Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Town Theatre

Growing up in Chillicothe, I saw many movies at the Town Theatre on Second Street right downtown.
I can even remember when we would make a stop at Ben Franklin first, for some movie munchies.
The theater is dubbed an original art deco theater, and still shows new release movies at a great price.
Opened in the 1920s as the Sunset Theatre, the theater became known as the Town in 1946, when it was taken over by the Kerasotes chain. Today, the theater is owned by Reynolds.
I remember when there was only one screen. Some time during the 1980s, they built a wall down the middle and spit the theater into two screens. Sometimes, you could hear kids running up and down the aisle in the adjoining theater. But once the show started, all was good.
A friend of ours says she saw A Christmas Story for the first time at the Town Theatre. Too bad my memory isn't as good; all I remember is that I have seen a lot of great movies there.

May 2010 — The Optimist Club purchased the theater last winter and may already be finished installing new seating.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Fraochán reported some sad news to me yesterday: she and her husband had stopped in to Mocha Joe's Beanery in the Metro Centre in Peoria to pick up some Snickerdoodle coffee, only to find out that the shop is going out of business.
Mocha Joe's was one of the first great espresso/cappuccino shops in Peoria. When my friends and I started driving to the big city of Peoria, we would hang out at Mocha Joe's drinking chocolatey mochas and shoot the breeze. We always had a blast there, and I continued to stop there for many years after, for gifts or for a good cup of coffee.
I am sorry to see them go.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Babbitt's Books

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a great bookstore, Babbitt's Books, 119 E. Beaufort Street in Normal.
Babbitt's Books, selling books locally since the later 1980s, is stuffed floor to very high ceiling with thousands and thousands of used books. There are gently used books, and historic books, cookbooks, poetry books, fiction and history, and so much more.
Overwhelmed by the selection or can't make it to the shop? Search for a book in their inventory on the Babbitt's Books web site, or even view the covers of books through their online gallery.
If you do stop in, the shop keepers will be happy to help you locate a book, and seem to truly love these well worn volumes.
I walked away with a lovely little book from 1904 that will be a nice addition to our household.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Round up

We've got some potentially good news on the horizon here at home, so that's a positive.

On the business front, this week sent us to many of our regular haunts: the C Note in Washington, and Sullivan's and the Hofbrau in Peoria, most for holiday cheer, one for dinner. We also went to a chain, IHOP, for convenience sake on a time crunch, and it was disappointing. Just reinforces my idea of staying local.
I made it to the River Beach Pub for a visit, which was fun, and we had a nice lunch again at Basil's in Washington. They hope to have their liquor license soon, but you can bring wine and beer in during the interim.

I've heard rumors of local businesses closing, and of some new ones on the horizon. I'm keeping an eye on the local front, and will post what I find out.

The holidays have taken an expected turn, but we still hope to head south right after Christmas, maybe Memphis and beyond, for good food and great music.
As always, I'll blog anything locally owned.
Wishing everyone a great Christmas, holiday and new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reflecting

The last month of the year, when most of our thoughts turn to the holidays, this time for me has been full of thoughts of former coworkers who lost their jobs in the last two weeks, friends facing the loss of relatives, and people close to me with job uncertainty.
In the spirit of this blog, here's hoping 2008 is a great year for local businesses, but also for those I know and care about.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pleasant Hill Antique Mall and Tea Room

A couple years back, a friend of ours claimed he had the "best steak ever" at Pleasant Hill Antique Mall Tea Room, 315 S. Pleasant Hill Road in East Peoria. I've yet to try the steaks, but it's an interesting claim.
This weekend, StfRon and I enjoyed breakfast in the tearoom at the mall. The crowd wasn't huge, but not terrible, either, considering the snowfall, and the later breakfast hour.
Our waitress came over right away, before I perused the drink menu and asked if we wanted coffee, so instead of making her wait, I said yes. Normally, since I had coffee at home, I probably would have had some sort of juice. But, much to my surprise, they had a decent cup of Joe here. Some breakfast places seem to chintz out on the coffee. I'd rather drink juice or chocolate milk than subpar coffee, but this was good.
Trying to be good, I went with oatmeal and wheat toast, with a side of brown sugar. To hell with being good, StfRon ordered biscuits and gravy with a side of corned beef hash, which of course, for the sake of blogging, I sampled.
Our food came out very quickly, which was good because we were very hungry. The gravy with the biscuits was not your standard fare, quite tasty. The hash was a little different, too. We couldn't tell if it was homemade, but it was good.
My toast was nicely doused with a butter or butter-like substance, and smeared with strawberry jam, was good. The oatmeal was piping hot and not too thick.
The two waitresses we saw were hustling, and didn't have a lot of time to run by with the coffee pot, but did a great job nonetheless.
After our breakfast, which set us back around $12 before tip, we spent about an hour browsing through booth after booth of furniture and collectibles.
Pleasant Hill Antique Mall seemed huge on this visit. By the time I got to the third section of the building, I was sure they had added on, but StfRon assured me they had not.
We saw a few blast from the past toys and books, and lots of neat furniture. Despite their name, not everything sold here is from Grandma's attic; there is newer merchandise throughout, too.
All in all, this was a great way to spend a chilly morning.

On a side note, we finally put up our tree this evening. I got the tree (made in USA) last year on sale after Christmas, from Christmas Depot. If you're looking on their site, scroll down on the left sidebar and look for made in USA or click on the banner ad right below the text links on the left sidebar.
I also got some new lights for half price last year, the LED clear strands of lights. Whoa, are these lights psychedelic!! While stringing them up to drape on the tree, they were pulsing in some sort of strobe effect. Once they were on the tree, they stopped pulsing, but they have an odd bluish purple light to them. Our dining room looks like it's bathed in blacklight or something.
I'm sure we'll get used to it. If other people make the switch to LED lights, ours won't look so out of place, either. And, I can leave them on longer and not feel like I'm going to send the CILCO bill sky high.

August, 2009 — The tea room in the antique mall has closed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

You Dirty Dog

The four legged member of our family needed a good dolling up for the holidays, so we took her to You Dirty Dog in Morton to be fluffed and buffed.
This was our first time in the shop, and we had heard that all of their merchandise and treats are made in the USA, which drew our attention even more.
Oh, my! This place has a large, double door wall case full of treats that look so good, a human would be salivating! They also have collars, keychains, toys and more.
We dropped Miss Thang (not her real name, really) off for her appointment. We were asked if she sheds (boy, does she ever), and headed off to dinner.
About an hour later, we stopped by to pick her up, and she was shiny and fresh smelling, and had a holiday collar cover on to boot! Mark said they had gotten a lot of hair off of her, which will be a big plus.
As we chatted with the owners, our dog kept trying to stick her snout in between the two doors of the glass case o' treats and take a big whiff.
This seems like a great crew of people, and they enjoy geocaching, too, so that's another plus with us.
You Dirty Dog is open Mondays from 1-8 p.m., Wed.-Fri. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon. They plan to have a web site up soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Round up

This week so far I've enjoyed lunch at Cyd's in Junction City in Peoria (now selling fresh-squeezed orange juice, at a premium, but I will have to try it); savored a bowl of sizzling rice soup and some crab rangoon at Yen Ching on University Street in Peoria; noted the breakfast sign is displayed again at Euro Jack's on Main Street in Peoria, serving breakfast from 6-11 a.m.; my interest was piqued when I heard about the prospect of some sort of a wine bar at the corner of State and Water Streets in Peoria; and my future plans include a trip to Pleasant Hill Antique Mall and Maurie's Candies in Pekin; and a holiday bath for our dog at You Dirty Dog in Morton.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pita's Mediterranean Wraps

If you've never tried fresh baked pita bread, you'd better head on over to Pita's Mediterranean Wraps right now.
Pita's, located in the Northpoint Shopping Center on Knoxville Avenue in Peoria, serves Mediterranean delights like hummus, falafel, Greek salads, kabobs, gyros and more.
Pita's also offers daily specials on weekdays.
I love the warm, soft, pita bread, especially with some hummus. And if I finish my meal off with some baklava, all is good.

January, 2009 — I visited Pita's to pick up some hummus for a party. I like the updated decor, and the hummus and pitas were a huge hit!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holiday Presence

One of the newer additions to the square in Washington is Holiday Presence.
This shop used to be on the Eureka end of the square, next to the Tally Ho's location, but moved several months ago to the location at 120 N. Main Street.
Holiday Presence carries gifts and decor for any holiday.
From fun, retro-styled tin signs and tin sign clocks from the Liberty Sign Company to coffee roasted fresh in Washington, to kitchen gadgets, and even some apparel, the shop has a nice selection of goods.
One thing that caught my eye was a rectangle Peggy Karr Glass plate, made in the USA, featuring a cluster of brightly colored poppy-like flowers. It seemed unusual that this would attract me, because typically I like neutral, earth toned decor, but the vivid colors against the green really appealed to me. There are several other designs of glass, too.
Another thing that fascinated me were some candles along the wall called WoodWick. The story with WoodWick is that the wick is made from natural, organic wood, and when it burns it is supposed to sound like a crackling fire. The candles also come with a wooden lid.
They also had some cool little mice toys stuffed with organic catnip, great for your furry feline friends. The mice are made in the USA.
If you've got holiday needs, or needs for presents, give Holiday Presence a try.

