Tully Monster Pub & Grill is a bit like the fossil it’s named after.
You have to know where to look for it. Once you find it, it’s an exciting discovery.
The downtown Morris bar and grill sits in a prime location on Liberty Street, across from the courthouse. As a frequent Grundy County visitor, I’ve strolled past the business multiple times but never spotted the subtle signage.
You won’t see large letters on the windows, door or black awning declaring the site as Tully Monster Pub & Grill (although Morris-area friends tell me the awning said it in the past). Instead, there’s an A-frame chalkboard sign on the sidewalk that says, “Tully Monster: Craft Beer, Craft Food, Craft Cocktails, Kid Friendly!!! Kitchen opens at 11 a.m. Open 7 days a week.”
I have to be honest. I didn’t bother looking at the menu before I decided this was my dinner stop. The name alone pulled me through the door – how could I resist a restaurant named after the bizarre, 300-million-year-old extinct creature first discovered in the Mazon Creek fossil beds?
It turns out the menu has a lot to offer, with a range of appetizers, flatbreads, wraps, salads, sandwiches and burgers, plus a children’s menu. I was tempted to try one of the Tully-named menu items – there’s Tully’s Reuben, The Monster (a char-grilled burger) and the Fossil Named Tully (a hickory-smoked bacon and cheddar cheeseburger).
After changing my mind multiple times about the entree, I locked in my choice with the Cluckin’ BBQ flatbread, featuring grilled chicken, red onion and a layer of melted cheddar cheese sprinkled with hickory-smoked bacon and covered in swirls of barbecue sauce. That turned out to be the right choice. The flatbread is thin and crispy – offering an extremely satisfying snap with each bite.
The flavor hits the mark, as well. There was no exaggeration when I told my spouse, “I could eat this at least once a week and never get tired of it.”
Speaking of my spouse, the second entree delivered to our table was the Rockin’ Rocky, a blackened, Cajun-style burger with melted bleu cheese on a garlic-toasted bun. The patties are thick, and my spouse said the blackened beef balanced well with the sharp flavor of the cheese crumbles.
One of the highlights of dining out is the extras. When we cook at home, we don’t add many side dishes, so appetizers and sides are a treat we reserve for restaurants.
The pretzels and beer cheese appetizer at Tully Monster easily can serve up to four diners. Four soft pretzels, which are polka-dotted with salt, line the plate with a bowl of velvety cheese in the middle. The cheese-to-pretzel ratio was mathematical perfection – we sponged the last of it from the dish with the final bite.
I also ordered a cup of the house-made chili to accompany my flatbread, while my spouse upgraded the burger’s side of fries to garlic Parmesan fries. Both received our stamp of approval.
The restaurant offers a relaxed atmosphere in which to chat with your meal partner, despite my tendency to interrupt our conversation so I could hum along to a stream of CMT music videos. The volume was just high enough to hear the lyrics and lip sync along to Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” and Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina.”
Plenty of folks already have discovered Tully Monster. Several seats were taken at the bar when we walked in, and a social crowd was gathered around the pool table, not to mention its several thousand social media followers.
But it’s a new discovery for me, and I’m probably just as excited about finding this restaurant in 2022 as Francis Tully was about finding his monster in 1958.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Tully Monster Pub & Grill
WHERE: 104 Liberty St., Morris