couldn't handle all that food.

The portions were large and the bill was reasonable - $13.64, counting iced tea. Desserts sounded tempting, and I spied a neighboring table sharing one. Maybe next time, and I know there will be a next time.

Essentials

• Michael's Restaurant

• 110 W. Washington St., Bloomington

• (309) 820-1330

• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, with brunch ending at 2.

Lunch, dinner, kids

For lunch, think burgers, salads, hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches and pasta dishes. Everything but the steak and veal checks in at under $7. My experience is, the restaurant does a good job of turning tables, getting you back to work on time. My lunch the other day took just under a half hour. Patty melt, side salad, bread and oil and ice tea for $7.47 plus tip.

Dinner is more relaxed, and the menu is more nuanced. Entrees are $7 to $18. And don't fret about the dance club, Club 110, next door. It poses no annoyance whatever to the dinner atmosphere.

Children's menu available.

Parking

It can be a bit thin over lunch. Dinnertime parking is a non-issue; you'll find something within a block or two, and if that's not good enough Michael's offers valet service.

Sunday brunch

It's been a while, but when I last went to Sunday brunch I was impressed. That is a compliment, indeed, as I usually despise buffets. $11.95 per adult. Under 10, it cost is a dollar per year - $7 for a 7-year-old, for example - and 3 and under eat free.

Drink

The restaurant has a full bar. A bottle of dinner wine will run $20, give or take.

History

The block south of the courthouse is among the oldest and more historically significant pieces of real estate. The city and private developers saved and rehabbed the block rather than destroying it and starting over. At 110 W. Washington during the 1990s, Bou Chu oversaw renovation and opened a restaurant and nightclub. The businesses failed and the building went into bank foreclosure. Michael Nurceski bought the building in 1998.

Ins and outs

Dinner delivery available throughout Bloomington-Normal. Lunch delivery limited to downtown. Carryout always available. Banquet room seats up to 60.

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