Purple Moose opened in October 2012 in the former Holiday Presence location.

I Know you Like a Book

I've dreamed for years of someday owning my own book store, and I Know you Like a Book is everything I would love my store to be, and more.
I opened the door at 4707 N. Prospect Road in Peoria Heights and stepped in off the street into this little sanctuary. The door closed behind me, and the woman behind the counter greeted me. About 15 seconds after my arrival, Ringo, the wiener dog, popped off his bed beside the counter, gave a single "Woof" and trotted over to greet me.
The walls are lined floor to ceiling with wooden bookcases done in a charcoal finish, and they have a built in appearance.
I Know you Like a Book sells new and used books, mixed together on the shelves. The used books are marked with handwritten price stickers on the back cover.
There are a few rooms of books, and each hallway is lined with bookshelves as well.
In one corner, there is a caraffe of coffee to enjoy while you browse.
The shop also carries the StoryTeller's Blends, a Leaves-n-Beans venture pairing special coffees with novels.
In the farthest room from the entrance, there is an attractive grouping of chairs, and a counter set up for wine tasting. Now this is genius. In all my wildest dreams, I never thought of serving wine in my imaginary book store, but it's a perfect fit for me.
I was in the store to look for a book for a Christmas gift, but I didn't see anything that struck me for this person. However, I did find a new book that sounded interesting for myself, so Merry Christmas to me, I guess!
Typically I pay for anything over $15 with my credit card, because I rarely carry cash (and I reap nice rewards from my credit card), but heading to the cash register, it struck me that a small business owner would more directly feel the cost of credit card acceptance, so I paid cash, said no thanks to a bag to carry my book in, and headed out into the falling snow.

Holiday happenings

Looking to have some the holiday fun this weekend? Here are a few local events to check out:

Holiday Shop & Stroll, Forest Park Nature Center — December 7 from 6-8:30, enjoy an evening stroll on the luminaria lit forest trail, live holiday music, storytelling, hot wassail and goodies, and shopping. $2.

Holiday Cruise, Spirit of Peoria — December 7 from 6-8:30 p.m., take a two-hour cruise (a two-hour cruise) featuring a hot buffet and musical entertainment. $38 for adults.

Folepi's Laser Theatre, Festival Building, East Peoria — December 7 at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., laser lights and images are set to holiday music.

Christmas on Court, Downtown Pekin — December 7 from 5-8 p.m., see Santa, take carriage rides, enjoy strolling carolers, skits and luminaries.

Candlelight Walks, Luthy Botanical Garden — December 7 & 8 from 7-9 p.m., see the poinsettia show under the glow of candlelight, while being serenaded with live music.

Christmas Concert, Forest Park Nature Center — December 8 at 7 p.m., listen to the music and stories of Tom and Chris Kastle. $7.

Road trip

We recently went to Milwaukee for a short getaway. We try to make it up there a few times a year, and one of our traditions while in town is to hit the Alterra Coffee, on Lincoln Memorial Drive along the lakefront.
Alterra is a local coffee roaster, and this location utilizes an old river flushing station to house a neat coffee shop and storefront.
Alterra roasts some varieties of Fair Trade Certified coffee, on top of working in an eco-friendly manner. Using recycled materials, geothermal climate control, and renewable energy, Alterra stands out for its conservation efforts. They have also recently become part of a local business alliance, which you can find out more about here.
I've enjoyed things like baked oatmeal, granola, breakfast burritos and fresh squeezed orange juice here, in addition to great coffee.
This time I was thinking they needed to speed up the coffee serving production line, but when I was served this artistic cuppa joe, I changed my mind. Very nice.

On our way back through Illinois, we stopped to look for some lunch. We took an exit into Rochelle and passed up the Iron Skillet. We ended up stopping at an older place called The Country School restaurant, which featured a red school house sign. The food was standard fast food fare, and our server informed us that they are known for the chicken and cole slaw, but we had already ordered burgers and onion rings.
The burgers were good, and as I sat and enjoyed mine, I started out the window at the new McDonalds next door and was pleased to see several cars drive in to The Country School drive-thru lane, even at 2:30 in the afternoon on a week day.

On our way back to the Interstate, I spotted Vince the chef of Vince's Pizza, and we drove by to check him out. Old Vince looked a little scared on this cloudy day, but looks like he serves up a big pizza pie.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ming Shee

I hadn't been to Ming Shee, 3510 N. University Street in Peoria, for quite some time until visiting this week.
The dining area has a few booths and tables, so if you decide to eat in, there will most likely be a place to sit. On the day StfRon and I stopped in, there were a couple of tables open.
I checked out the large color photos on the board, and went with the Hunan chicken lunch special, served with an egg roll, a piece of crab rangoon and fried rice.
The Hunan chicken was good, the crab rangoon was full of cream cheese and onion flavor, and the egg roll was filled with crisp cabbage. Everything was served piping hot.
StfRon had the General Tso's chicken special, which came with the same sides.
With a couple of large iced teas, our bill was about $13.
Ming Shee also offers carryout and catering, and has a Bartonville location on Garfield Avenue.

October, 2009 — I still visit Ming Shee several times a month. They now serve bubble milk tea, which is an interesting treat.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sullivan's

We've heard talk of Sullivan's Friday happy hour for quite some time, and finally made a point to stop in recently.
Sullivan's, located at 631 Main Street in Peoria, is one of my favorite bars. Especially during the holidays. Sully really knows how to deck the halls.
And, Sully knows how to put on a happy hour spread! On the night we were in, there were hot dogs, brats, fried chicken, veggies, cheese, crackers and more.
The bartenders we've encountered at Sullivan's are a classy crew, quick to pull up another beer or grill up a great burger or tuna steak sandwich.
I also ran into Matt from the Bogside Zukes, and he said they will be playing at Sullivan's on December 20.
I almost hesitate to click "Publish Post" on this entry, because I don't want hordes of people crowding in there and eating all the goodies and taking all the good seats, but it's a great hangout, and I must share the news!

12/31/07 - Sullivan's has changed ownership

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peoria Civic Center

I know I have been guilty many times of not appreciating some of the entertainment options provided to the Peoria area.
Last night, I visited the Peoria Civic Center for the first time since the ($55 million?) renovations, to see BB King in the theater.
The theater itself didn't have any noticeable upgrades to me. I've been there a few times over the years, to see the Nutcracker, Firebird and Itzhak Perlman, and everything looked the same as I remembered it.
I'll have to check out the arena. I spent years there in section 14 watching Rivermen games.

After showing our tickets at the theater entry doors, we headed to the concession area to order some drinks. The lines were crazy. Might not have been a bad idea to add some concession stands during the renovations, maybe one on the upper level, or bring in some portable ones for large events.
While standing in line, we heard the announcement that the show would begin in 10 minutes. The good news was, the line moved pretty quickly, and we got our drinks and headed to our seats.

There was an man playing guitar and singing when we got into the theater. We missed the announcement of who he was, and his name was not on the tickets or the advertisements we saw for the BB King concert. He played a handful of songs, and then the BB King band came out in full force, with trumpets, saxophones and guitars.
They had a lot of difficulty getting the sound tweaked during the first part of the show. I have heard some comments, and StfRon has, too, that the Civic Center Theater doesn't have the best acoustics, so maybe the crew was having problems getting it right.
Despite this, the BB King concert was great. At 82 years, BB was humble, funny and engaging, and his music was excellent.
I love seeing a show in a smaller venue like this, instead of some place like the Civic Center Arena. I felt a sense of loss when BB stood and said his goodbyes for the night.

We darted out the side door to get away from the crowds, only to be faced with the band's tour buses. We took a minute to snap a few pictures of the license plate, then bundled up for the walk back to our car.

Seeing a great event like this makes me consider what else I might be missing. Tickets for some of these events seem expensive, but the shows can be a once in a lifetime sort of thing.
I checked out the Peoria Civic Center's web site, and see that Blue Man Group will be back in April 2008. Hmm, maybe I can start saving up now...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More holiday shopping

This weekend marks the Peoria Heights Christmas Walk, November 30 and December 1.
Friday night will feature a 26-foot tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. in Tower Park, pictures with Santa at Heights Flowers, carriage rides, carolers and a craft and bake sale at Peoria Heights Congregational Church from 6-9 p.m. Stores will be open later than usual for holiday shopping.
Saturday, shop the unique local stores and Santa will be at Heights Flowers from 9-11 a.m. for photos.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Weekend roundup

It was nice to have an extended holiday weekend.
I wasn't very motivated to go shopping, but Friday I headed downtown to grab some soup to take to StfRon at work.
My plan was to go to Café 401, as I know they have homemade soups. I was dismayed, but not too surprised, to find them closed at 12:30. This is one thing I don't understand about downtown Peoria. On the day of the Santa Claus parade, don't you think that people would stop in for soup, coffee and hot chocolate if the businesses were open? Several years ago I went to the parade, and we were freezing waiting for it to start. We did at least find a place open in the Twin Towers Mall to grab a warm beverage.
So Friday I drove around Main Street and then onto Jefferson, and saw that Eamon Patrick's was open. Having been in before, I knew they had some soup offerings.
I went in and placed a carryout order. The two soups on the menu are tomato (with basil, I think) and Irish potato leek. I went with the latter, because it seemed like it would be hearty and stick to the ribs.
The soups didn't come with any rolls or crackers, but we found some crackers and dug in to the soup. It was very hearty.

