Make R-Place Family Eatery Your Place
When Kathie Romines and her late husband, Larry, started R-Place Restaurant in Morris in 1967, Interstate 80 served as a major new corridor in Grundy County. The couple leased the Morris truck stop and opened a 100-seat restaurant called the Chuck Wagon, a welcome sight for travelers and locals looking for a hearty meal.
“Back then, everybody ate burgers, roast beef and fried chicken,” Romines recalls. “Coffee was 10 cents a cup, and diesel fuel was 29 cents a gallon.”
During the next 20 years, the Romines family became owners of the restaurant, and its popularity grew among truck drivers, tourists and community members. In 1987, they expanded it to a 250-seat restaurant and changed the name to R-Place because for many loyal customers, it had become their place.
“We wanted to make it interesting and fun, so we collected a lot of old-fashioned toys and antiques that were installed, and we found a 1930s puppet show that entertains our customers waiting in line,” Romines says. “It still plays in our hallway and delights our guests, young and old. All you do is put a quarter in, and it plays.”
If You Go...
R-Place Family Eatery
21 Romines Drive in Morris
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
The nostalgic Americana atmosphere alone draws a crowd, but when you add the food, R-Place leaves a lasting impression few restaurants provide. Famous for its in-house bakery, R-Place turns out made-from-scratch breads, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies and other treats daily.
“We have quite a reputation for our birthday and wedding cakes, as well as our eclairs and cream horns. Those are hard to find anywhere else because they’re rather difficult to make,” Romines says. “People also know us for our fantastic homemade food, which is always very fresh because we go through food here like crazy. Families like us because we’re very kid-friendly. Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal.”
Popular menu items include the chicken pot pie, soup and salad bar, fried chicken, meatloaf, real mashed potatoes and the famous Premium Ethyl – the ultimate challenge for burger lovers. The 4-pound burger consists of a 2-pound patty, a 1-pound bun and 1 pound of “fixins.”
“If you can eat it in under an hour, it’s free,” Romines says. “Only one out of 10 people can do it, but people try every day.”
In 2007, TravelCenters of America bought R-Place from the Romines family, but it continues to serve up the same hearty food in a fun, down-home atmosphere. The restaurant’s decor changes four times a year to keep things interesting.
“[TravelCenters of America] was a great match for us. They understand our business, and I still get to be creative and have fun with it,” Romines says. She now serves as co-general manager of the restaurant with Carrie Coughlin.
“It takes two general managers to carry this business,” Romines says. “We do 1 million gallons of diesel fuel a month, so we stay very busy.”