(NOTE: As we reported exclusively one week ago today, Nick in the Morning will be absent Tuesday because we'll be on assignment. We'd tell you what that assignment is, but then we'd have to ... oh, forget it. Please try to struggle through until we see you first thing Wednesday.)
Good morning, troops. It's Monday, July 23.
As of this morning, there is one fewer place to eat in Metamora, it appears.
The Flame Family Restaurant closed permanently Sunday night, according to a post on its Facebook page. No reason was given.
The restaurant located at 939 W. Mount Vernon St., also known as Illinois Route 116, occupied a prominent place along the north side of the thoroughfare. It was among the first businesses eastbound travelers saw. Many of them, as well as westbound ones, stopped in for the Flame's family-style grub.
Breakfasts and lunches were the specialty at the Flame, which had been open more than 13 years.
In a previous life, when Nick in the Morning covered Woodford County for the Journal Star, we ate at the Flame on occasion. It reminded us of similar diners common in the Chicago area — limitless menu, with some dishes (gyros, for example) rooted in the Mediterranean countries of southern Europe.
Those foods reflected the heritage of the Flame owner, Albanian immigrant Tony Asani. He came to the United States in the 1980s and had operated restaurants in at least four central Illinois communities before he landed in 3,700-resident Metamora.
Facebook posts lamented the Flame's departure and praised the affable Asani.
"Our favorite restaurant," Peg Heinz wrote. "The best breakfast and oh, the steak was the best. Where else could you go and the owner greets you at the door and by your name?"
Wrote Evelyn Lloyd McCambridge: "Tony endeared himself to my parents immediately when he first opened The Flame. He was always so cheerful and welcoming. He always treated my folks like they were his honored guests. All of the employees were so kind and patient with my Dad during his final years on this earth. ... and then, the same with my sweet Mom."
And from Greg Herd: "The Flame will be missed, but more importantly, you, Tony, will be missed. A great friend and outstanding contributor to the Metamora community."
As the son of an immigrant restaurateur, it warms Nick in the Morning's heart to hear such positive comments. Almost like a flame.
Here's hoping the Metamora Flame is rekindled sooner rather than later, and that Asani's future trails are happy.
The raging inferno that is the song heard on the way to work won't douse easily, alas. It had been a long time since we heard it. Hope it's a longer time before we hear it again. But we aren't going to suffer alone.