Dalene Bratcher doesn’t sugar coat her words like she does her homemade pies and cakes that sit in the cooler, enticing customers to consider dessert first as they walk in the door to Mimi’s Place in Carrier Mills.
Dalene Bratcher means business. As the owner, manager, cook, door greeter, hostess, customer service specialist, and buyer for Mimi’s Place in Carrier Mills, Dalene Bratcher is busy, and she loves it.
The name Mimi was given to her from her granddaughter and was the perfect name to give her restaurant, a dream that was over 35 years in the making. Before Dalene Bratcher was working her recipes, she was an EMT and paramedic in Central and Southern Illinois.
“This was a lifelong dream of mine,” said Dalene Bratcher. “I want to make people happy, eating my food. If people want to eat food like their grandma used to make— real, homemade food, they will find it here.”
Mimi’s Place originally opened in July 2016, closed for a year, and opened for the second time in May 2018. Since the second opening, Dalene Bratcher has worked diligently to become a mainstay in Carrier Mills.
Dalene Bratcher explained that the closure occurred because they had the wrong mindset. They have shifted their focus on serving what the people want and striving to become a part of the Carrier Mills community.
“The first time we opened, I just didn’t know what I know now,” said Dalene Bratcher. “We are doing this right this time.”
Decorated with the same items you may find in a cozy, country home, Mimi’s Place has accomplished the goal of feeling like walking into grandma’s kitchen. No matter the time of day or evening, the entire restaurant is a reflection of home, just without the mess. Every inch of the restaurant, including the floors, shine. No one who enters calls Dalene Bratcher by her given name. She is Mimi to every customer and every friend that crosses her doorway.
Breakfast starts Monday through Saturday just before 5 a.m. and Dalene Bratcher’s shift doesn’t end until after 7 p.m. each evening. The restaurant fills each meal time, blanketing each table with locals, regulars and passersby. Her phone rings consistently with callers who will drive out of the way or from area businesses in search of a “home” cooked meal. Even in midafternoon, the customers grace her doors, looking for meals that are cooked from the heart and soul. There are days that are standing room only or where you might share a table with old friends and new.
“I like old school food. We make the food that people grew up on,” said Dalene Bratcher. “I made a German Chocolate cake the other day that took all morning to make. It lasted an hour and a half before it was gone. It’s really homemade and that is what people want.”
Dalene Bratcher’s husband Raymond Bratcher said their meals are served in large portions and with good reason.
“It’s the same way here at the restaurant as it is our home,” said Raymond Bratcher. “If they leave hungry, it’s their fault.”
If you order chicken at Mimi’s, know the chicken has been cut, floured, seasoned, and fried in Mimi’s kitchen. The creamed corn is more than just butter, a little heavy cream, and corn. The cheese sticks are hand battered with a mixture of seasonings Mimi created and then fried. The patty melt is served with a sauce only she makes. The seasoning on the burgers? Dalene Bratcher’s recipe. Marinara sauce? A recipe that comes from memory.
“Our dumplings are rolled, cut, and dropped from scratch,” said Dalene Bratcher. “If I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t serve it.”
The Bratcher’s are adamant about shopping local and using local resources when they are available. The biscuits and gravy are made from sausage purchased at Millstone Market in Carrier Mills. The pork tenderloin comes from Big Johns in Eldorado or Millstone Market.
Dalene Bratcher has spent the last year working to feed those who are able to sit at her table or order to go but she has also found ways to give to the small, rural town that surrounds her restaurant. She has proudly donated sweets to area churches and hosted a free Thanksgiving meal in November that fed 325 people.
“I am not from here and I really want the community to accept me and what I have to offer,” said Dalene Bratcher. “I told my husband that before I die, I will own a restaurant. It makes me happy to see people come in and really, truly enjoy their food. It’s my recipes or my employee’s recipes that are plated and served.”
It was after the second opening of Mimi’s that Dalene Bratcher utilized the resources available at the Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center (WISBDC) at Southeastern Illinois College to understand more about marketing.
“They are there to help you and answer questions,” Dalene Bratcher said. “I would tell anyone looking to open a business to go to the Small Business Development Center.”
To learn more about Mimi’s daily specials, hours, or to place orders for meals and desserts, call 618-994-4888 or visit them on Facebook. The restaurant is located at 6997 US 45 South in Carrier Mills.
The Workforce & Illinois Small Business Development Center is designed to assist owners and managers of small businesses as well as anyone wanting to start a business in the area. Most of their services are available at no charge. For more information about the WISBDC at SIC and their services, contact Arla Murphy at 618-252-5400 ext. 2312.