Moraine View restaurant offers fun, food and lake views

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LEROY — Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental, 27374 E. 900 North Road in LeRoy, is this week’s pick for Eats of the Week.

Husband-and-wife owners Enrique Lopez and Denise Bilski contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to operate concession services at Moraine View State Recreation Area. 


Ready for dinner — or lunch, or breakfast — with a view? Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental, 27374 E. 900 North Road in LeRoy, offers savory basics and sweet treats along with kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals. 

Lopez is originally from Mexico and Bilski is from Chicago, but they met in LeRoy and now live there to run the business. 

“There’s such a variety of people who use the park so we really try to have something for everyone,” Bilski said. “Compared to a standard restaurant when you’re more in an urban setting or more densely populated area, you really get to know your customers and you’re able to serve exactly what they’re looking for. Here we have to balance expectations and try to understand.”

Longtime residents may remember the establishment’s previous life as Gibson Family Restaurant, operated by Leon and Judy Gibson. 


Enrique Lopez prepares crepes with powdered sugar at Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental in LeRoy. 

The business also offers kayak rentals (including beginner-friendly options), canoes, stand-up paddle boats and more. The campground itself offers amenities such as standing beaches that open on Memorial Day weekend, walking trails, fire pit rentals, hunting, fishing, camping, horse trails, pavilions, a playground and more.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers indoor and outdoor patio seating, where there is a view of the lake and a boat dock.

Bilski and Lopez met while working for the same company, Billy Casper Golf, where they would help manage golf courses and campground facilities. They eventually decided they wanted to venture out on their own. 

The two also own and operate the restaurant at Steven Forbes State Recreation Area in Kinmundy, roughly 150 miles south of Moraine View. Such is the couple’s commitment that they even lived out of a camper for four years while operating the LeRoy restaurant. 


A Chicago-style hot dog is shown at Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental. 

“We meet a lot of people and we’ve got some exposure to different organizations like Cub Scouts, church groups that come out on a regular basis, and there’s naturalists that come use the park,” Bilski said. “So we’ve had a lot of different people. It’s chaotic but the most fun. There’s a lot of activity.”

Popular menu items include the burgers, chicken wraps, and the chicken melt sandwich.


An ice cream sundae — complete with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on top — is shown at Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental in LeRoy. 

Specials are offered Tuesday through Friday. One menu item is chosen as a special for a meal, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is offered at a discounted price.

Bilski’s favorite menu item is the BLT because of the thick-cut bacon. Lopez’s favorite item is the banana crepes. 

The seasonal restaurant is open from April through October. 

“We catch a lot of folks that drive to us from LeRoy, Downs, Ellsworth, Bloomington-Normal and maybe they’re on their way home from work or they’re going out for the night,” Bilski said. “But it’s an opportunity for them to actually go out, get food away from the house and not have to drive all the way into town if they don’t want to. As an added bonus, they get a beautiful view that comes with their meal, which is pretty awesome.”

Moraine View is also a family-oriented restaurant, as Bilski added that Lopez’s sons and nephews, and other family members often help out during the summer.


Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental in LeRoy is shown. 

Like many restauranteurs, Bilksi and Lopez had to pare down their menu due to COVID-19, including no longer offering a breakfast menu. However, Bilski said they recently brought back breakfast and added avocado toast, crepes, omelets and breakfast burritos to their menu. 

Lopez typically stays to operate the LeRoy location while Bilski goes up to Kinmundy to take care of the other restaurant.

Bilski acknowledged that the couple stays very busy, but said they appreciate the partnerships they have established and feel that they have found the right balance in handling the concessions for two state recreation areas.

Contact Olivia Jacobs at 309-820-3352. Follow Olivia on Twitter: @olivia___jacobs

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