Friday, June 29, 2007


I finally made it to Flagstones, the former Jumer's restaurant on Western Ave. in Peoria.
I met a couple of friends for lunch here. Perusing the menu, I noticed they have various country flags, such as France and Germany, next to sections of the menu to signify the items' influence. So, if you were wondering, they do still have some German dishes on the menu.
Our meal started with a basket of bread, however the famous Jumer's cinnamon rolls were missing from the basket. I don't think they offer them complimentary for lunch. However, there was some banana bread in the basket, which was very tasty.
Being lunch, I chose something a little lighter, a garden salad with balsamic dressing and a cup of French onion soup. The balsamic dressing was very good, and the soup really hit the spot as well.
The service was pleasant, although maybe a little slow for a lunch hour.
Flagstones continues on the tradition of the early diner's specials, starting at 4 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m., plus they offer a Sunday brunch. They also now have wireless access.
Next, I want to check out the Stein Lounge, the former Black Bear Lounge. I have heard that the bear is gone, but haven't checked it out for myself.

December, 2007 — Flagstones has closed, and the space is now used for banquets. The Stein Lounge, located in the hotel as well, is serving food.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

El Sombrerito

For Cinco de Mayo this year, StfRon and I headed to El Sombrerito, 111 W. Spring Creek Rd. in East Peoria.
I spent many years working on Pioneer Parkway in Peoria, back when El Sombrerito occupied the building now used by the Cinco de Mayo restaurant. My favorite thing to order was the tortilla soup, so I had been wanting to try the East Peoria El Sombrerito to see if they had it on the menu.
Sure enough, the soup was on the menu. This bowl of broth filled with chicken shreds, a little onion, white cheese and tortilla strips was very good. I felt like it wasn't quite as flavorful of a broth as the Peoria location used to serve, but it has also been close to 10 years since I was able to have this soup, so my taste buds could be failing me. Still, it was great to have this soup again, accompanied by a margarita.
They also had the squeeze bottles of pureed salsa, which I remember from the Peoria location as well. This was back in the day when Peoria had maybe only one or two other Mexican restaurants to choose from.
This location has the look of a new, clean strip mall restaurant, though not stark, due to festive, brightly colored walls and decor.
Our server was prompt and friendly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The CopperWorks

StfRon and I ended up at the CopperWorks, 7815 N. Knoxville Ave., Peoria, on a recent Sunday night, after a failed attempt to dine at Chef John's. It was a special occasion, and I wanted to go somewhere different.
The CopperWorks is definitely different. The decor is very contemporary, and the menu features a large array of cuisine.
We started our dinner with a bottle of wine, XY Zin. It was excellent. So good we ordered a second bottle and took the rest home, thanks to the new leftover wine carryout policy. Our wine went with us in a cool doggie bag.
To accompany our wine, we started with an order of bruschetta. This was a little different that what most Peoria area restaurants served, complete with fresh mozzarella and drizzled with aged balsamic. We loved the balsamic, but we wanted more, more, more!
For dinner I chose the Thai chicken, complete with peanut sauce and fried wonton strips. The sauce was spicier than most Thai sauces I've tried, but I liked it.
StfRon talked to our waiter, Todd, who was excellent, about the steaks. Todd said their steaks are aged, and come from Chicago. StfRon went with the New York strip, which is served with a portobello sauce poured over it. He asked for a bottle of Heinz 57, and debated asking them to hold the mushroom sauce, but let it go. The steak was fabulous, complete with mushroom sauce, and as soon as we saw Todd again, StfRon told him he could take the Heinz 57 away, which, incidentally, had never been opened. Maybe it's a testament to their food.
Both meals were served with a vegetable medley of asparagus, squash and red peppers.
Continuing our night out, we had dessert as well. StfRon had a bourbon chocolate pecan pie, but I went for the creme brulee. It was wonderful.
We will remember the CopperWorks the next time we are looking for a special night out.

