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Local Business

Something's brewing in Leaf River

Business is picking up for bar and grill’s new owners

No fibbing, things are going well for the owners of a bar and grill tucked away in this Ogle County village.

And why not? Its new owners, who took over earlier this year, have found a recipe for success: bar grub at a pub, a casual atmosphere – and most importantly of all, their customers. They just love ’em.

There’s more than a few gems to be found in this village of close to 400 people, not the least of which is Fibbers Bar and Grill, 110 N. Main St.

Back in the kitchen, Leaf River’s own Kathy Wilken, 59, is cooking up classic American grill food all day long.

Wilken and her husband, Loran, 76,own the bar, and daughter Amy, 40, helps out serving customers and tending bar, along with about five others.

The menu includes what you might expect to find at a bar and grill: burgers, sandwiches, chicken strips, and a selection of fan-favorite appetizers such as chicken wings, onion rings, and fried mushrooms.

It also includes a few surprises, like a basket of coconut shrimp, or the popular Cowboy Bites – fried nuggets of cream cheese, sweet corn, bacon and jalapeños.

The beer selection is a familiar collection of domestics, which Wilken says is the bulk of their sales, but if you’re into craft beers, it’s worth calling ahead to see whether they have Pretzel City Amber in stock, courtesy of Generations Brewing Co. in Freeport.

Fibbers offers dinner specials every night except Monday, such as tacos on Wednesday, and a popular fish fry on Friday.

Lunchtime specials also are available, but if you want to know what they are, you’ll just have to stop by and see.

“Lunch specials are literally whatever I come in and feel like cooking,” Wilken said. “Today it might be spaghetti and meatballs, tomorrow it might be meatloaf, but it’s always something different.”

Wilken tries to make her lunch specials something she can easily get on a plate and in front of customers, with minimal waiting time.

“We’ve got a lot of hungry farmers in the area here, and having worked with them for decades, I can tell you they don’t have all day to order off the menu and wait for me to cook it,” she said. “They need something quick, hot, and hearty, and I like to give them that service.”

Wilken says the burgers are what people rave about most.

“We use Certified Hereford Beef for our burgers, and that goes a long way in the quality,” she said. “I’m not one to brag, but people are constantly telling me our burgers stand up against the most popular establishments.”

The business has become increasingly popular since opening Feb. 24, with both regular and new customers coming not just from nearby communities such as Forreston, Byron, or Mount Morris, but also from Dixon, Pecatonica, and even Cherry Valley.

“We’re doing really well – I’m so blessed,” said Wilken, in a rare moment of getting to sit down. She opens the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. for lunch, and doesn’t head home until around 2 a.m.

Having worked in dairy for 20 years for Akins Farms in Forreston, Wilken is no stranger to a long day, “but at least here, I get air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter,” she said with a laugh.

“At the end of the day, all I can say is this, my customers are the most important thing to me, and I love every one,” she said. “Come try us out. We hope we serve you well, and you come back. That’s all I can ask.”

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