Sunday afternoon we stopped in at Sullivan's, 631 Main Street in Peoria, for some holiday cheer. Sully has the bar all decked out for Christmas, and it really looks great. This has to be hands down one of the best bars in Peoria as far as atmosphere goes.
Watching the bartender grill up cheese burgers and tuna steak sandwiches, we wished we hadn't just eaten a large meal.
In any case, we had a nice time, and will be back in soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Route 66 Java Stop

I first saw the Route 66 Java Stop some time last year on my way through Dwight heading to a family dinner. Yesterday we passed by again, and I snapped a shot.
I love the idea of this place! Two used freight containers have been stacked and painted with retro graphics to create a drive-through java hut. What a great way to reuse materials in a creative, fun way. It's given us some food for thought.
The Java Stop used to be prominently visible when coming in to Dwight. This time, it was hidden a bit by a used car lot, but it's right at the back of the lot, and as cool as ever.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Basil's

What once was the Brick Oven on the square in Washington, then was Bella's, then the Brick Oven again, now is Basil's.
We made an early lunch appearance this week. Normally, I like to to wait at least a month before visiting a new establishment, to give them some time to work out kinks. Basil has been open less than a week at 110 N. Main Street, but the owners have been in the restaurant biz, including a restaurant in Galesburg.
We arrived shortly after 12:30 on a weekday. Our drink order took a little bit to arrive, but I think they were brewing some fresh iced tea.
The decor was pretty much identical to the Brick Oven, with the addition of some white paper on top of white linen table cloths, and brighter lighting, at least during lunch. Our booth was a little too bright for our comfort, and allowed us to notice that the wall along this section could probably use a nice coat of paint. However, the mural along the opposite wall looked almost more vivid than ever.
I went with a menu item bearing the namesake: a chicken basil sandwich, served on ciabatta bread, accompanied by chips. The sandwich was also topped with cheese and some herbed spread. It was served piping hot and was extremely good. The ciabatta bread was soft and tasty; an added bonus.
StfRon went with a meatball parmigania sandwich, also with chips. The marinara sauce had a hint of sweetness, and this sandwich was also very good.
Both meals were nicely presented on cobalt blue plates, with a dusting of parmesan.
Basil plans to have a liquor license soon, and I would like to check out the wine selection. If nothing else, I will stop by again to sample the food.

May, 2008 — Basil's has closed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Madder than a wet hen

The week leading up to turkey day has me very irritated.
It all started Saturday, and each day since has been filled with a series of events seemingly orchestrated to piss me off.
Mind you, none of these things are too serious, but so many little things are piling up during a stretch of days that has its fair share of stress.

I finally got a chance to head out to lunch today shortly before 2 p.m. I had no idea where I wanted to go, driving in a some sort of hypoglycemic-like state down Sheridan for a bit, I ended up stopping at Le Café, which I visit from time to time. I knew it would be quiet, and that was appealing.
I ordered the soup of the day, a tomato grilled cheese soup, accompanied with a chicken and fruit salad. The soup came with a roll, also. The soup was very good and hearty, although the chicken salad was not as good as past times I've been in, but it was full of pineapple, almonds and grapes.

The good news is, it's Thanksgiving week, which means a little time off work, hopefully a drink or two with good company Wednesday night, and then resurrecting traditions of the holiday dinner with family. The family has shrunk and grown and shrunk again over the years, but it's always good to spend a day enjoying good food with good people, and remembering years past; enjoying some things that are new, and taking comfort in the things that are still the same as they ever were.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Carlson's Custom Jewelry

My wedding ring is different and unique, and I love it.
We decided to see about having a ring made to match mine for StfRon, after scouring the web looking for a nice ring for him, and chose Carlson's Custom Jewelry for the task.
Carlson's, located at 4701 N. Prospect Avenue in Peoria Heights, carries a selection of jewelry, creates custom jewelry, and performs jewelry repairs.
We had decided to see about having a family wedding ring redesigned into StfRon's wedding ring. We talked to an employee at Carlson's, and she said they would be able to do this, and might need to add a small amount of gold to the ring as well, to create the design we wanted.
We got a call a few weeks later from Carlson's; they were ready for my ring, to use to pattern StfRon's ring after.
We picked up the rings shortly before our wedding, and the one Carlson's created looked great, and we love the fact that our rings look like they belong together.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Finally Friday

Today we decided to lunch at Euro Jack's on Main Street in Peoria, which we've visited before.
The crowd was light during the 12:30 hour.
I noticed the seafood bisque on the specials board, and decided to try that, along with a Greek salad. The mug of bisque was full of bits of fish and shrimp, in a creamy, orange base and the salad was light and filled with kalamata olives.
StfRon noticed they had a chef salad listed with britney dressing, and being a britney dressing fiend, ordered it. The large chef salad was full of ham, cheese, greens and bacon, then drenched with lots of the bacony sweet and sour dressing. Very good.

During lunch we also made a stop at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for the first time. This large warehouse is filled with lots of donated materials, like doors, windows and sinks, in addition to used furniture and appliances, light fixtures and more. We didn't see anything we couldn't pass up on this visit, but I'll bet we could score some neat stuff if we kept stopping in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holiday shopping, local style

It's about time for me to ramp up my Christmas shopping, as the parties begin the first week of December.
I've been scoping out the local holiday open house shopping events because they're a good way to get in the spirit, sample some special treats and even enter drawings for prizes.
Friday, November 16 (which I sadly cannot attend), Junction City will feature the Joe Metzka Trio from 5-8 p.m. in the Butcher Block for their annual holiday walk. Carriage rides around Junction City will be available from 6-8 p.m., and lots of goodies will be available for sampling in the stores.
The Peoria Metro Centre's holiday open house is November 17 & 18. The Metro Centre features local businesses like The Hyacinth, Naturally Yours, Pottstown Deli, Mocha Joe's Beanery, Scrapadoodle, Abe's, and more!
The thing I look forward to most, though, this holiday season, is spending time with good friends and family, and reviving old and new traditions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

4A Deli

This weekend I checked out the 4A Deli, next to Lindy's Downtown Market in Washington.
The deli is nicely decorated, with olive green walls, a tin ceiling and a wood countertop and floors.
There's a decent selection of sandwiches to choose from, like turkey, veggie, reubens, tuna salad, roast beef, cheese and more.
StfRon went with the quarter lb. Vienna hot dog, served with kraut, relish, onions, ketchup, mustard and hot peppers, priced at $3.99. He really enjoyed the hot dog. I had a bite, and the hot peppers gave it a nice kick.
I went with the Voodoo Veggie sandwich, $4.99, with mushrooms, cucumbers, onion, sunflower seeds, avocado and cream cheese, minus the tomato, all on a croissant. The sandwich was good, but I thought it could use a little kick, maybe some mustard or a dill sauce.
I also had one of their sugar cookies, which had green M&Ms in them. The cookies are small, which I actually appreciated. Eating a cookie the size of my head after eating lunch makes me feel somewhat guilty.
As I was eating, I also noticed they serve soup. I'm a sucker for a good soup.
4A Deli also offers boxed lunches.
Currently they are open 7 days from about 10:30-2 p.m. After the holidays, they will probably be closed on Sundays.

