My first thought eight years ago was what could be more outlandish than adding sushi to a successful burrito restaurant and featuring burritos and sushi? This happened when my friend Lupe Aguas first mentioned to me that he was thinking about adding a 7-foot sushi case and making and selling sushi at his La Bamba Mexican Restaurant in uptown.

Apparently, I was not the only skeptic. Lupe says he was told by many that it was a “crazy idea” to add sushi to a burrito restaurant. Now keep in mind that back in 2014, sushi had not gained the popularity in BN as it has now where it is available in grocery stores and quite a few restaurants.







Larry Carius


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


However, he had the last laugh. Ask Lupe now how the sushi sales are going —he quietly smiles and says “very successful.” Actually, the sushi sales over the years have far exceeded his expectations.

Lupe says that he was not that familiar with sushi when Chef Danny Valencia approached him about adding a sushi case and making and selling sushi in La Bamba. Danny told him that he had 13 years’ experience making sushi in Japanese sushi bars with the last five as the sushi chef in the local Japanese restaurant – Hayashi, which had closed a year earlier.

After thinking it over, Lupe told Danny that if Danny would pay for the equipment to make and sell sushi, they would split the sushi business 50-50. So Danny purchased and installed a 7-foot sushi case in the north end of the front counter, bought a two-door freezer and supplies, added a hot water line and they were in the sushi business just that quickly with the La Bamba Sushi Bar .

Lupe adds that many of Danny’s customers followed him to La Bamba, and the timing was right to add sushi since sushi was just becoming popular in Bloomington-Normal. Congratulations to Lupe and Chef Danny for taking the risk, and both are smiling as I write this.

From Larry’s notebook

BARREL HOUSE – Tentac, the owner of the Doubletree Hotel, will be the franchisee and bring the small eastern Iowa chain to the former TGI Friday’s location attached to the DoubleTree Hotel. Tentac describes the Barrel House as having upscale pub fare and 12 to 15 beers on tap. A major remodeling should begin soon, and the restaurant is expected to open this summer.

GENE’S DAIRY DELIGHT – The walk-up custard stand recently opened for its 52nd year at 1019 S Main St.

FIESTA RANCHERA – The local family ownership recently purchased the A-frame building at 604 IAA Drive for $ 500,000 and will demolish it to relocate the Fiesta Ranchera from the adjacent Empire Crossing. Some may remember the A-frame formerly housed Heap Big Beef, The Beef Place and Dabney’s.

MIKE SVOB – Congratulations! Mike recently retired after 36 years at Schooners, the last 27 years as general manager.

CHI FAMILY EXPRESS – A family member of the very popular Chi Family Restaurant in Lincoln recently opened a carryout-only restaurant at 3907 General Electric Road in Bloomington.

A LARRY FAVORITE MENU ITEM – The Pork Ribeye Tomatillo entrée at Medici in uptown.

Carius, of Bloomington, is a former food program and plan review supervisor for the McLean County Health Department. His Facebook blog, Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene, has 31,000 followers.

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