Sadly, CopperWorks closed in early 2008.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Bronze Frog

The Bronze Frog is a unique shop located in the strip mall at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria, next to Cold Stone Creamery. There is also a Bloomington location at 105 Krispy Kreme Drive.
When I stopped here recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find several cute dresses made in the USA.
The shop also has many great gift ideas; fine stationery; wedding accessories; customized invitations; fun glassware and kitchenware; and offers cooking classes, some featuring Chef Kevin.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Antonio's Homemade Pasta & Pizza

A couple of weeks ago, I planned to meet my mom and her friend at Lindsay's Bistro 320 for lunch. I had some gift certificates to use that are not valid for alcohol, so I figured we could have a fun, cheap lunch.
Well, the doors were locked, and so were most of the others we tried for the building. We found one open and made our way into the Liberty Pub, where the bartender told us that they were serving food in the pub, or we could go downstairs to Antonio's Homemade Pasta & Pizza (in the Prairie Building at 240 SW Jefferson Ave., Peoria). This was the popular option with the ladies, so that's where we headed.
Our friendly waiter, the same guy who served us at a rehearsal dinner banquet at the Sky Room in May, greeted us and gave us some menus. He was the only waiter working lunch that afternoon. He also said that Lindsay's Bistro is closing for lunch now and planning to do dinner.
Two of us ordered iced tea and my mom went for a glass of merlot. Must be nice to not have to go back to work!
Our drinks did take an inordinate time to arrive, but they did arrive. My mom also scored an upgraded glass of merlot. The waiter said some lawyers had been in drinking one evening and kept ordering bottles of wine, but did not finish them all, so they were corked up waiting to be enjoyed, or waiting to go bad and be tossed, so the waiter poured my mom a glass of one of those. She said it was excellent.
For lunch, I chose the capellini (angel hair) pasta with creamy garlic sauce, and had them add spinach. You can choose several different pasta and sauce combinations and several add-ins.
Our meal started with a basket of bread, including a crispy, seasoned flatbread. Once I tried this, I could not stop munching it. I was shamelessly plucking crumbs from the bottom of the basket by the end of our meal.
We also got a large, endless bowl of salad made with a balsamic dressing and infused oils. I believe the waiter said there were blood oranges used as flavoring in the salad. It was very good, as was my pasta. The pasta is served in large, deep bowls. Plenty for another meal, or two, if you want to take the leftovers with you.
Antonio's also features pizza and salads. You can view the full menu here:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wisconsin adventures

Last weekend sent us to the Milwaukee area on a quest to get a marriage license so we can get hitched next month. We love the area and always have a good time.
On our way up Saturday night, we were too hungry to make it to Janesville (StfRon's choice for Shakey's) or Milwaukee for dinner, so we got off the Interstate in what looked to be promising, Beloit. We soon realized we have made this mistake before. We drove and drove, looking for something other than Dairy Queens, Arby's and the like, and finally ended up down by the river.
Just as we were about to turn around and go back to the Interstate, I spotted a place called Domenico's Italian Restaurant. We wheeled in to give it a try.
The decor was pleasantly surprising; not your average family restaurant, which is kind of the appearance the place gives from outside, but a more Tuscan feel.
Since we wanted to get back on the road quickly, we chose the buffet. There was a good variety of food on the buffet. I partook of the olive bar with two more upscale types of olives than your average olives; beef stroganoff and noodles; pizza with green olives, sausage and onion; Hawaiian pizza; and salad including a nice tomato and onion salad topped with vinegar and herbs.
Once I tried the stroganoff, one of my favorites from childhood, I wished that was all I had filled my plate with. It was very good. But, the Hawaiian pizza was also very good, topped with a quality Italian cheese.
We also split a tiramisu for dessert, good, but not very boozy. Hey, I like boozy!

After we checked into our hotel, we moseyed out to see what was going on. Apparently a lot of exposure. At first we skipped the Miller Time bar, which was closest. There was some chick at the bar wearing a dress, and she had her bare feet up on the bar stool she was sitting on. Imagine a frog-type pose. It was a little disconcerting.
We stopped in to a place called Mo's Irish Pub. There was a band playing rather loudly, but it was decent music. We settled in at the bar, and after we'd had a drink, some guy came in and took off his shirt and belt, and appeared to be contemplating taking off his jeans as well. Time to go back to Miller Time. The crotch-bearing chick was gone, so we took a seat and had some drinks.