September, 2009 — The 4A Deli has closed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Homespun Gallery

On top of listening to some tunes by Joe Metzka this weekend, I also squeezed in some shopping, some dining at the Kaiserhof and another local joint I'll blog about later this week.
I did get a chance to check out the new Homespun Gallery in Washington, located at 110 S. Main Street in a newly-renovated building on the square.
The furniture featured in the store is more high-end, reproduction furniture built right here in the US. The furniture is made to order, so if you find a piece you like, you can even choose the color or finish to suit your taste. There are some beautiful wall units in the shop.
There are several gift items in the store, including some neat toys made in the USA.
I found some mittens, which I'm sure I'll need sooner or later this winter, despite the warm temps so far, made from leftover sweater scraps, by some adults with disabilities right here in the USA as well. The mittens are available in several sizes and colors.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pimiteoui Trail

Looking for a nice place to take a walk on your lunch hour near downtown Peoria?
The Pimiteoui Trail is very popular with the lunchtime walking crowd, and with bikers as well.
I usually pick up the trail at the Riverplex or sometimes over near the River Station and just walk north along the river on the paved path. It's a peaceful walk, and you can see and hear some interesting wildlife once in a while.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lunch dilemma

Today I had to run some errands at lunch. I was considering what local options were available to me in the area of Peoria I was in, and after running though my options several times, had pretty much settled on Burger King for a cheeseburger and iced tea. It's good, quick, and cheap, but didn't fit as far as local.
When I drove up, there were eight cars ahead of me in the drive thru. Right then I decided to veer through the parking lot and stop at Po-Boys.
I've blogged about Po-Boys before, but rarely go there for lunch.
Today, when I stopped in, I was greeted by my server Byron, who was cheerful and prompt throughout my lunch.
I decided on a muffaletta sandwich. Byron asked if I wanted a full or half, so I went with half. The sandwich also comes with fries.
Boy, am I glad I went with the half sandwich! This thick, white bread loaf sandwiched lots of thinly sliced ham and salami, with provolone and olive spread to top the whole thing off. Sometimes I had to mash the sandwich down in the middle with my fingers to be able to take a bite. The accompanying fries were thin and crispy, kind of like Steak N Shake's fries.
This was a hearty lunch, and I brought half of it home for a second meal. Plus, I was in and out in less than 40 minutes, and got to listen to some nice Blues while I dined. Burger King drive thru can't top that!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Plaza Lanes

Bowling generally brings back bad memories of high school P.E. class for me. The teacher would berate my skinny ass for using a nine pound ball, and even with my light ball, I wasn't very good at it.
We've ventured to Plaza Lanes, 1500 Washington Road in Washington once or twice. The place is cool in a retro sort of way. And the bowling shoes and balls look way better than what I remember from high school in my hometown.
My bowling skills really have not improved with age. But I have mad technical skills.
Plaza Lanes also has something called Rock-n-Glow bowling, which looks to be very popular, with the top 20 videos displayed on large screens overhead.
We've also checked out the bar. The finest vintage to be had was a white zin, which was retro in itself for me. After I graduated from Lambrusco many years ago, I moved on to white zin. I don't think I'd had one in 10 years until I ordered one at the bowling alley. But, I digress.
All in all, Plaza Lanes is a fun break from the old boob tube. We'll be spending a few winter nights at the bowling alley, if there's any room for us.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Live blogging Iowa City

This weekend took us to Iowa City, and right now we are sitting in the Hamburg Inn No. 2, Iowa City's oldest family restaurant, recommended to us by our friend Minney.
The little place was packed when we got here, so we are sitting at the counter, starting at boards listing menu items. The shakes & malts board caught my attention, with the choice of vanilla, chocolate, coffee, butterscotch, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, pineapple, orange, lemon and maple. We placed our order for a butterscotch malt.
The back wall of the Hamburg Inn, established in 1948, is covered with political advertisements and memorabilia.
For lunch, I had to try the sweet potato pancakes, so I ordered just one, and a California burger, topped with cheese, avacado and pico de gallo.
StfRon went with a bacon cheeseburger, fries and chips. The chips are homemade, toasty brown, and pretty good. The burgers served here are 1/2 pounders.
The sweet potato pancake is huge, enough to almost cover a dinner plate. The sweet potato and spice flavor is subtle, at first I thought it was an ordinary pancake, but it's very good.
This butterscotch malt is awesome. I might have to make several more trips here to to get my fill!
OK, gotta finish my meal. Although, a bonus is, blogging while eating means I'm eating more slowly, and will probably get full before I finish my meal. Hmm, live blogging = diet strategy?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sizzling India

Having peered in the window of Sizzling India on Main Street in Peoria and seen the mustard yellow walls and basket-woven dining chairs topped with cushions, atop which sat many diners during the lunch hour, I wanted to check the place out.
I know next to nothing about Indian food, and was a little concerned the menu would not have descriptions of the items. We stopped in during a weekday lunch hour, and no menu was presented, maybe due to there being a lunch buffet.
I figured a buffet would be a good way to sample many different items, so since someone had given us water and no server had stopped by our table, we headed to the buffet to select some dishes.
The dishes were labeled with Indian names, which didn't help us figure out what they were, so I took a wide array of samples.
After our first trip to the buffet, we noticed that several tables had a basket of some sort of flatbread. The other thing we noticed was that everyone was drinking water. That's when it occurred to us that we were not offered anything else to drink, and wondered if there were other drink options available.
The first thing I chose from the buffet, adai looked like an orangish pancake. It was different.
Next, I tried some fried cauliflower, which was OK. I also tried a tomato rice and a white rice dish, both of which were fine.
Once I got to the butter chicken, I decided this dish was a winner. The tandoori chicken was pretty good, too.
I also sampled a green bean dish in an orange colored sauce. It was a little like having a spicier green bean casserole, minus the fried onion topping.
StfRon tried a few dishes, too, but ended up mostly eating the butter chicken as well.
The dishes all had a variety of Indian spices to them, some much spicier than others. The lunch certainly cleared out my sinuses a bit, which is not a bad thing.
A server brought us by a basket of flatbread, which is called naan. This bread was soft, warm and very good. The servers also kept our water glasses well-filled until almost the end of the meal, however they kept to themselves very much, and didn't really have much interaction with the customers.
For dessert, we each took a small bowl of the rice pudding. I was surprised to find it had a sort of lemony flavor to it, probably from cardamom, but after the initial surprise, I found it to be kind of tasty. There were also nuts mixed in.
We were not presented with a bill, so we went to the register to pay for our buffets, $8.25 each. While at the register, we saw a bar area and the menu, which featured many more Indian dishes, Indian Chinese selections and beverages.

October 2009 — Sizzling India has closed

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This weekend's events

I was checking around to see what's going on this weekend in the Peoria area. Here are a few things I came up with:

Dueling Pianos at the Waterhouse in Peoria— Friday, November 2: My mom has wanted to check this out for quite some time, and I think it would be fun. Not sure we'll make it this Friday, but I would like to go soon. You can partake of the buffet and show for $31.95 per person, or just the show for $10.

Will You Still Love Me in the Morning at the Barn II Dinner Theatre in Goodfield — Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3: The Barn II is always a good time. Friday shows are $31, Saturdays are $33 which includes the buffet and show. Bring a bottle of wine and you're set.

ITOO Annual Supper — Sunday, November 4: I've not yet been to this, but this is their 80th annual supper featuring American and Lebanese cuisine, and still going strong. I've seen the big red signs around town and it's fun to say ITOOOOOOOO when you drive by. Trust me.
Carryouts are available, with adult dinners at $13.50, children eat for $7. From 11:30-7 at 4909 W. Farmington Road.

Live at the Five Spot — Friday, November 2, Groovatron; Saturday, November 3, Peoria Area Civic Chorale: Held at the Contemporary Art Center, 305 SW Water Street in Peoria, these shows can be a lot of fun. Bring some snacks, or order food from the Rhythm Kitchen and enjoy the show for $10.

Joe Metzka — Friday, November 2: Joe will be playing at the Red Rock Bar & Grille, 332 Detroit Avenue in Morton. Never heard of the place, but I have heard of Joe, and always enjoy his performances.

Jimmy Binkley — Saturday, November 3: Jimmy tickles the ivories Saturday nights starting at 7 p.m. at Sky Harbor Steakhouse, 1321 Park Road, West Peoria.

Holiday Open House — Saturday, November 3: Get a jump start on the holidays at Green View Nursery's open house, from 8-6 at 2700 W. Cedar Hills Drive in Dunlap.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Captain Ron's

We did some boating this summer, and a couple of times ended up grabbing some grub at Captain Ron's, 579 Wesley Road in Creve Coeur.
I had never been to Captain Ron's prior to this. The river access makes it a great place to stop, and deck dining can't be beat on a nice day.
This riverside restaurant has a distinctly nautical decor, befitting the beachy location.
I sampled a burger on one visit, and a spicy pulled pork sandwich on another visit, the latter of which I topped with my side of cole slaw, Memphis style. Both were good, but what also kicked things up a notch was the side dish I chose, the sweet potato fries, served with a whipped cinnamon butter-type substance. Pretty tasty.
Our service was good both times.
The prices are reasonable, and it's easy to wile away part of the afternoon on the deck, enjoying the breeze and river views.

In August 2012, Captain Ron's became Kuchie's on the Water.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Expo Gardens

Sunday we were out running errands, and decided to check out the Giant Flea Market at Expo Gardens.
Admission is $1.50 each. Once you get inside, it's really almost a big garage sale, with some collectors' items and antiques thrown in for good measure.
We did score on this visit, finding a couple of knick-knacks for our home bar we are in the process of setting up.
If you find yourself hungry at the flea market, you can visit the concession stand for things like nachos and hot dogs. Sunday, there was also a grill going right outside the entry doors, which smelled really good each time we walked by.
If the Giant Flea Market is not your speed, you can check out events like the reptile show, the haunted house, and the Heart of Illinois Fair, all also hosted at Expo Gardens, 1601 Northmoor Road in Peoria.

