By Steve Robinson | May 13, 2018 - 10:35 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

The restaurant in Uptown Normal built with a tree growing inside turns 10 years old this weekend, and owners of Medici Restaurant, 120 W. North St., are throwing a street party to celebrate.

The celebration, to be held Saturday in the block the restaurant occupies will run from 4p.m.-10p.m., explained Joe Slane, general manager of the restaurant. Two bands – Pork Bellies, and 90s Daughter – will take to the stage near the restaurant in Uptown shortly after the event begins.

Food, beer, and live entertainment will all be part of the celebration, Slane pointed out.

“We want to get out and enjoy the weather and thank everybody for supporting us over the last 10 years,” Slane said.

The restaurant is owned by the Moorsbach family, based in Chicago, who own a smaller restaurant by the same Medici name near the campus of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, explained Slane. He is one of the few employees of the restaurant who have been with it almost from the time it opened.

For the Moorsbach family, opening the Normal location meant “opening a little bit bigger property than they did in Chicago,” Slane said. “It was a little more extravagant with the tree in the middle of the restaurant, and the open staircase.”

Slane said Normal’s restaurant was something that involved larger plans than what the owners had compared to their original Chicago location. “This restaurant is a little more of the expansion of their dream” compared to their Chicago location, Slane pointed out.

He admitted that, like any new dining venture, Medici, at first, struggled to build its reputation when it opened. But with varying beer and beverage and food selections, varying types of seating, and a second floor which can be used for private events, as well as outdoor dining upstairs when weather permits, Medici quickly grew its reputation with locals and visitors alike.

“We’ve built up a clientele, and I think we’ve grown really strong in the area,” Slane said. “We have a lot of regular guests who visit us quite often.” He said many of Medici’s patrons are often from out-of-town.

“With the development of Uptown over the years, the restaurant has become even more of a draw, and a strong anchor for Uptown,” Slane observed. He said Medici and Uptown have “made for a good team which helps promote ‘the walking, shopping, eating’ kind of entertainment area,” Slane said.

In speaking about events the restaurant has had previously over the years similar to what will take place Saturday, Slane said, “Really, I enjoy that our events kind of focus on all the businesses in Uptown. We’re always supportive of all of those businesses joining us for such events.”

Such street celebrations in recent years have featured, not just Medici, but a supporting cast of Uptown shops such as Sugar Mama’s Bakery, Stave Pub, and other businesses which have joined in and benefitted from the crowds also wanting their business.

Medici has roughly 90 employees, mostly college students, Slane said. There are only five staffers who have been with the restaurant during its entire decade. Slane himself has been employed there for seven years.

Slane said while he can’t point to a specific reason the restaurant has held on to local employees, he said he believes it’s “because many of them enjoy their work. We have a great atmosphere here for them.”

Slane said out-of-towners staying in the Uptown area often tell him Medici is frequently recommended by the staffs of Uptown’s two hotels – Bloomington-Normal Marriott, and Hyatt Place Hotel. The two hotels face each other along Broadway St. in Uptown, and are a quick walk from the lodgings.

“People walk in and get a feeling of it being a somewhat more metropolitan area,” Slane said. He added everybody from business people to families with kids make up the mix in the restaurant’s clientele.

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