Sunday, we went to one of our favorite spots, Alterra by the Lake for coffee and pastries. I had an espresso cookie that was awesome. StfRon opted for a sour cream muffin, and we got a raspberry scone to go. I noticed that they had t-shirts made in the USA (by none other than the American Apparel Store) for sale, however, the sizes we wanted were a little out of stock, and there was a line out the door by the time I was interested in buying one. Have to hit it next time.
Not only do they carry made in USA clothing, they also use sustainable energy, which is a neat thing.
We later went to the public market in the historic third ward for some shopping. StfRon tried some cave-aged cheddar at the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe and had to have some. At $25/pound, it's a luxury.
We went to the Wicked Hop to meet our wedding photographers. Nice people. I finally got to try the bloody mary. These things are stocked with a beef stick, a huge green olive stuffed with bleu cheese (yuck), and lots of yummy string cheese curls. I also tried an eggs benedict made with crab cakes. Very good, but the hollandaise sauce tasted more like butter than hollandaise.

Sunday night, we decided to try Miss Katie's Diner for dinner. Rachael Ray did $40 a Day here once, but that's not why we came. We headed to the bar area to work up an appetite, and there were several Italian guys and a couple of gals hanging out there smoking stogies and talking about their family. It was interesting to watch.
We headed back to the dining room and ordered the ribs, cole slaw and hash browns, all of which the waitress said they are known for. The hash browns were very crispy and good. The ribs were tender, but I prefer a sweeter sauce, myself. The slaw was slaw. I still can't get past the slaw from Stuart Anderson's from a visit several years ago, and the slaw from Jim Neeley's Interstate BBQ in Memphis.
The diner is neat, though. The bartender said it is only about 20 years old, but you would guess it has been around since at least the 50s.

We then went in search of the Landmark 1850, the oldest tavern in Milwaukee. This place was neat; lots of history here. We also noticed some newer touches, but overall it was great to see.
Since we were here, we asked where the Port of Hamburg was, a German bar StfRon had read about. The waitress pointed out the window to a blue and white house next door. We headed there next.
They had a buffet set out for Father's Day, and several times people told us to help ourselves. I went for some fruit. Then, the bartender said there was Rouladen. We had to try it, so we got a couple of pieces. Now, I suppose maybe Rouladen means roll of meat or something, but traditionally you find it stuffed with pickles and carrots. This was filled with a white cheese and basil. Surprising, but not bad. Still, I didn't feel like I had really had Rouladen.
This bar had many, many German beers on tap. The decor is not much to write about, but if you're up for German draft beer, you might want to check it out.

We also checked out the new Hofbrauhaus Munich bar, the Old German Beer Hall. It's pretty neat, and did remind us somewhat of Germany, with a Munich-inspired beer garden out front and the long bench tables inside for dining. I had a big mug of the Hofbrau Original, which turned out to be a little bitter for my liking, but not intolerable.

Monday, we made our normal stop at the Pick 'n Save Metro Market to fill our cooler with fresh sausages and fresh-squeezed orange juice (why does no one in Peoria sell fresh-squeezed OJ?). The chalkboard count of fresh produce for the day was 719.
Sucking down a bottle of OJ, we headed to the Racine County Courthouse to apply for our marriage license. The courthouse is old, and unattended. We didn't have to pass a metal detector, or any security guards to get it. We were wandering around on our own trying to find our way.
The lady who helped with our application was very nice. And we passed!!
Next, off to find Frank's Diner in Kenosha. We had seen this place on Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives. Frank's Diner, a true dining car, was pulled into place by six horses in 1926.
There are several signs and notices in Frank's warning you that service can be slow. I don't think slow quite covered it for the day we were in. I didn't consider it to be terribly busy. We waited probably 30 minutes for a chocolate malt, about 30 more for StfRon's burger (which was actually meant for someone else who apparently walked out) and about 15 more for someone to dish up some sloppy joe and cole slaw for me. I had also ordered the Hungarian mushroom soup, but they ran out before we got our order. The food was good, and it was neat to see this institution. We're glad we visited now, rather than our original plan of having people meet us the day after the wedding for breakfast at Frank's. Not only would they not have had seating for our group, I think some people would have been upset by how long it would take to eat, when they would probably rather be on the road heading home. BTW, they also gave us part of our food for free and apologized for things, even though we did not complain. Other people were complaining loudly, so we kept our mouths shut.

