Previously, we demonstrated capture and concentration of Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica ser. Typhimurium using magnetic ionic liquids (MILs), followed by rapid isothermal detection of captured cells via recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA). Here, we report work intended to explore the broader potential of MILs as novel pre-analytical capture reagents in food safety and related applications. Specifically, we evaluated the capacity of the ([P66614+][Ni(hfacac)3-]) ("Ni(II)") MIL to bind a wider range of human pathogens using a panel of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 isolates, including a "deep rough" strain of S. Minnesota. We extended this exploration further to include other members of the family Enterobacteriaceae of food safety and clinical or agricultural significance. Both the Ni(II) MIL and the ([P66614+][Dy(hfacac)4-]) ("Dy(III)") MIL were evaluated for their effects on cell viability and structure-function relationships behind observed antimicrobial activities of the Dy(III) MIL were determined. Next, we used flow imaging microscopy (FIM) of Ni(II) MIL dispersions made in model liquid media to examine the impact of increasing ionic complexity on MIL droplet properties as a first step towards understanding the impact of suspension medium properties on MIL dispersion behavior. Finally, we used FIM to examine interactions between the Ni(II) MIL and Serratia marcescens, providing insights into how the MIL may act to capture and concentrate Gram-negative bacteria in aqueous samples, including food suspensions. Together, our results provide further characterization of bacteria-MIL interactions and support the broader utility of the Ni(II) MIL as a cell-friendly capture reagent for sample preparation prior to cultural or molecular analyses. Graphical abstract.