The rest of our weekend was good. Saturday night we dined at Jonah's in East Peoria. It was a red letter date: StfRon ordered fish, marlin, no less. It was prepared with andouille sausage. I tasted it, and it was very flavorful. I thought I tasted a good amount of garlic, which is always good in my book. I splurged on the Thai chai tuna, coconut crusted. It was good as well, although I didn't catch the chai flavor. The tuna came with two sauces, a Thai peanut and one that tasted like soy and ginger. The ginger sauce was a little too sweet for my taste.
For my side I chose island rice, which was good, but quite sweet, too. StfRon had the au gratin potatoes, which were very tasty.
To accompany our meal, we each had the Ravenswood zinfandel, one of our favorites. And to finish, we shared the bananas foster. Delish!

Sunday our Peoria errands took us to Northwoods Mall, so we took advantage of the visit to stop in at the Smo-King Pit. We had a delicious lunch, each ordering the four bone rib dinner, StfRon's with fries and potato salad, mine with green beans and potato salad. Everything was great, as usual. We also got to meet and talk with Mike, the owner, about smokers and smoking meats. Here is a guy who really loves his work, and it shows. Kudos to Mike!

On his way home, StfRon picked up a pork belly he ordered from Lindy's Downtown Market. The belly is cut and basking in bags of cure, and will soon be turned into his first bacon experiment in our new smoker. Mmm...bacon!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

'Burbs dining round up

This week we had the opportunity for a little travel to the suburbs, so we sampled some local fare in the Chicago area.
On the evening we arrived, we headed for the Fondue Stube, 2717 W. Peterson Avenue in Chicago. We had dined there almost 7 years ago when we first started dating.
I remembered the decor being a little different, kind of 1980s living room with silk plants, sponge paint and the addition of red and green lights lining archways in the room. The theme is also classical, including the music, some of the artwork and the names of the menu selections, like Sinfonia Eroica.
The last time we were in, I think we went with the Sinfonia Eroica, a three-part meal including a cheese fondue served with bread cubes and apple chunks; beef fondue with vegetables and dipping sauces; and a fudge fondue for dessert, served with fruit and cake. The thing I remember from that visit was that we were not overly impressed with the fudge fondue, but we had a nice time.
Several years later finds us more the fondue aficionados (we have swiss fondue about once a month at home), so this time we went straight for the cheese: one order of cheddar fondue and one order of swiss, with the promise of a dessert fondue as well. Each pot of cheese fondue was $17, with dessert priced at $9 each. The cheese fondues are also available in half orders.
We were surprised when salads were served to us, as we didn't realize we would get them. The salads were well above most garden salads served to us at home, filled with dark leafy greens, a large carrot slice, a tomato wedge and a cucumber wedge and some red cabbage, accompanied by garlic bread and a dressing caddy at the table with Bleu cheese, creamy Italian and white French dressing.
Next came our pots of cheese fondue, set on their own flame in front of us, and each of us received our own basket of bread cubes and a nicely-arranged set of apple chunks. The fondue was a little mild for our cheesy palates, and also seemed a bit oily. Both had a nice garlic flavor. I was surprised to find that I preferred the cheddar to the swiss, so much so that I finished the whole pot, with a little help from StfRon.
After all of that, and after waiting a few minutes for our server to have a chance to come back, we decided to pass on trying the caramel dessert fondue.
Our server was pleasant and the other gentleman working was johnny on the spot with the water pitcher.
The Fondue Stube is a small, local restaurant, a bit off the beaten path. It's not the best food we've ever had, but we have enjoyed our visit each time we've been in.
Tuesdays and Thursdays they feature scallops, fish and chicken for your fondue enjoyment.
The also seem to believe in advertising and coupons, so be sure to check online if you decide to go. We've saved money with coupons and offers each time.

The next morning, we were in search of a local place to have some breakfast near Elk Grove Village. We settled on the Rose Garden Café, 111 E. Higgins Road in Elk Grove Village. There were several cars in the parking lot, even at almost 9 a.m. on a weekday, so we thought it might be a good choice.
There were some nice plants and rose bushes landscaping the front of the restaurant.
Stepping inside, I was pleased to see that the decor was not outdated, like many local family restaurants can tend to be. This restaurant had some nice wall treatments and a pleasant atmosphere. Which was broken shortly by some moron who had a missed call ringtone bleating out of his phone every two minutes. Everyone in the dining room, including the hostess, who was busily rolling silverware in cloth napkins, kept looking around each time this blast would go off, but no one seemed to be acting responsible for the noise. Finally, after about six instances of this missed call sounder, our hostess seemed to have narrowed the culprit down and walked over to a booth. She said something the man sitting there about his phone, and he said "Oh, yeah," and turned the phone off. Thank goodness for her boldness. Now we could enjoy our dining experience!
I perused the breakfast menu, hoping for something like granola or some similarly healthy dish, but nothing jumped out at me. I was pleased to see they offered crepes, and what a selection they had! There must have been eight types of crepes available, along with specialties like cinnamon roll French toast, pancakes and other goodies.
I decided to have a cafe latte, a bowl of oatmeal and a side of corned beef hash. I love a good plate of corned beef hash, with the edges cooked until they are nice and crispy. Plus, the meaty dish has a little more staying power than a sugary breakfast.
StfRon likes breakfast with eggs over medium and toast to dip them in, plus potatoes and corned beef hash, so he found a special that included all of this for one price.
Our food came out very quickly. The oatmeal was served with little containers of milk, cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar, which was great. We both loved the corned beef hash.
Our waitress was friendly and efficient, and the hostess was also very nice when we cashed out.
I noticed while we were paying that the Rose Garden Cafe also does banquets and catering.

After this filling meal, which tided me over 'til after 2 p.m., I did some shopping, and ended up at Oakbrook Center. I struck out on early Christmas gifts, but I was surprised to see the Christkindlmarket setting up in the mall courtyard. These German Christmas market booths will be at Oakbrook Center from October 26-November 11. November 23 the market will open in Daley Plaza. StfRon and I have begun a tradition of trying to go every year or two, and we always have a good time.

We didn't make it to any local shops, unfortunately, but before we made it all the way home, we did hit another local restaurant for a late lunch.
This place was dubbed the Doggie Diner, 457 N. Weber Road in Romeoville, chosen because StfRon was in da mood for some dawgs. And also because our GPS said it was called Peepers dogs, so we thought it would be funny to take a picture of a Peepers sign for my blog. Alas, there was no sign of Peepers once we got there.
The restaurant had a large selection of specials on the board. I was a little overwhelmed by the choices. What was a chicken wrap? Did they have Chicago dogs? Rather than stand and grill the guy all day, I asked what a pizza puff was. He said it was like a hot pocket, so I went with the two pizza puff special, served with fries. StfRon ordered chili dogs and onion rings.
The chili dogs were OK, but the chili was not as meaty as he would have liked.
The pizza puffs were almost exactly like a toaster strudel filled with pizza sauce and sausage, with some cheese thrown in. They were actually quite tasty. One of them even made it home and survived being in the car with our dog. It should make a nice lunch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Vault

On my way home from Bloomington recently, I took the scenic route via some country roads. My drive took me through the town of Danvers.
My attention was drawn by a neat old brick bank building with a glossy black door decorated like a vault door. The script over the door proclaimed the place The Vault. I'm not sure of the address, but it's on the main drag, and you probably can't miss it.
StfRon and I went to check out this bar/grill Saturday night. When we arrived, there were a handful people sitting at the bar, a family of four sitting at a table, and a couple of other guys having some food at a table.
The walls were lined with brick paneling, pretty well installed, but I was sad that the walls weren't original exposed brick inside. The tin ceiling was neat, though, as was the dark wood bar back with it's curved glass sides.
The woman behind the bar was running the place by herself. She took our drink order and we took a look at the menu.
The menu was larger than some small town bar and grills, with an array of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and the local bar stalwart, Butch's pizzas.
StfRon went with a burger, and I decided to try the spicy chicken sandwich, a fried, non-breaded bird. When I asked if the sandwiches came with fries, she said they come with chips, but you can substitute fries, "which I make myself". The burger was on special, served some pre-made potato wedges. I decided to try the fries with my chicken.
Our cook/waitress/bartender was hopping, but keeping up with the small crowd pretty well. She brought our food over before too long. StfRon enjoyed his burger, and my chicken sandwich was very good, with just a bit of spice to it. The fries were were also quite tasty. Similar to Khaki Jack's fries, but not as dark.
We were finishing up our drinks around 7:15, when the door opened and a few people trickled in. 7:16, door opened again and a few more trickled in. 7:17, same thing. 7:18, again. This went on and on for several minutes. It was almost like a bell had gone off in town, and everyone decided it was time to hit The Vault. The poor gal behind the bar had her hands full by this time.
We decided it was time to hit the road after some tasty bar food and drinks, so we paid the tab and made our way through the newly-arrived crowd.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chicago Hut

