Barefoot Braces for Rebirth on the Illinois River at Hardin’s New Location

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HARDIN – You could argue that Barefoot Restaurant has put Calhoun County’s community of Hardin on the map.

“If you travel to the Midwest and tell people you’re from Hardin, people will say, ‘I’ve been barefoot! I know where it is! said Hardin resident Kelly Sievers.

Just as safe as the spring flooding that caused the old Barefoot to close, the new Barefoot Restaurant is taking shape in the former Illini Medical Building on Water Street in Hardin. The new location provides an unobstructed view of the Illinois River without allowing that river to pass through the front door.


Sievers, his brother Brian Matthews and their spouses Phil Sievers and Cathy Matthews are the new owners of Barefoot Restaurant and they hope to be open in mid-June. The restaurant will feature the original recipe for fishcakes, fried chicken and other favorites from the old location, complemented by homemade baked goods and new specialties for diners to enjoy.

“Former owner Judy Herter and her son, Tony, and his wife, Kelly, have been truly amazing in the way they help us,” Kelly Sievers said. “Tony will come down and go through the breading process with us when the time comes.”

The Barefoot closed several years ago when the original owners, who had been repeatedly flooded, decided to take emergency federal disaster buyout. Since then, Brian Matthews had been interested in buying the restaurant’s name and recipes.

Matthews operates Blue Ridge Farms Market in Hardin, for which Kelly Sievers provides baked goods. Thus, the couple already had experience related to food. Brother and sister started talking, and before long they and their spouses were the new owners of the restaurant Hardin inherited.

The first order on the menu was a new location, as the flood buyout prevented the use of the old property.

“We started looking for buildings in Hardin and the old medical building was up for sale,” Kelly Sievers said. “It has a nice location. It’s right on the river and has a great view of the river and the Joe Page Bridge.”

“It’s a bit smaller than the original Barefoot, so we decided to add an addition to the rear, and we had to get special permission to build because it’s in the flood zone,” said- she declared. “It took a while to get this approved, so that’s why it’s taking us a bit longer to open. We’ve also had a lot of delays with shipping and things like that.

But barring major developments, the Barefoot Restaurant at 106 Water St. in Hardin should be open by mid-June.

“Everyone has memories at Barefoot,” Kelly Sievers said. “My husband and I remember going there as children with our grandparents.

“When I opened our Facebook page, people messaged me with their memories of going there,” she said. “They are so excited to be able to start over with their own families.”

Despite what the name suggests, public health regulations require people to wear shoes in the restaurant.

“The name comes from when boaters came straight from the river and walked barefoot to eat and drink,” Kelly Sievers said. “But the food and atmosphere will be just as great with your shoes on.”

Visit the Barefoot Restaurant Facebook page to stay informed of their scheduled opening.

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