Leah Pettit will soon introduce Champaign-Urbana diners to Mississippi-style barbecue and an array of dishes from New Orleans.
Her restaurant, Louie's Dixie Kitchen, is set to open at 1104 N. Cunningham Ave., U, on Jan. 28, with a grand opening slated for early February.
The location is the former site of El Toro, which moved up the street to 1601 N. Cunningham Ave., U, last fall.
Since then, Pettit and her business partner, Dirk Bodine, have renovated the old El Toro building to make it resemble a Southern shack with a porch.
Louie's will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and customers will have a wide selection from which to choose.
For lunch, look for barbecue, shrimp po' boys, muffuletta sandwiches, red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya.
For dinner, choose from all that and more, including crawfish pie, etouffee, shrimp-and-grits and fried chicken dinners.
Louie's breakfast menu will include sausage gravy and biscuits, French toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, omelets and grits.
"We'll eventually add a Saturday brunch, where we'll have things like Crab Cakes Benedict — more upscale food," Pettit said.
Breakfast prices will range from $4.50 to $7.50, lunch prices from $6.50 to $9 and dinner prices from $9 to $15, she added.
Louie's hours will be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays. The restaurant will be closed Sundays.
A grand opening is expected to start Feb. 4 and run through Feb. 12 — Fat Tuesday.
"I traveled to New Orleans several times and fell in love with the food. I was able to eat in some really good mom-and-pop restaurants, and I've collected recipes over the years," said Pettit, who runs the CaterMe Events catering service.
"The barbecue is Mississippi-style, and I'll bring in Cajun and Creole dishes to complement it," she added. "We'll have quite a few vegetarian options."
Side dishes will include mashed potatoes, greens, red beans and rice, homemade slaw, homemade potato chips, sweet potato chips, cheese grits and macaroni-and-cheese.
Pettit had fun designing the interior.
Walls have been painted an antique yellow, the tables will be decked in black-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths and the eating area will be illuminated by wine-bottle pendant lights.
All the plates and bowls are mismatched items, and for napkins, you'll use paper towel rolls on the tables.
"Our glasses for drinks are going to be pint and quart Mason jars," Pettit said, adding that liquor won't be served until the grand opening.
At that point, beer and wine will be available, as will the restaurant's signature drink, the hurricane. That's a sweet alcoholic drink usually made with rum and fruit juice.
The coffee will be a blend of chicory and coffee, and beignets will be available.
Desserts will include a trio of cupcakes, including red velvet and Dr Pepper flavors, as well as pecan pie, sweet potato pie and bread pudding.
The phone number is 954-0301, and the web site is http://www.louiesbbq.com.
Elsewhere in Urbana
Remodeling work is going on at the former Gold & Diamond Exchange, 1004 W. University Ave., U, to prepare for the opening of Pawn King.
Pawn King will be the newest in a chain of pawnshops in central and southern Illinois owned by the Hunter family.
Attempts to contact Bruce H. Hunter of Springfield for comment last week yielded no response.
The company's website — http://www.pawnkingshop.com — emphasizes that Pawn King sells guns and ammunition in addition to silver, gold, platinum, jewelry, sporting equipment, musical instruments, electronics, computers and other goods.
According to the website, Pawn King has stores in Springfield, Decatur, Peoria, Rock Island, East Moline, Jacksonville, Collinsville, Cahokia and St. Louis — and is preparing to open one in Bloomington.
Renovations to the Urbana site include replacing the roof and adding 1,600 square feet of storage, as well as new exterior siding.
What Savoy is watching
Weight Watchers has opened a new location in the Savoy Business Development Center at the corner of U.S. 45 and West Tomaras Avenue.
The office, at 611 N. Dunlap Ave., is open only on Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 22, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Meeting times will be at 7:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to Weight Watchers leaders Ellen Mennenga and Suzi Schneman.
The leaders will be available throughout the day and will have Weight Watchers products on hand.
Parking is available at the back of the building near the rear entrance. The Weight Watchers room is the first room on the left.
For more information, contact Mennenga at 377-0881 or Schneman at 280-8321.
Inn opens at Arcola
A new Best Western Plus hotel has opened in Arcola, on the southeast side of the Interstate 57-Illinois 133 interchange.
The Green Mill Village Hotel & Suites had its grand opening Jan. 12 at 917 Green Mill Road.
The hotel has 68 guest rooms decorated with local artwork from the Rich Herschberger Gallery and furniture from Simply Amish.
In a release, General Manager Christine Cloyd said Best Western hotels that earn the "Plus' label have a three-diamond rating from AAA.
The hotel also offers a free daily local newspaper, a free daily hot breakfast, free local phone calls, free wireless high-speed Internet, a fitness center and more than 4,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at email@example.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.