The weekends many times send us to Pekin for some shopping. This last time we went during the lunch hour, and when thinking of a local place to grab some grub, I thought of Chicago Hut.
Chicago Hut, introduced to us by some friends who live in Pekin, is located at 2111 Court Street, near County Market.
The menu is huge, featuring things like Chicago dogs, paninis, Greek chicken, gyros, burgers, wraps and even something called a Maxwell Street polish sausage, which I learned from my friend J, is famous because of Chicago's Maxwell Street marketplace.
This time I went with the BBQ half chicken, but it was a hard decision. There were a few other items I really wanted to try, too. I ordered my chicken with rice and it also comes with a Greek salad and some pita bread. Everything was wonderful. The BBQ sauce was very flavorful and citrusy, the cube o'cheese atop my Greek salad was delicious and the pita bread was irresistible. This set me back only $6.75, not including my drink.
StfRon had a chili dog and a gryo.
Since they strategically placed the baklava near the checkout counter, I had to order a piece of that as well. They offered to warm it up for me, which was a nice touch. It was almost as good as Mom's homemade.
The small dining room has a few casual booths and tables, most of which were full while we were in for a late lunch on a Sunday. The restaurant is decorated with some Chicago posters.
Chicago Hut also does a good carryout business, with great prices on Greek chicken dinners, said to feed four, but you will probably end up with leftovers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Garden Gate Floral

I love to see historic buildings preserved and used for local businesses. I'm especially fond of train depots.
I was surprised to see a photo of a depot in Washington where Khoury's Cuisine now sits, and was sad to realize it was torn down. Actually, I have grand dreams of living in an old depot one day.
One town that has preserved their depot is Mackinaw. Last used as a depot in 1953, this is a beautiful brick Spanish-style building with a terra cotta tiled roof.
Located at 310 N. Main Street, the depot now hosts Garden Gate Floral, among other businesses.
Stopping in the Garden Gate recently, I found the shop filled with Christmas decor galore. Even if you are a petite person, you will probably feel a bit like a bull in a china shop in this cozy shop.
Garden Gate Floral does custom floral arrangements in addition to the decor and gifts carried in the shop. The prices on their Christmas ornaments actually seemed quite reasonable, compared to some shops I've visited.
There is also a tea room on site. I tried dining there one time, but was turned away because we did not have reservations, so if you want to check it out, be sure to call ahead.

Friday, October 19, 2007

River Station

This week we made our second visit to the River Station on the Peoria riverfront since it re-opened this year.
It's so nice to see this beautiful, historic landmark building in use and the restaurant back in business.
We were given a great table, right next to a large bay window looking out onto the river.
There were a few empty tables near us in the dining room, so they were not packed.

Our waitress was cheerful and joked with us, running to the bar several times to check on drink possibilities for the table.

Our guest of honor and his wife ordered some calamari, and were kind enough to share. The calamari was thick, chewy and good, served with a creamy red pepper sauce for dipping.

We started with salads. Since the last time we were in, they have changed the standard practice of bringing the salad bar caddy to the table. The menu stated "tableside salad bar available upon request", so we went with the pre-made salads. They were good, and included a cucumber slice, tomato wedge, shredded carrots, some cheddar cheese and croutons. StfRon had bleu cheese dressing with bleu cheese crumbles, and said it was very good. I went with the balsamic dressing, which was also quite tasty.
I did miss the tableside salad bar, though, and wished we had asked for it.
Some of our friends had the seafood bisque instead of salads, which they were pleased with. I tried the bisque last time, and enjoyed it.

Between soups, salads and breads, there was a noticeable delay before our dinners arrived. It wasn't a shocking delay, but there was a point when most of the conversation had stopped at the table and everyone was wondering where dinner was. The waitress brought by some more bread and said the food would be out in a few minutes.

For dinner I chose the chicken Oscar, a chicken breast topped with crab meat, hollandaise sauce and asparagus spears, served with mashed red skinned potatoes. The plate presentation was very nice and the chicken had a good flavor, but it was surprisingly salty, like it might have been brined. It was also a little brown and dry in a couple of spots, as if it had been under a warmer for a while, and the hollandaise was a little thickened, too, in spots. The chicken might have been plated and waiting for some of the other meals to be prepared. It was a tasty entree, nonetheless. The red skinned mashed potatoes were very good, seasoned nicely and topped with some shoestring potatoes.
StfRon gave the prime rib a second try, since he's a prime rib junkie. He ordered the medium-sized prime rib prepared medium rare. It came out more rare than medium, and he was disappointed that there was no "crust" to the outside that comes from slow roasting. However, the medium prime rib, which all of the men ordered, was quite a large cut. We all wondered how big the large cut would be after looking at these hunks of meat. The steaks, not the guys!
The prime rib was served with a horseradish sauce, and accompanied by the Bleu cheese potatoes he chose. The cubed potatoes were great with the Bleu cheese, says he.
My friend M had the pork tenderloin medallions topped with a balsamic reduction, and she said it was wonderful.
C had the salmon, and also said it was great.
My friend Minney had the asiago chicken, which I had considered getting. I didn't get a chance to holler down the table to see how it was.

Once we all finished eating, some time went by and our waitress came back to see if anyone wanted dessert. One couple went for the pumpkin creme brulee to share, which sounded very good. After taking the dessert order, no one took our plates away. Between 7 dinner plates, 7 bread plates and various glasses of wine, beer and water, our table was getting a bit cramped. Some of us also could have used some refills.
When the dessert arrived, the waitress took several of the plates away, which gave us some breathing room.

We did have a nice time at the River Station and enjoyed the view and the ambiance, and, of course, the company. There were a few kinks that you can find at any restaurant, and it would not keep me from coming back.
In fact, I hope to be back soon because I see that the Wine Room is now open, and I must partake of that!
I also would like to try their brunch, after reading Floyd's report.

July 3, 2008 — The River Station has closed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grecian Gardens

Having spent about 2/3 of my life living in Chillicothe, two blocks from Grecian Gardens restaurant no less, I didn't really have a high opinion of the place. And not due to anything I had heard or experienced, I guess it was just because it was always there and Peoria was so much cooler.
Occasionally meeting people from Chicago and the suburbs, if I said I was from Chillicothe, they would say, "Oh, have you been to Grecian Gardens?" Walking away, I would chuckle to myself, Grecian Gardens??
My mom heard Grecian Gardens, 304 Plaza Park Drive, served a good prime rib, so she felt she must pass this information on to StfRon and I. Friday night we ventured in to check it out.
Walking in to the place was surreal. I had been in the dinette-type room a couple of times over the years, for lunch when I worked in Chillicothe during high school, and once for a disastrous blind date. It looked vaguely familiar and comforting.
The door marked "Lounge" and the dining room, however, were a complete surprise to me. It was like I had always come in and entered the dinette section to the left and never knew the rooms to the right existed.
The hallway between the two dining rooms was lined with long, retro sofas.
The decor in the lounge was delightfully old, either late 1960s or early 1970s with an awesome red velvet wallpaper and lots of dark wood. The carpet was decidedly 1960-ish, too. I felt like I somehow remembered this carpet, too, from when I was a wee lass.
We went into the lounge to wait for our table, but ended up just eating there amongst the video games and jukebox. Some guy kept playing the same two songs, one of them by CCR and the other from the Blues Brothers, I think, over and over. Finally StfRon snuck some money in the jukebox to spare us another repetition.
We all ordered the prime rib, me with mashed potatoes and white gravy, StfRon went for brown gravy, and we all had the salad bar. The salad bar was not too exciting, but sufficient.
Our prime rib was well-prepared, the au jus not too salty, and the meat was very tender. The smaller portion runs about $14.99, and they also offer a king prime rib.
I had started with a non-descript Cabernet, but worked up the nerve to try a Greek red wine, which was much better.
There are also some Greek entrees on the menu, and baklava, which I wanted to try, but forgot to order.
Our bartender/server was pleasant. Although, the bar became rather busy while we were there due to a wedding party arriving, and a manager-type lady started helping out behind the bar. She had a bad attitude or was having a bad day or something, but eventually she mellowed a bit.
If you're looking for decent food and a blast from the past, give Grecian Gardens a try.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Blend

For weeks we've been driving by the banner that said "The Blend Opening Soon" in Washington at 1128 Peoria Street.
This week we saw The Blend was open, and stopped in to check it out.
The decor is upscale coffeehouse, with orange and yellow walls, pendent lights, eclectically upholstered booths and glossy cement floors.
The Blend roasts their own coffee, and on the day we were in, the bags were marked "fresh roasted on 10-4". There are several varieties of coffee to choose from. Next time we need some, we'll go buy some so it's fresh and we'll brew it up at home and see what we think. I also have my eye on some flavored varieties for Christmas presents.
The Blend serves bagels, muffins, scones and something called Wally Biscotti, which look awesome with flavors like Ginger Binge-ers, The Lemon Sisters and Pistachi-o-wie. They also have huge cinnamon rolls. We opted for the bagels, covered with poppy seeds. I had mine with garden veggie cream cheese, which was very savory. StfRon's been raving about the softness of the bagels. Our only complaint: they should see about a faster toaster, maybe one of those chain dealies where you put the bagel it and a few minutes later it pops out on the conveyor belt ready to go.
To quench your thirst, The Blend has espresso drinks, hot chocolate, chai, teas, smoothies and juices. I opted for some Minute Maid orange juice, having already caffeined up at home that morning.
If you decide to hang out at The Blend, they have some magazines and books to read and WiFi access, and so far are open in the evenings as well as mornings.