All in all, another fun trip to the Milwaukee area. And we saw a bimbo, to boot (it seemed to be a Mexican bread truck)!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Weaver Ridge

Thanks to Numero magazine and StfRon's geocaching prowess, we scored ourselves a gift certificate to Weaver Ridge and dined there a couple of months ago.
Located at 5100 WeaverRidge Blvd. in Peoria, Weaver Ridge is a newer championship golf course, and has a restaurant to boot.
We took our mothers there about three years ago for a Mother's Day brunch, but other than that, had never really spent much time there. On that occasion, due to some late people and such, we all darted off and filled up on breakfast food without listening to our waitress' instructions. It was only after we ate that we realized there was prime rib being carved on the other side of the room!
I heard that Weaver Ridge has a good rack of ribs, though, and that, combined with the gift certificate, convinced StfRon to dine there.
StfRon and our dining companion had the ribs, I tried the Thursday special, the hickory smoked chicken. The food was good. The decor seemed a little like a hotel restaurant. And our service was also good.
Weaver Ridge also has a popular brunch every Sunday, and golf packages for the golfers out there. They also run coupons often with

Thursday, June 21, 2007

No curry for you!

I was enjoying my broccoli chicken with fried rice and crab rangood at Panda House in Campustown recently, when a couple of gentlemen of middle-eastern decent came in to place an order.
They asked for an order of fried rice and asked if curry could be added. The kid darted into the kitchen and came back and said no. The guys asked if they did not have curry, and the kid sort of shrugged. Then one of the guys said, "How do you make curry shrimp, then?", which is indeed on the menu. The kid was obviously a little uncomfortable, and after a couple more comments about curry, the guys dropped it and just went with the rice.
I don't know if it was a little of a language barrier, or just a case of not wanting to customize a dish. Now, curry in fried rice doesn't sound so great to me, but I don't eat curry very often. And I know that the place will make a dish more or less spicy, remove oil and remove MSG, so I'm not sure what the deal was. Maybe they really were out of curry, and it was just lost in translation.

Vallarta's Authentic Mexican Restaurant

Vallarta's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, located at 3510 N. University St. in Peoria, is a great place for lunch if you like Mexican food, fast service, and lots of choices.
This is a sister restaurant to Sol Azteca of Washington fame and has been open since late 2005.
Vallarta's also has outdoor seating, if you want to enjoy a pleasant day or evening. I'm not sure how distracting the traffic would be from University Street, but it's nice to have the option.
There are many great Mexican dishes to choose from, plus a handful of dessert options as well. Your meal will start with a basket of warm tortilla chips and a bowl of fresh salsa.
You can also enjoy a cerveza or margarita with your food, which is never a bad thing.
Kids eat free here on Sundays. Vallarta's also often runs coupons. You can check to see if you can save a buck or two on your next visit.

September, 2009 — Vallarta's has closed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Universal Rhythm Assembly

There is an event coming up called the Universal Rhythm Assembly, June 22 and 23 at the Peoria Riverfront. We might check it out.
There are several bands scheduled, a couple of which I have actually heard of. If nothing else, it should be good for some live entertainment. However, the event is also meant to "educate and open our eyes to important issues that surround and affect us all" while also providing food and spirits. Sounds decent to me.
And, if you love live music events but hate that empty wallet aftertaste, supposedly you can donate blood at this event and score yourself a free one day pass to the blues fest this fall.
Find out more details on the web:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trefzger's Bakery

Turns out we didn't eat at Tavern on the Water. We had some drinks and reconvened.
We did venture upstairs, and it looks very upscale. We'll save it for the holidays or something.
I have eaten lunch there, and it reminds me a lot of Crooked Waters, not because of the food or decor, but because of the tall tables and chairs and their placement.

