On the long drive from Chicago to visit family in St. Louis, the Hound and his parents always struggled to find a good place to get a bite to eat. The traffic leaving Chicago was usually horrendous, so once we got moving, we usually didn’t want to stop. But still, fast food was typically the most common and convenient option. So, one night after some convincing, the Hound led us to Tobin’s Pizza in the one of the few large stops on the trip, Bloomington-Normal.
Interestingly, Tobin’s serves two different menus: its own, and also that of another former local pizzeria, Micheleo’s. This caused some confusion for me as I called and the person on the other end of the line said, “Tobin’s or Micheleo’s?” Huh? After the third time the question was asked, I blurted out “Tobin’s,” scared I was giving away the fact that I wasn’t a local. According to Tobin’s website, Micheleo’s had been open since 1981, but in the last few years its owners sold the business to Tobin’s, who added that place’s menu to its, well, menu. Micheleo’s pizza probably great (there used to be two locations in the area), but we felt like we had to go with the primary namesake on this first trip.
Inside, Tobin’s is a classic family pizzeria–the type you don’t see enough of these days. Lots of tablecloths covering the tables, sparkly strands of lights, a few booths, wood paneling, and carpet. By far the best part of the dining room is the huge photo collection of customers enjoying their meals at Tobins. This photographs line nearly every wall–photos of smiling softball teams from 1984, kids’ birthday parties, first dates, and the like. Snapshots from happy pizza moments that are immortalized forever, all the while connecting Tobin’s to the local community. It’s clear that Tobin’s is a nice, comfortable place that thousands of local families have patronized numerous times on special occasions, quiet Thursday nights, and countless times in between.
We had to eat the pizza in the car, but that didn’t take away from the flavor. All pepperoni, half sausage, as usual. Piping hot! The thin and somewhat soft tavern crust was excellent. A true standout. The sausage, which came in huge chunks, was certainly notable, too. It had a distinct, strong flavor of some sort of spice that we could not place. I was hesitant after the first few bites but I eventually loved it. Can’t say that we’ve had any other sausage like it. Having this delicious, aromatic pie in the front seat drove Ernie bonkers! He would have eaten the whole thing if we had let him!
The Hound and I were determined to stop and try Micheleo’s pizza, but the timing never worked out. Tobin’s was definitely worth the short drive off I-55, and we would love to have it again. They do pan pizza, too, under the name “Momma Teresa’s”. You probably would have to grow up in Bloomington or Normal to keep all the names straight! Check out Tobin’s for a nice family pizzeria dining experience, or grab it to go on the long dark drive through central Illinois!
Tobin’s Pizza is located at 1513 N. Main St. in Bloomington, Illinois