August, 2008 — We rode our bikes to the Blend before a weekend road trip. We were disappointed to find that they had seemingly changed both their bagels and cream cheese. The bagels were not as soft, and the cream cheese was not as savory. They are still roasting their own coffee on a regular basis, though, which will make for great gifts for coffee lovers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Penguin Tap

I was introduced to the Penguin Tap several years ago by a friend from work who often lunched at the restaurant located at 4913 N. Prospect Rd. in Peoria Heights. She was a regular, and was always happily greeted by the waitresses.
Actually, prior to going there with her and some other friends from work, I had no idea what the place was called. There was no sign for the longest time, just a large wooden penguin cutout on the side of the gray building.
This building has been there for about 15 years. The previous one was destroyed by fire.
Each time we went in for lunch, there were comforting lunch specials like chicken noodle soup, cheeseburger chowder and grilled cheese. But once I tried the pizza, it was hard to stray to other menu items.
The Penguin's pizza is served on a very thin, crispy crust. You can even order a personal pizza, which is typically my choice, topped with pepperoni and onion.
The dining room is decorated with plenty of penguin memorabilia, in honor of the place's namesake.

Visiting after work, instead of sitting in the dining room, I like to sit in the bar area. While here you can enjoy a large schooner of beer.
The last time we were in, a bonus was the baskets of popcorn our waitress set out for us. Definitely addictive.

The Penguin reminds me of my friend, who died a few years ago. Actually, her birthday would have been this month. A good time for me to visit one of her favorite establishments and have a drink in her honor.

March 24, 2008 — The Penguin Tap has closed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bark in the Park

The weather forecast for Sunday, October 14 looks great so far, so I think we are on track to hit Bark in the Park for Peoria's Humane Society at the Peoria Riverfront.
Our dog has $270 worth of professionally polished pearly whites to show off. Who knows, it may have been a rip off, but the vet recommended it, she doesn't have dog breath anymore, and her teeth are very white. She's a pretty girl, yes she is!
The event will start at 11 a.m. this year, and dog lovers and dogs are welcome to join in the fun. Activities include a walk ($25 registration per dog), paw painting, obedience demos, photos, raffles, food vendors, a mutt show and more.
This year, you can raise pledges and receive prices for each fundraising level attained, like collars, leashes, shirts and even iPods. Several people have posted pledge pages on the Humane Society's web site.
Visit http://www.peoriahs.org for more info.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sterling Family Restaurant

Saturday we stopped at Po-Boys for some dinner and music. I knew they had changed chefs in the past couple of months, so I was wondering how the food would be. They have expanded their menu, and I had the crab cakes with a side of corn bread muffins. It was all excellent, and the muffins were served with butter that had a hint of cinnamon to it. Prior to the crab cakes, we ordered some toasted ravioli with marinara sauce. The sauce was excellent, with a nice touch of sweetness to it. I couldn't put my finger on the flavor, but it was great.

Sunday we decided to check out the Spoon River Drive. On the way, we wanted to get some breakfast.
Our first stop, Gebby's, found several groups of people waiting for tables. Heading further west, we came to Sterling Family Restaurant, 4513 N. Sterling in Peoria.
President Bush dined here in January, and I wasn't sure if this claim to fame would mean we wouldn't be able to get a table, but we were greeted cheerily and escorted to one of the last handful of tables in the non-smoking room.
The restaurant is older, with dark wood paneling, however the tables and booths have been updated in recent years.
Our waitress was very friendly and efficient, quickly bringing us some iced tea and orange juice. The orange juice was pretty good, not the watered down stuff served at some places.
We both went for Louie's Special Breakfast, your choice of two eggs, meat, potato and bread. What sold me was that one of the meat choices is corned beef hash, and one of the potato choices is grits. I also chose an English muffin and scrambled eggs with my meal.
StfRon went with the hash as well, hashed browns and wheat toast, with eggs over medium.
This breakfast bonanza comes in at under $6.
Our food came out pretty quickly, which was good because we were hungry. Everything was good, and the meal proved to be too much for me to handle.
Sterling Family Restaurant has also made the top three in the Peoria Journal Star's Reader's Choice Awards.

Spoon River Drive continues next weekend, October 13 and 14, with crafts and food vendors and plenty of garage sales along the route. Oh, and if you see Uncle Bud's apple booth in London Mills or anywhere else, check out the cider slush. It's DEEEELICIOUS. Especially on a 90 degree day in October.

We finished our afternoon with a trip to Maurie's for some caramel apples. StfRon was swayed by the case of candies, and added some toffee, turtle-type candies and cashews to our order.
I love the caramel on these apples, and it was just as good as I remember. The toffee was terrific, a nice blend of salty and sweet; a new treat to add to our list, and I know someone who just might appreciate some for Christmas.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Chef Leo's Bistro 320

I've tried going to Bistro 320, 240 SW Jefferson in Peoria, off and on for a few months, and they've been closed each time.
This week we did a drive by, and found them to be open, so we decided to check it out for an early dinner.
The bistro is under new ownership since September 1, and is now called Chef Leo's Bistro 320.
Chef Leo was in the dining room when we arrived, and asked to make sure the music was not too loud for us.
Our waitress came to take our drink orders, and we ordered some wine. I tried a Pinot and StfRon had a Cabernet blend. Each were $7.
Our waitress brought a basket of warm hearty rolls served with butter. The basket was accompanied by two petite butter knives tucked inside.
We tried the soup of the day, a beef stew, which was not thick like most stews, but was hearty and full of herbs. This soup was great.
The menu features a lot of great options like crab cakes, baked brie, creative salads, steaks, pasta, lamb, chicken and seafood.
We tried the filet served with a brandied onion compote, and a side of garlic mashed potatoes. The sides are extra, but the meals come served with the vegetable of the day. The steak was tender and well-prepared, the garlic mashed potatoes were savory and the plate presentation was great.
We finished our meal with some dessert, some sort of chocolate overload for StfRon and a bourbon pecan pie for me. Both were drizzled with light fruit sauces, which added a nice touch of color.

The Bistro is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. through the week and also has a lunch menu full of salads (including a broiled salmon salad) sandwiches, quiche and wraps.

August, 2008 — The bistro has made way for Andre's restaurant, featuring Cajun fare.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fired Up

One business I have inadvertently overlooked blogging about for a while now is Fired Up, 4532 N. Prospect Rd. in Peoria Heights.
My first visit to Fired Up was with "the girls" in June. I took a walk around the studio looking at the selection of bisque items available for hand painting. There are coffee mugs, bread pans, bowls and even pet food and water dishes. I ended up selecting a small square dish that I figured I could use to keep my rings in after I take them off for the day.
Fired Up charges a flat studio fee, and you also pay for the cost of your chosen bisque piece(s). The pieces start at under $8 and go up from there.
After selecting my paint colors, I sat down to enjoy wine, hummus, veggies, pita chips, tortilla chips and wedding ring cookies brought by my friends.
It was fun to see everyone else's creations at the table. H chose an egg plate and painted it with accents of purple and pink, then spattered with black paint over all. Minney made a very cool switch plate cover.
A week later, our pieces were finished being fired by the studio and ready to be picked up.
My little ring tray now has a place of honor in the bathroom at home, and gets used every day.