So, on to another T business, Trefzger's Bakery, located at 3504 N. Prospect in Peoria.
The Trefzger family has been in the bakery business in Peoria since 1867. I'm not sure that any other bakery in the area could say that.
Trefzger's not only does great cakes for weddings, anniversary parties and graduations, they also have excellent coffee cakes and thumbprint cookies. Many a work celebration has been marked by a coffee cake or box of cookies from here.
I also have heard they make a filled cupcake, which I MUST try. I'm in the market for some cupcakes for our reception.
There are some very tempting thumbnail photos of Trefzger's treats at their website,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Smiley's Lounge and Restaurant

A little off the beaten path, in a small town named La Rose, a place named Smiley's Lounge and Restaurant sits right along the quiet Main Street.
A bearded guy named Wes who used to visit the Hofbrau would rave about the BBQ ribs at Smiley's, so, StfRon being a rib junkie, we finally we made the trek to check it out.
Wes was not kidding. The ribs at Smiley's are great, if you like tender, saucy, baby back ribs. A full rack will set you back about $15. They also serve up a great side of au gratin potatoes.
It was several visits later that we heard about the prime rib. It, too, lived up to it's reputation. It's no F. Scott's, but this is a good prime rib at a decent price.
Smiley's is over 40 years old, and has the look of a cozy family-owned place.
They have a full bar, and offer some wine selections. I did have a couple of skunky wines there once, but I'm hoping it was an isolated incident. If not, I'll gladly drink iced tea or beer with my ribs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Red Oak

I vaguely remember the Red Oak in Bishop Hill from one of those times we visited my grandpa at the nursing home in Toulon and, when asked where he wanted to have lunch, he said Bishop Hill. So, off my dad and I went with Grandpa tucked into the front seat.
I remembered the restaurant fondly, so a year or two later, took a friend to Bishop Hill shopping, and we had lunch at the Red Oak. I've been a devout fan ever since.
The restaurant is cheerily decorated with lots of yellow walls, checkered tablecloths and floral motifs. It's not a manly place, but after taking StfRon out there, he loves it, too.
I always go for the Swedish meatballs with homemade noodles. This is true comfort food and is served with a small side salad and homemade bread.
To finish, I can never stray from the rice pudding. This one differs in that instead of raisins, it comes with a nice grape or plum sauce on top, I can't recall which right now, but it's good. They also offer many pies each day and bread pudding.
Owner Trisha Rux always seems to remember us, even though we only make it out about once a year. They have been fairly entrepreneurial in recent years, trying a location in Eureka which was closed after a fire; a location at Grand Prairie, for which I would expect the lease was expensive, and probably didn't receive a lot of traffic due to being off in one of the strip malls (plus, having visited this location, it seemed to me the food was cooked in Bishop Hill and driven over, which changed the quality); I believe they now offer catering; and, Rux is now present at the Riverfront Market on Saturdays.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I remember hearing of the mysterious Paparazzi restaurant in Peoria Heights when I was in high school, but I never had figured out where it was. This was in the days before Google Maps and all of those great things.
A few years back, I would take walks down Harvard Ave. to Prospect (Harvard changes into Lake), and lo and behold, tucked next to some industrial buildings, there was Paparazzi.
My friends and I booked our Christmas dinner there a few years ago, and I finally got to check the place out.
Dining there, you almost feel like you are in a basement or something, albeit a great basement. The cement block walls are painted in thick bands of green, white and red in honor of the Italian flag colors. Black and white photos grace the walls.
The service is always wonderful when I visit Paparazzi, the last time being Saturday night. I had my usual dish I settled on after my first couple of visits, the stuffed filet of sole. The sole is stuffed with spinach and cheese, then broiled to perfection. It's served accompanied by a tomato half stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, which I use to dip my fish in.
The house wine prices are great here, about $3 for a glass and $14 for a bottle, and they serve it in the stubby European glasses, which I think is a cool touch. Buca di Beppo (gasp...a chain!) does this as well, and we love it there. We love it so much, in fact, we're having our wedding dinner there in July, after our Big Fun Wisconsin Wedding.
Back to Paparazzi...StfRon has also settled on his favorite dish there, the lasagna. It isn't as meaty as some, so, based on a great recommendation from our waitress one time, he orders it with a side of meatballs. Perfection, says he.
And last, the icing on the cake...Paparazzi's desserts. They are Divine, with a capital D. They have a gelato of the day, cannoli, rum cake, and the be all to end all chocolate mousse, if you ask me. This mousse is FANTASTIC! It tastes to me like it has the cannoli filling mixed in with the chocolatey goodness. It isn't as whipped as some, but the flavor is excellent. We like it topped with the raspberry sauce, and we're in heaven. Several times I've had to hold myself back from licking the glass they serve it in!
Paparazzi features live music some nights, and the prices can be reasonable for dinner. Keep in mind that salads, soup and I think even bread, cost extra.
We have been turned away before due to not having reservations, so if you plan to check it out, you might want to call ahead.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Maggie Miley's

