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King Tower operators put down roots here

Invest in historic highway cafe

January 29, 2013
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

"I have a passion for restaurants," Vlaznim "Jimmy" Arifi states with commitment. He also professes an appreciation of history.

Arifi and his wife, Lejka, brought that passion and appreciation here when they took over the then-closed King Tower Cafe - a roadside landmark in Tama for 75 years.

They leased the property for five years in January, 2012, and set to work remodeling and refurbishing the 120-plus seat business.

Article Photos

King Tower Cafe operators Lejka and Jimmy Arifi with their sons Arti, 6, and Lipi, 8, in front of one of the well-known murals which grace the walls of the King Tower Cafe in Tama.
News-Herald/John Speer

Since opening in May, they have featured the food Jimmy learned to prepare since growing up in the restaurant business and meals the couple served at their own Corner Table Cafe in Galva, Ill. They owned the Galva business for nine years and have now leased it to another operator.

Jimmy says the decision to pull up from their successful business and new home in Galva and relocate their young family wasn't easy.

Most important Jimmy says is "It was a good decision to move to Tama because the kids love school here." Lejka and Jimmy said they really appreciate the teachers' help at South Tama with their sons Lipi, 8, and Arti, 6, with language as they hear Albanian (Jimmy's native language), German (Lejka's language) and English at home.

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Along with this, "We fell in love when we found the history of the King Tower and it makes us very happy to have the opportunity to run a historical restaurant in a historical town," Jimmy says.

The Indian murals, photos and displays in the cafe have all been preserved. Jimmy says he hopes to restore the exterior neon signs.

He says the King Tower location on the Lincoln Highway - now officially Business Route 30 - was a real lure for the couple. So much so, they recently bought the Lincoln Highway Bridge Inn, just down the road west from the cafe. (see a story next week on their progress with the motel).

The King Tower Cafe is all about the customers and they sincerely appreciate the support of the area, Jimmy says.

Featured on the menu are all-day breakfast and daily specials including a Friday night fish fry.

Carry-out orders are also welcome.

Jimmy, who worked in restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin as well as Switzerland where he met his wife, says such offerings as chicken dumpling soup and Black Angus hamburgers have fast become favorites.

Jimmy says his Swiss restaurant experience was "working in an Italian restaurant where I learned a lot. I had a good boss who taught n=me how to "run" frying pans."

The King Tower Cafe winter hours are 7 a.m.- 8 p.m. daily and open until 9 p.m. on Fridays.

Lejka serves as hostess, waitress and also can be found help out in back at the King Tower.

During the four months spent remodeling, new coolers, freezers and kitchen equipment was installed along with new ceramic tile in the kitchen area.

New carpet and floors have been installed in the seating areas.

The cafe has a party room seating 55 and was "very popular' during the recent Christmas season, Jimmy says.



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