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Springfield restaurant shows what’s on tap for Naperville

Bartender Jenn Davis serves up a beer.

Bartender Jenn Davis serves up a beer.

Tight neon pink spandex shorts with pantyhose and low-cut T-shirts or tank tops with a bold “Show-Me’s” logo across the chest are what you might have expected.

The zipped fleece jacket over the outfit, however, was a bit of a surprise.

The wait staff and bartenders at the Springfield Show-Me’s restaurant and bar, owned by the same restaurant group that recently won approval for a liquor license for a Naperville location, certainly weren’t dressed for church during a lunch-hour visit last week. But they weren’t showing more than what anyone might see at a public pool or many of the restaurants and bars that bring crowds to downtown Naperville on a Saturday night.

“The girls look good. They’re fun,” Show-Me’s Restaurants President Ron Cote said. “I never claim to be a family restaurant, but we get kids in all the time.” (Photos: Inside the Springfield Show-Me’s restaurant)

Some residents of Naperville were concerned that a Show-Me’s in their town would conflict with the west suburb’s family-friendly reputation. Opponents cited the restaurant chain’s Hooters-like atmosphere and the wait staff’s uniforms.

The outfits and overall look of the Naperville location will be a little different, Cote said, because of rules Naperville officials adopted before approving the liquor license. The bottoms of the uniforms, for instance, will be cuffed, button-up khakilike short shorts.

On the day he approved the license, Naperville Mayor George Pradel said the uniforms would reveal “no more (skin) than you see at church.”

In Springfield, the lunchtime crowd, as Cote suggested, did indeed include kids. Four children joined their parents, and some of the kids received free Frisbee-style discs decorated with the same logo that’s splashed across their waitress’s chest. And a few senior citizens stopped in to munch on items from the menu that features the sort of food you’d expect: burgers, fries, wings.

But with handmade signs advertising the 2011 Show-Me’s girl calendar and enough pennants to represent everyone’s team, families and seniors obviously aren’t the targeted crowd.

“When we first open up, we get more men than women,” Cote said. “But as we get older, we get everybody. Our demographic is sports fans. If you like sports, you’re going to love us.”

It’s definitely a place for drinking as well as eating. Drink specials scream out from neon beer signs throughout the restaurant. Kitschy vanity plates stamped with “fnybone,” “lobster” and similar obscurities dot the walls, as do photos of current and former Show-Me’s girls in varying degrees of clothing.

There’s a jukebox, a punching-bag arcade game and the traditional bar area, which encompasses less than a quarter of the small location.

The majority of the restaurant is a dining floor of high- and low-top wood tables, all with a roll of paper towels placed on each for napkins and a decent view of more than a dozen TVs.

The 12-year-old Springfield Show-Me’s is reminiscent of the corner watering hole, the one your neighbor says has the better food than the similar one down the street. Wings, burgers and greasy game-day snacks dot the menu, with some seafood like raw oysters and crab legs thrown in for good measure. Beer ranges from a buck for a 14-ounce Natural Light to $11 for a pitcher of Fat Tire. While it has a full bar, the restaurant seems to emphasize brews as opposed to hard liquor.

The attentive wait staff is not flirty. The lunchtime clientele ranges from 30-somethings at the bar to construction workers catching a quick lunch.

As an elderly couple ate near the back of the dining floor, manager Jean Edge was preparing tables for several large groups who had reservations to watch the University of Missouri versus University of Illinois basketball game.

But the Naperville location, which Cote hopes to open before the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, likely won’t look exactly like the Springfield restaurant. He said newer locations sport more modern televisions and amenities, as well as more space.

“It’s a thing to behold,” he said.

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