In the southeast Illinois town of Flora sits a restaurant that customers come far and wide for its food and friendly staff. The building might not catch your eye, but the food will – just ask a local.
Called the NMN Club, it originally opened in 1994 as a private club. Owner Bill Wiley named it the NMN Club for No More Nicotine. Current owner Paula Huey says the name was ironic because everyone still smoked but Wiley would not sell tobacco.
In 1996, Paula began waiting tables and bartending at the club and, other than a few years off, she has been there ever since. She and husband David purchased the establishment in 2012. By that time, she had learned every component of the business from working there and spending time in the front and back of the house cooking, washing dishes, expediting orders, etc.
The restaurant/bar is still a club. Members pay $40 per year which covers the member and their spouse or significant other. Members number more than 600 and include folks from Florida, Colorado and Chicago as well as the local area, including Indiana.
“In the fall, we usually do a free member feed,” says Paula. “We also do a big Christmas bash and give away about $1,000 but we are still figuring out this year with everything [COVID] that is happening. We are looking for different ways to give back to our members.”
NMN Club is not a members-only club; everyone is welcome to have lunch, dinner or enjoy the bar. “We’ve got really good people. Our customers and members are wonderful,” she says. “It’s tough out right now and they’ve supported us through these past several months. People came in and bought gift certificates and we did a lot of carryout. As long as the state doesn’t shut us down again, we’ll be okay.”
Lunchtime can be busy, especially on Thursday and Friday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and again on Sunday. NMN Club is known for its hamburgers, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps. You can order the chicken bacon swiss wrap for $8.95 or a 6-ounce ribeye steak sandwich for $11.50. Lunch prices vary from $6.50-$11.50.
Salads are generous and include chef salad, grilled chicken salad, spinach salad and a Waldorf salad. The Waldorf salad includes grilled chicken, apples, walnuts and grapes served on a bed of lettuce with a raspberry vinaigrette.
Lunch specials are offered daily and announced on the NMN Club Facebook page. Recent specials included a loaded baked potato and salad, vegetable soup and grilled cheese, beef Manhattan, prime rib hoagies, and chicken and noodles.
On Sundays, it offers home cooking for the church crowd, which is typical of a Sunday dinner at home. Items such as meatloaf, roast pork or turkey and dressing, beef stew, or Salisbury steak are always on the menu.
In the evenings, dinner is served Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30-8 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5:30-9 p.m. The menu on Fridays and Saturdays is smaller but more upscale including prime rib, salmon, ribeye steaks, shrimp and porkchops. A 14-ounce prime rib or grilled ribeye with two sides is a reasonable $22.95.
On occasion, Paula will add items customers have requested. “There’s nowhere here in town that diversifies and offers different things,” she explains. “So that’s one of our calling cards. If somebody asks for something, I try to accommodate. My daughter helps me a lot and she came up with fish tacos, and people love them. I also started doing an Asian plate and gyros.”
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, food with a theme is offered. On a recent Tuesday, the menu included pub food – hot wings, loaded fries, fried portabella mushrooms and pretzel sticks with beer cheese. An all-you-can-eat catfish buffet with slaw, baked beans, potato salad, hash brown casserole and hush puppies was a big hit on Thursday evening.
Paula is particular about the food she puts out. “One night we had prime rib, and I don’t know what happened. I buy only the best meat, but this was a bad cut. It was tough so I wouldn’t serve it. You have to monitor what you’re serving and keep on top of that.
“I do my own prime rib from a ribeye loin, it’s not prefab. None of my meat is prefab. We smoke the porkchops and ribs, make our own hamburger patties, and pound and bread our pork tenderloins.”
Friday nights are busy and, with COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of customers, reservations are highly suggested. Paula says folks can’t expect to walk in with a group and expect to get seated right away, but she is happy to accommodate if she knows you are coming.
If you’re in the area or want to take a road trip, head to Flora, but don’t forget to call Paula and let her know you’re coming.