Last month, we convinced some of our guys to go along for another trip to Fired Up. The promise of being able to bring booze might have had something to do with it.
The outing seemed to bring out the creativity in everyone. I was very impressed with my friend J's plate design. StfRon used chalkboard paint for his creation, and my friend M used a chili pepper stamp on one of her tiles.
There were comments about how Zen the whole thing seems, and also reminiscing about kindergarten and preschool art projects.
This time I chose a rectangle tray with handles at each end, and painted it a salsa red and vibrant yellow. I plan to use it to carry glasses of wine or snacks about.
Fired Up is definitely something different to do. It would make a great Mother's Day outing, too. Just be sure to make reservations during any holiday seasons, and it's worth checking their web site for any coupons or specials. And for those of you on the east side of the river, there is now a Bloomington location.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Global Village

When I first heard about Global Village opening at 1308 E. Seiberling in Peoria Heights, I was interested to check it out.
Global Village carries fair trade merchandise from around the world, including toys, clothing, food, jewelry and gifts. The shop is staffed by volunteers.
I've stopped by twice now, only to find them closed both times. I guess it's just a matter of bad timing. They are closed on Mondays, and Saturdays are open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. This last time I stopped by around 9:30 Saturday after picking up some locally-grown yams at the last Peoria Riverfront Market of the year. Served up with our Creekstone Farms steak from Lindy's Downtown Market Saturday night, those were terribly tasty tubers.
I'll stop by Global Village again soon now that I know the hours. I'll bet I could find a gift for my mom that I could squirrel away for Christmas.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Katie's Café shuttered

We heard some rumors last night, and walking by Katie's Café today, we saw they were closed.
There is a sticker on the window about the business being revoked, and a hand written sign on the door apologizing for being closed.
It would be sad to lose this quaint business. I loved the decor and antique tables, and the cheese muffins were the bomb. Where will I get my cheese muffins now? Lindy's seems to have the same muffin, but for all I know they were buying them from Katie's.
Katie's was the place in Washington for great cookies, muffins and pastries.
I hope things will get sorted out and they will be back in business soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Duryea Days

Driving down Prospect Ave. in Peoria Heights after my eye exam earlier this week, I saw a banner for something dubbed Duryea Days, to be held October 19 and 20.
Upon investigation, I see that Duryea Days will feature antique appraisals in conjunction with WTVP on October 20 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in Heritage Square. The appraisals are $20 per item, with proceeds going to WTVP and the Peoria Heights Area Business Association.
If you think you have something valuable and would like it appraised at this event, you must pre-register by October 1. Hey, you may end up on TV!

On Friday, Duryea Days will feature wine, food and live jazz music, plus a silent auction benefiting WTVP. All this will take place from 5-8 p.m. at Heritage Square, 4400 N. Prospect Ave.
Tickets for Friday are priced at $50 and are available from the Peoria Heights Area Business Association.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cool Beans Café

After some geocaching a couple of Sundays ago, we decided to see if anything interesting was open in Morton so we could have a bite to eat.
Driving by the Cool Beans Café at 730 W. Jackson, we saw some action and decided to stop in.
Walking through the parking lot, I was looking at their drive-through menu and saw steamed cider listed, which sounded just right for a fall-like day.
Stepping inside the cement block building, we saw bright orange walls and some couches and chairs in addition to the dining tables.
Upon stepping up to the order counter, we were seemingly ignored for about four minutes by the three people behind the counter (two of them were semi-busy), until a middle-aged lady asked the young girl to wait on us.
Since I had some time to peruse the menu, I knew I had to try the peanut butter and jelly panini, accompanied by steamed cider. StfRon went with the chili dogs. Both sandwiches came with chips, the ridged variety. The panini was something different, and I liked it.
The young girl who took our order and brought the food out was pleasant.
In addition to lunch choices and standard coffee fare, Cool Beans has frisbee golf discs, Spudnuts donuts, free WiFi, and accepts fax and phone orders.

Cool Beans Café  has closed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Busy Corner

On our way to the Third Sunday Market last month, we decided to check out the new Busy Corner location in Goodfield on Route 117. Busy Corner has been serving homestyle food and fresh-baked pies for over 60 years.
I had been to the previous Busy Corner building some eight or nine years ago with friends for dinner. One of my friends worked nights in Bloomington/Normal, and Goodfield was a good place to stop and meet. All I remember from that visit is pie (as in, "Y'all want pahhhhh?").
The building is nice and updated, and outside has some of the same elements as chain restaurant buildings. One thing those chains can't boast, though, is a large Statue of Liberty replica on the front porch.
Inside, the restaurant layout very much reminded me of a Bob Evans.
On this Sunday, a steady stream of tired-looking people filed in, some carrying newspapers to enjoy with their breakfast.
Being we wanted to get on the road, we decided to take a seat at the counter rather than wait a few minutes for a table or booth.
Our server was friendly and prompt. I went for the breakfast sandwich. I figured a little meat, egg and cheese would stick with me longer than some French toast or something along those lines.
The sandwich was good and hit the spot, and after a longing glance at the pie selection, we were on our way.
I'm sure we'll be back many times as we head east for road trips.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Apple Blossom Farm

With the arrival of the crisp fall air (at night, anyway) my thoughts turn to the changing leaves, bonfires, and caramel apples and cider donuts!
If you don't have time to drive to Speer to go to Tanner's Orchard, there is a closer alternative, the Apple Blossom Farm.
Located on Route 91 just north of the Grand Prairie Mall, the Apple Blossom Farm is full of fall fun like apples and pumpkins, a petting zoo, hayrack rides and the corn maze.
In the Harvest Barn you'll find gifts galore.
The bakery features sandwiches, hot dogs, pork chops, pies, candy apples and one of my favorites, cider donuts. I haven't tried the Apple Blossom Farm version yet, but I might just have to dart over there after work and snarf some down.
Visit their web site (above) for some coupons and more information.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

White Buffalo

One of my mom's favorite stores is White Buffalo, located at 100 Harrison Street in Peoria, right across from the 401 Water Street building.
Operating in Peoria for several years now, White Buffalo carries a nice selection of handcrafted jewelry, pottery and art crafted by the Navajo, Pueblo, Plains and Hopi Indians, to name a few.

January, 2008 — White Buffalo is now open in the 401 Water Street building (no longer open at the Harrison Street location. Stop by and check it out!

June, 2008 — Another Central Illinois blogger informed me that White Buffalo is closed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Ugly Mug

We noticed activity in a recently vacated shop on the square in Washington. Eventually, a sign went up for The Ugly Mug, Your Coffee Escape. It was an unusual sign, but my interest was piqued.
I've long said Washington needs a true coffee shop on the square.
Saturday, we dragged our butts out early and went to check it out.
Outside, there are bistro-style tables and chairs with bright cushions for those who want to enjoy their brew outside while watching cars jockey for space on the square.
We stepped inside to find very bright yellow walls and laminate flooring. If the coffee alone can't wake you up, these cheery walls will. The light fixtures are very contemporary. Along the wall behind the ordering counter are shelves filled with "ugly" mugs. They're very interesting to look at, but are not for sale, so don't get your hopes up.
In the offering were several daily brews including a fair trade selection, espresso drinks and chai teas, and various muffins and turnovers, cookies, just to name a few.
I had a chai tea, which was good and not too sweet, like some I've been served, and a muffin which was supposed to be cheese, but had a cinnamony flavor to it more than cheese. It was still very good. The muffins are made by a baker in Peoria. StfRon had the same muffin, and some coffee.
Another bonus to this location on the square is the addition of WiFi.
The Ugly Mug also offers the ever-popular punch card, so you can earn a free cup as reward for all that hard drinking.

April, 2008 — The Ugly Mug has closed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Step Back in Time

Sunday was such a nice day, we walked to the square in Washington to do a little browsing.
Generally, not much is open on the square on Sundays, but Step Back in Time is, and it's one of the best shops on the square.
Step Back in Time is a three-story shop filled with antiques. On this visit, we were checking out tables for our home bar that's in the works. We saw several tables with great potential, and even some nice coat hooks. They also had some benches and pews, but they were not quite what I was looking for. I recently bought a "bench" but wish now I had waited to find a nicer one.
If you're looking for a Halloween costume, you might want to check out some of the vintage clothing and hats scattered around the booths here.
Step Back in Time also carries a nice selection of milk paint in various colors.
It's a fun place to poke around in on a lazy afternoon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rhythm Kitchen Music Café

The Rhythm Kitchen Music Café, located at 305 SW Water Street in Peoria, is a great place to sample some creative cuisine or live music.
The menu features items like hummus and veggies, fruit and brie, salads and pizzas, sandwiches like the salmon BLT and even homestyle favorites like meatloaf and casseroles. If the tuna chop salad is on the board when I stop in, I generally order that. It's filled with chunks of grilled tuna and lots of chopped veggies, all mixed in with pasta.
The Rhythm Kitchen also features CHIP menu items, breakfast items, gourmet coffees, a nice dessert selection and a full bar.
On Wednesdays it's open stage and on Fridays and Saturdays there is live music, all in this eclectic café with it's retro mismatched furniture and tableware.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ponte Vecchio

One of my parents' favorite restaurants to visit is Ponte Vecchio in Sheridan Village.
Yes, this restaurant is in a strip mall, but once inside it's pretty easy to forget that.
Ponte Vecchio is under new ownership, for about the past year or so. The gentleman who owns it now has a passion for wine, and we have had some good discussions about wine with him, and have tried some great wines in the restaurant.
I was on a kick for a while and every time I went in, if they had butternut squash ravioli, that's what I ordered. It's very good and has a hint of nutmeg. It's also very rich.
StfRon of course likes to have the lasagna. And we always start our meal with some bread, olive oil and Parmesan.
There are several seafood and pasta dishes to choose from, plus chicken and steak. Sandwiches have recently been added to the lunch menu.
Each time we have visited, lunch or dinner, the service has always been good, and the food delightful as well.

August, 2009 — Ponte Vecchio has closed.