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Bistro joining west-end resurgence in Dixon

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Linda Knoll has had her work cut out for her, cleaning up the old Fung Ming restaurant in Dixon. Knoll will be opening a bistro at the location.
Caption
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
Cole Blackburn, 14, of Dixon, carries a board to the dumpster as he and others clean out the former Fung Ming restaurant in Dixon. The building, at 319 W. First St., soon will be the home of 319 Bistro, a breakfast-lunch-and-dinner bistro with a French country theme.
Caption
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
Linda Knoll, of Dixon, purchased the building because, despite its renovation challenges, "that thing's made like a tank," she said.
Caption
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
Like other parts of the building, the kitchen of the former Fung Ming restaurant in Dixon will require a lot of renovation work.
Caption
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The former Fung Ming restaurant in Dixon is being gutted to make way for a new bistro.
Caption
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The former Fung Ming restaurant in Dixon is being gutted to make way for a new bistro.

DIXON – A taste of the French countryside will be on the menu of local restaurants come this summer.

Linda Knoll, of Dixon, has bought the former Fung Ming building downtown, where she hopes to open her 319 Bistro by the Fourth of July.

It’s yet another business joining a kind of west-end renaissance.

The breakfast-lunch-and-dinner bistro will have a French country theme, but all kinds of homemade food – French, Mexican, chicken, steaks, pastries, crepes, and on and on and on. She’s in negotiations with a local chef or two, and still is looking for a line cook and some wait staff.

Alcohol will be served, but she’s shooting for a very particular atmosphere.

“I want it to be a restaurant with a bar,” Knoll said, “not a bar with a restaurant,” like an Applebees or a Buffalo Wild Wings.

At the moment, the solid little brick building, vacant for about 4 years, is in tres terrible shape, with broken pipes, a leaky roof and trash all over its 3,600 square feet, but she’s cleaning up everything with the help of her youngest, Cole Blackburn, who turns 15 this month, and a few of his pals.

“I don’t know where I’d be without them; they’ve got the muscles!” she said.

She’s also taking advantage of the city’s facade grant and low-interest business loan programs.

“If it wasn’t for Community State Bank and these programs, I don’t know if I could get this put together, so I’m very grateful,” Knoll said.

The project has been in the works since last summer.

Knoll looked at a few buildings in Dixon, which is where she wanted to set up, and chose the old Cantonese restauran. Despite its renovation challenges, “it has good bones,” she said.

“That thing’s made like a tank.”

The bistro will be another addition to what’s becoming a thriving and vibrant west end, which is going through a mini resurgence after the loss of a few businesses only a year ago, Main Street Executive Director Josh Albrecht said.

“Things go in cycles in the downtown, in any area as far as development goes,” he said. After the closures, Albrecht predicted that “within a year’s time, [that area] would be drastically different, and it is.”

Dixon Paint opened at 205 W. First St., Roxie’s vintage resale shop opened at 302; Dixon Stage Left, a new theater venue, will open April 24 at 306; and Matt Appleman, owner of Crescendo Hair, bought the building at Madison and West First, which he is renovating for his salon and other businesses, Albrecht noted.

In addition, that area is set to get streetscape work and a new parking lot this summer.

Dixon is getting to be known for its downtown culinary and artistic options, so the addition of the bistro is “absolutely fantastic; it’s a great thing for that block,” Albrecht said. “It’s just a great addition to the downtown.”

Knoll, 48, has been in banking since 1982, and is a mortgage banker for Riverside Bank in Sterling and Rock Falls.

The Harmon native is a 1983 Amboy High School grad with three children: Cole, a Dixon High student; Adam Walter, 28, of Harmon; and Nathan Walter, 26, who’s serving in the Army at Fort Lewis near Seattle. Her parents are Bill and Erna Knoll, of Harmon.

Get a bite at 319 Bistro

319 Bistro will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Sunday at 319 W. First St. in Dixon. Owner Linda Knoll is aiming for a July 4 opening.

You can follow her progress on her personal Facebook page; and you can give her a call at 815-994-0263 to talk to her about applying for a job, or for other information.

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