PAXTON — Pizza Palace is expected to open later this month in Paxton, giving owner Eric Bull his third such restaurant along a 32-mile stretch of Interstate 57.
The 38-year-old Bull, a lifelong resident of the Onarga-Gilman area and graduate of Iroquois West High School, said he plans to open the restaurant on Tuesday, May 14, in the red-roofed building at 560 John St. east of I-57, which once occupied a Pizza Hut.
Bull already owns two other Pizza Palaces in small towns along I-57 — one in Gilman and the other in Ashkum. Their popularity among Paxton-area residents is what prompted Bull to add a third Pizza Palace in the Ford County seat, he said.
“We have a bunch of customers from the Paxton-Loda area now who come up to Gilman,” Bull said. “Plus, being by the interstate, it seems like a decent location.”
Paxton’s Pizza Palace will initially be open only for carryout and delivery. Its drive-through window will serve as the pickup spot for carryout orders, and the delivery service area is expected to be a “fairly large area,” Bull said, noting it will not be limited to just Paxton.
“We’re hoping to get a lot of deliveries up at the lakes (near Loda),” Bull said.
Sometime later this summer — hopefully by the end of July, Bull said — the restaurant’s dining room will open, as well.
“When we’re done remodeling is when we’ll open the dining room,” Bull said.
The Paxton restaurant will be open initially from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed on Mondays.
“Then later, once we get the dining room open, it will be open for lunch, as well,” Bull said.
How often the Paxton restaurant will be open for lunch — as well as whether a lunch buffet will be part of the offerings — has not been determined, Bull said.
“In Gilman, we’re open Fridays for lunch from 11 (a.m.) to 1 (p.m.), and we do have a buffet that day,” Bull said.
The buffet at the Gilman restaurant includes a salad bar, pizza and breadsticks — and it has been a popular offering.
“On Fridays it’s pretty busy for the lunch buffet,” Bull said.
The Paxton restaurant’s menu will closely reflect the menus at Bull’s two other Pizza Palaces, Bull said. Among items on the menu in Paxton will be appetizers (breadsticks, bone-in and boneless chicken wings with 20 choices of dipping sauces, French fries, fried pickles, cheese wedges, salads and chicken nuggets), sandwiches (Italian beef, meatball, and chicken, bacon and ranch), pasta (baked spaghetti, ravioli, chicken alfredo, stuffed shells and stuffed manicotti), baby-back ribs, and, of course, pizza.
Pizzas come in sizes ranging from 8 inches in diameter to 16 inches. There are a variety of options for the style of pizza crust, including thin crust, hand-tossed, cheese crust, a Chicago-style super-stuffed crust and the “double-decker” crust, which is two thin crusts with mozzarella cheese in between and toppings on top.
“We do basically some of everything,” Bull said.
Also available on 10-inch and 14-inch pizzas is a “low-carb” crust that was developed by Bull.
“The 14-inch has 38 grams of carbs in the entire crust,” Bull said. “So people on a low-carb diet have that option.”
A “Pizza Palace-Paxton” Facebook page featuring the menu at the Paxton location will be set up prior to opening day, Bull said — as will a telephone number for carryout and delivery orders.
About half of the Paxton restaurant’s staff has already been hired, Bull said. Still needed are more kitchen prep workers, delivery drivers and shift managers, Bull said.
Most of the restaurant’s anticipated 15 to 20 employees will be part-time workers, he said. Anyone interested in applying is asked to call the Pizza Palace in Gilman at 815-265-4321 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bull said he has already installed new kitchen equipment and has arranged for Paxton-based Signs & Designs to design the restaurant’s signage.
Bull said he has signed an initial one-year lease with the Paxton building’s owners — Josh Garrell and his father, Mark — but he anticipates the restaurant sticking around much longer than that.
“I want it to be long term,” Bull said.
The building on Paxton’s west side has been vacant since January, when the Little Chef Diner closed after just nine months in operation. The building was previously occupied by Three Boys Diner, which closed suddenly in early 2018 after being in operation since summer 2017. The Pizza Hut had occupied the building until it closed on Dec. 31, 2016.