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


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.