My family is a busy bunch. As a result there are at least two or three days in the month where Mom and Dad just don’t feel like cooking. When that happens, we’ll often turn to our old standby – local take out joints.
In preparing a list of our family favorites, here’s how I did my research. I went to the junk drawer in the kitchen and pulled out the stack of take-out menus. Those that were most ragged, rumpled and worn were obviously the ones we used the most. So those are the ones I included in this list.
Number One: Great Wall located at 1520 East College in Normal (near Dairy Queen)
We’ve been ordering Chinese take-out from Great Wall for almost 14 years. And for 14 years they’ve delivered consistent flavors. For the kids, we always go with the Sweet and Sour Chicken. We tell them it’s Chinese Chicken Nuggets and that the sweet and sour sauce is Chinese ketchup. It works like a charm and they eat it up. For Mom and Dad, we usually order something involving angel hair pasta. Dad likes the Wonton soup. I love, love, love the fried dumplings.
I don’t think we’re the only ones in town who have GW at the top of our take-out list. Every time I go in there, the place is packed and the kitchen is sizzling. The delivery service has always arrived on time and the service has always been pleasant.
Number Two: Avantis located at 3302 E. Empire Bloomington (near the Airport)
Food or service wise, we really don’t have a preference between the Avantis on Main Street in Normal and the one out by the airport. But based on the location of our house, the Empire restaurant is more convenient and has better parking.
We normally order Avantis when we have friends coming over for an event (e.g. to watch a game) and need to feed them something decent. You can feed about 20 people on just a few Gondolas if you cut them into quarters. When we’re ordering for the family, the kids love the cheesy bread. My favorite is the cheese ravioli.
Number Three: D.P. Dough located at 121 East Beufort Street in Normal (near the Children’s Discovery Museum)
D.P. Dough is a locally owned franchise. Their specialty, Italian Calzones, is a great alternative if you find yourself stuck in the same old, boring pizza routine. For the uninitiated, a Calzone is basically a pizza folded in half before it’s cooked so that the toppings become fillings. They get all mixed up and gooey with the cheese and that’s what packs in the flavor.
D.P. Dough has about 50 “zones” on their menu, some with cute names like the Parking Zone and the Loading Zone. Our kids like a plain cheese-zone. Dad and I get the Philly Zone which is loaded with steak, mushrooms and cheese whiz. Our normal routine is to order three or four different zones, cut them up and share. Zones are great food if you have a crowd over to watch a game.
Number Four: Papa Murphy’s Pizza located at 1531 East College Avenue in Normal (near Blockbuster)
First, I have to admit, there are about 30 local pizza places in Bloomington-Normal that have excellent food. Lucca Grill and Rosati’s are two that come to mind immediately. So if that’s true, why does Papa Murphy’s make my family’s list? There are two reasons. First, it’s the closest thing we can find to east coast pizza (where we grew up). And second, the take and bake concept really appeals to us.
We pick Papa Murphy’s on those nights when we need maximum flexibility. The kind of nights when we aren’t sure exactly when dinner will be served but we know we don’t have time to put it together ourselves. We love their fresh ingredients and the fact that the pizza is hot out of the oven just when we need it. We also like the fact that we can usually scare up a coupon and enjoy a discount. (P.S. If you work for that large insurance company with the red logo, there is a company discount. So bring your employee badge.)
As I write this article I realize how lucky we are to live in a community with so many restaurant choices. I really could go on and on and on. Rather than that, I’ll take suggestions. What take out menus are crowding out your junk drawer? What are your favorite places to get take-out food in Bloomington-Normal? Let me know and I’ll list them here or write about them in a later article.
Suggestions by others from comments to this article or on my Facebook page. Listed in alphabetical order:
Bings Wok located at 1540 East College Ave in Normal (near Kroger). Chinese food. Dine in, deliver or carry out. 309-888-9028.
Noodles and Co. located 305 North Veterans Parkway in Bloomington (near Meatheads) and 609 South Main Street in Normal (near Potbelly). Asian, Italian and American pasta. Dine in or carry out. 309-661-6300 for Veterans location amd 309-454-3900 for Normal.
Super Gyros located at 1709 South Veterans Parkway in Bloomington (across street from Steak N Shake). Gyros, dogs and more Chicago style. Dine in, take out, delivery. 309-661-0384.
As usual, I’m not getting anything free or receiving perks in exchange for writing about any of these places. My son rang bells for Salvation Army with his Boy Scout pack at Avantis. I think the staff gave them some free hot chocolate. But I wasn’t with him (Dad was) so I’m not positive on whether an hot chocolate was actually exchanged. I also don’t know anyone who owns or works at any of these places and I’m not affiliated with them in any way. I did have a very pleasant online exchange with the owner of D.P. Dough (read it here in the comments section). He seems like a nice guy but I don’t think I’ve ever met him in real life. His remarks didn’t influence me to include D.P. Dough in this article. The fact that I had a D.P. Dough menu crumpled into my junk drawer was the deciding factor.