Carius: Eight years later, sushi is selling wonderfully at La Bamba | Food and cooking


My first thought eight years ago was what could be more bizarre than adding sushi to a successful burrito restaurant and offering burritos and sushi? This happened when my friend Lupe Aguas first mentioned to me that he was considering adding a 7 foot sushi crate and making and selling sushi at his Mexican restaurant La Bamba in downtown. town.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only skeptic. Lupe says many told her it was a “crazy idea” to add sushi to a burrito restaurant. Now keep in mind that in 2014 sushi had not gained popularity in BN like it does now where it is available in grocery stores and many restaurants.

Larry Carius


However, he had the last word. Now ask Lupe how the sushi sales are going – he smiles quietly and says “very successful”. In fact, sushi sales over the years have far exceeded his expectations.

Lupe says he wasn’t very familiar with sushi when chef Danny Valencia approached him about adding a sushi crate and making and selling sushi at La Bamba. Danny told him that he had 13 years of experience making sushi in Japanese sushi bars, the last five as a sushi chef at the local Japanese restaurant – Hayashi, which had closed a year earlier.

After thinking about it, Lupe told Danny that if Danny paid for the equipment to make and sell sushi, they would split the sushi business 50-50. So Danny bought and installed a 7 foot sushi crate at the north end of the front counter, bought a two door freezer and some supplies, added a hot water line and they were in the sushi business too quickly with the La Bamba Sushi Bar.

Lupe adds that many of Danny’s customers followed him to La Bamba, and it was time to add sushi since sushi was just starting to become popular in Bloomington-Normal. Kudos to Lupe and Chef Danny for taking the risk, and both are smiling as I write this.

From Larry’s Notebook

BARREL HOUSE — Tentac, the owner of the Doubletree Hotel, will be the franchisee and bring the small eastern Iowa chain to the location of the former TGI Friday attached to the DoubleTree Hotel. Tentac describes the Barrel House as offering upscale pub fare and 12-15 draft beers. A major renovation should begin soon and the restaurant should open this summer.

GENE’S DAIRY DELIGHT — The walk-in custard stand recently opened for its 52nd year at 1019 S Main St.

FIESTA RANCHERA — The local family ownership recently purchased the A-frame building at 604 IAA Drive for $500,000 and will demolish it to relocate the Fiesta Ranchera from the adjacent Empire Crossing. Some may remember the A-frame that once housed Heap Big Beef, The Beef Place and Dabney’s.

MIKE SVOB — Congratulations! Mike recently retired after 36 years with Schooners, the last 27 as Managing Director.

CHI FAMILY EXPRESS — A family member of the hugely popular Chi Family Restaurant in Lincoln recently opened a take-out-only restaurant at 3907 General Electric Road in Bloomington.

A FAVORITE LARRY MENU ITEM — The Ribeye Tomatillo Pork Entree at Medici in Uptown.

Carius, of Bloomington, is a former food program and plan review supervisor for the McLean County Health Department. His Facebook blog, Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene, has 31,000 followers.

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