They say you never forget your first time doing something, and the first installment of Family Thyme SI at The Hungry Bear Cafe was no exception. On last Friday night, the Campbell’s set out for what we hope will be our first of many experiences at local businesses in and around the Southern Illinois area. Justin Gray, General Manager, sat down a spell with us to talk about the restaurant’s menu offerings and its future direction. More on that follows, but first let me tell you about our experience.
When we walked in we were greeted by smiling faces of the wait/host staff and by Justin himself. We took our seats and were promptly greeted by our server Danny. She was all smiles and handled my family of five (plus one of my children’s friends) with ease. The indecision and interruptions did not faze Danny one bit. I had the fresh catfish (which I opted to have fried) with pasta salad), my husband chose the Italian Beef, while the kids had classic burgers and their sides included onion rings, french fries and macaroni and cheese.
The catfish fillet was huge and fried to perfection. And the pasta salad had artichokes, which I loved, and was quite good. The kids inhaled their Classic Burgers, which they also offer in a kid size for those with smaller appetites, like my five-year-old. During dinner, Justin Gray sat down with us and graciously answer a few questions.
TTIT: Why The Hungry Bear?
JG: The owners purchased the old Tippy’s and other restaurants in and throughout Southern Illinois and are repurposing them into new, fresher restaurant options.
TTIT: How would you describe the restaurant?
JG: Country Italian. Southern Illinois Italian. I’m not Italian myself, but growing up in Herrin, IL with a large Italian population, I’ve grown an appreciation for Italian food with a down-home-grandma’s-cooking flair.
TTIT: What can patrons expect from The Hungry Bear that sets you apart from other restaurants in the area?
JG: For starters, we serve beer, and who doesn’t enjoy beer and a good steak (I know I do).Not only do we carry your typical domestics, we’ve added Shiner Ruby Redbird, CoorsLight, Saluki Dunkeldog, and others. We also serve wine. At The Hungry Bear we are focusing on what we do well. One of our customer favorites is our rib eye steak,
and soon we’ll feature a bacon-wrapped sirloin. We also feel we have great burger and sandwich options.
TTIT: Tell me about your menu options and plans for the future.
JG: We will continue to offer more steak options. We also offer spaghetti (a kid favorite) and my own Italian Beef recipe. Another thing we are focusing on is our lighter menu options including cucumber salad and vegan pasta.
TTIT: If there is one thing customers HAVE to try, what is it?
JG: (Justin deferred this question to Danny, our server) The Spaghetti!
TTIT: Why should families choose The Hungry Bear?
JG: We are family friendly. From our spacious seating to our kid friendly menu options like spaghetti and kid-sized burgers, we are a great option for families.
And the bonus question:
TTIT: Explain the bear (yes I said bear) out front.
JG: The restaurant sign can be a little hard to see from the street. So we decided to put a 950lb concrete bear out front.
TTIT: Makes perfect sense!
The Hungry Bear Cafe is located at 1603 Walnut Street in Murphysboro in the old Tippey’s location. They have plans to open other locations in Anna, Cairo, and Mounds.
Take note: In exchange for a review of our experience, we received sustenance from the Hungry Bear Cafe. Carry on.