We had occasion to visit Maggie Miley's, 126 E. Beaufort, Normal, a few months ago to meet some friends.
Maggie's opened in 2004, and has a cozy, Irish pub-type atmosphere in a nicely-restored building.
StfRon jumped at the chance to try the curry chips appetizer, fries topped with a brown curry sauce, so we got an order of those. They were quite tasty, actually.
For dinner, I had a steak with mashed potatoes. It was fine, but I ended up wishing I had tried something else. Maybe the stuffed chicken breast dinner or the shepherd's pie. Many times when I have two or three dishes that sound good, I always end up feeling like I made the wrong choice. You know, the whole grass is always greener scenario.
Maggie's has all the Irish favorites: Guinness, Harp and Bass, plus wine and a full bar. They even have one of StfRon's faves, Pilsner Urquell.
You can see the menu, photos and drink specials on their web site,

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lakeview Museum

StfRon and I have been to several exhibits at Lakeview Museum in Peoria during the past couple years.
One of the most fun was Sherlock Holmes & the Clocktower Mystery because it was interactive.
More recently we saw the Ansel Adams display, and also the trompe l oeil paintings.
We'll be out on the lawn of Lakeview September 14 for the free American English (Beatles tribute) concert, sponsored by Ameren.
And don't forget the planetarium. I remember this from grade school field trips.
I also love to take a walk through the gift store because they have some interesting merchandise. Plus, right inside the door of the museum are used books and magazines for sale. You can find a nice bargain here.
Hopefully the new downtown museum will have even more exciting things to entice the public to visit, but in the meantime, Lakeview provides something different to do on a rainy or quiet day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Katie's Café & Carryout

Katie's Café, 306 Peoria St., Washington, had me at first bite with their cream cheese muffins. These things are GREAT slightly warmed with a cup of coffee.
Katie's serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner in a quaint location decorated with nice homey curtains, warm yellow walls and furnished with antique tables and chairs.
They have several homestyle dinner choices, like beef and noodles and meatloaf, available for carryout as well for those times when you feel like having comfort food, but just don't feel like cooking it.. You can call in your order and they'll have it ready for you.
One of my other favorites there is the garden salad served with an herb roll, because they have the best ranch dressing I have ever been served in a restaurant. The herb roll is good, too, but they serve it with fake butter, which I can do without.
Friday nights Katie's serves entrées like salmon and prime rib. We tried the prime rib, and it was no F. Scott's, but it was of course less expensive, and closer to home.
Katie's also has a coffee bar and several brews each day, and a wonderful glass case full of cookies and muffins to tempt you. I have tried many of the cookies including the chocolate chip, thumbprints and peanut butter ones, but my favorite is the snickerdoodle.
Katie's does not serve dinner on Saturday nights and is closed on Sundays.