In 2003, John Gallagher and his wife Susie purchased an abandoned building on Mill Street in downtown Waterloo, Illinois with the intent of making it into a destination restaurant that serves wonderful food.

But the idea for the restaurant project goes back much farther. In fact, for twenty years before, the owners had been gathering artifacts throughout the region for use when the time came to fulfill their dream.

First of all, it took a lot of imagination to see the grace of the 1870s building, and to have the vision to completely restore it to an elegance beyond its original. For example, you can see the original railings taken from the 1908 McKinley Bridge, when it was restored. These are now featured on the dining balcony over the entrance, and in the first floor bar area.

There are six distinct dining areas in Gallagher's, and each is unique. The owners gathered elegant pocket doors from the Chase Park-Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, when it was restored, as well as from other World's Fair Era buildings now being renovated in the Shaw's Garden Area. These doors are now set on their sides and are being used as wainscot on the first floor and to build booths.

John and Susie Gallagher, plus all five of their sons, their nephews, brothers-in-law, and others have done almost all of the physical labor needed to bring the building up to modern standards and beyond. They not only did all the woodworking, but also removed the old plaster to expose much of the original brick structure.

One of the things you see immediately upon entering the restaurant is the more than century-old bar, which is original to the building. However, the owners have completely restored the old quarter-sawn oak wood, and repaired the broken stained glass to its original glory. Similarly, in the third-floor dining rooms, you can see a unique private bar that dates back to the 1920s.

The old Bee Hive Bowl in Waterloo provided not only the hardwood bowling lanes which the owners turned into chic dining tables, but the special cookers were rescued from the kitchen there that was famous for its fried chicken.

From around the web

Battle Party: Celebrating the Gallagher's Burger
Gallagher's wins our Fried Chicken Frenzy tournament - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Best Comfort Food in St. Louis: Sundays in Waterloo - St. Louis Magazine
Local food review: Gallagher's Restaurant - Republic-Times of Monroe County
Best Fried Chicken - St. Louis Post-Dispatch