Friday, August 31, 2007

Doggone dandy!

This post is going to the dogs, literally!
Give some extra love to your canine companion this holiday weekend. Take Pete to one of the dog parks in the area:

• Morton - Morton Dog Park, free, small and large enclosure, wooded and shaded. Take 74 to the southbound Morton exit. Turn right in front of Wal-Mart (Courtland). Continue straight until the stop sign. At the stop sign, turn left on to Main St. Cross the railroad tracks. The dog park and ample parking is located on the left just before the curve.

• Peoria - Kickapoo Creek Dog Run - Large field with a creek. Farmington Road to Kickapoo Creek Road.

• Macomb - Macomb Dog Park. Fenced. Located in Patton Park on the corner of Ward and Grant.
After the dog park, how about some fancy treats for Trixie:

• Peoria - My Dog's Bakery at the Metro Centre, toys and homemade treats

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cookie Shack

When I lived at the corner of McClure and University in Peoria, my travels sent me past the Cookie Shack at 3034 N. Wisconsin many times, but I never ventured in.
A few months ago, StfRon stopped by to see me at work with a box of cookie delights from the Cookie Shack! In this box of goodies were chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, double chocolate cookies, snickerdoodle cookies, and thumbprint cookies. The snickerdoodles were awesome, as were all the rest.
On Wednesdays, the Cookie Shack will give a free cookie to seniors. Not a cookie connoisseur? They also have cakes, pies and more and will deliver any order over $50.
Stop by and spread some cookie love, or catch them at the Peoria Riverfront Market.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Butcher Block

In the newly-renovated Junction City shopping center, there is a great market/cafe, The Butcher Block.
You will still find great cuts of meat, sausages, pork, chicken and more you expect from The Butcher Block with the added bonus of cheeses, sodas, beer, wine, breads and specialty items.
The café is a great addition, with nice deli sandwiches featuring Boar's Head brand meats, subs, wraps and salads. You can even enjoy a beer or glass of wine while you're visiting.
StfRon tried a BBQ brisket sandwich, which was very good. I've had the Reuben, which is good as well. I think next time I need to try the smoked pulled pork and coleslaw wrap.
Check out their web site at

June, 2009 — The Butcher Block has removed much of their market items and is now focusing on meats and the deli, which now offers breakfast.
September, 2010 — The Butcher Block is under new ownership, and no longer offers deli items. They do offer dinner with a focus on steaks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Artistic endeavors

For over 125 years, Central Illinois has been graced with the Peoria Art Guild, showcasing local artistic talent, of which I have zilch.
It's great to stop by the shop (203 Harrison St., Peoria), open Monday-Thursday 10-6; Friday and Saturday 10-5; and look at the creative works from local artists. You can find stunning jewelry and ornaments, photographs, paintings, ceramics, glassware and more. You can even rent pieces for your office or home from the Peoria Art Guild.
The art guild will hold their 45th annual fine art fair September 29 & 30 from 10-5 on the Peoria Riverfront, featuring artists' works, live music and food vendors.
On Sunday, September 9, visit Mackinaw Valley Vineyard and Winery for Art, Wine and Music at the Vineyard, from 1-4 p.m. You'll be able to view art guild artists' works while quaffing free tastes of wine and appetizers and listening to the tunes of Joe Metzka and the Sally Weisenberg Trio.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Washington Greenhouse

Washington Greenhouse, 2679 Centennial Drive in Washington, is a great resource for your gardening needs. They carry a wide selection of plants, trees, shrubs and seeds, fertilizers, plus landscaping rock and blocks and even a pet and bird food department.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spotted Cow

I remember the Spotted Cow from my high school days. It was a small store on Prospect in Peoria Heights, and when it would rain hard, water would leak in from the ceiling into buckets on the floor. We're talking probably close to 18 years ago now.
My friends and I would stop in often for a homemade ice cream treat, either mint chocolate chip, chocolate chip cookie dough, or Oreo cookie for me. At some point they expanded and got a nice, newer location on Prospect with lots of cow decorations throughout, including cow spots on the tile floor. I would stop in for lunch over the last 8 years, as it was close to work. I wouldn't have ice cream with lunch, but a chocolate Coke would be my treat to myself.
In 2006, the Spotted Cow built a free-standing building complete with outdoor seating at 718 W. Glen and moved out of Peoria Heights. I made it in last week to pick up some carryout, and check out the new digs.
I like the funky Formica they used in the new building, and the shiny tin ceiling tiles. The place is bright, fresh and new. Lots of cow decor still graces the walls and chairs throughout.
I ordered a homemade Italian beef sandwich with cheese and peppers, and two chili dogs for StfRon. I also threw in a chocolate malt for good measure. The menu still features selections from the Heights location, like the tuna melt and cakes, plus new additions like burgers and fries.
You can also catch the Spotted Cow at their hospital café, or with their mobile ice cream cart at events like the free CILCO concerts at Lakeview Museum.
As for this visit, my Italian beef was juicy and well-seasoned, and StfRon pronounced the chili dogs a hit. The chocolate malt was so thick I couldn't get it through the straw at first, but once I did, all was good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


While shopping at the newly updated Junction City shopping center in Peoria Heights a few weeks ago, we noticed a new store, Random. We went in to see what it was like.
Random, Coffee • Clothier • Vintage, is a family-owned shop with a large selection of trendy men's clothing including T-shirts and vintage apparel. There were some really hip guys' duds in there when we stopped in. They also have womens' clothing and coffee. Heck, you can even drink coffee while you shop.
KISS FM is currently featuring a Random T-shirt of the week. You can view the selection on their web site and save on the T-shirt of the week.
Random also has a Myrtle Beach location.
It's nice to see the guys getting some unique clothing options in town, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peoria Pizza Works

With Leonardo's closing, we were looking for a good local pizza joint to hit over the weekend. We thought of Peoria Pizza Works and headed to 3921 N. Prospect in Peoria Heights.
Peoria Pizza Works has been around about as long as I have. I used to hang out there in the 90s and listen to Ready, Steady, Go play while drinking firewater. Ah, those were the crazy days of youth.
The Pizza Works is still cozy and dark, with old wood floors, faux stained glass panels over the light fixtures, and checkered vinyl tablecloths.
A basket of popcorn was delivered to our table when our drink order was taken. Nice to have something to much on.
The menu features Chicago style pizza, both thin and pan, calzones, pasta, salads, sandwiches, chicken and a slew of appetizers. They also serve mini pizzas, so you can have your very own favorite, without offending those you are dining with.
I was sure StfRon was going to order a tuna pizza with eggplant and zucchini, but no, he stuck with the sausage and onion. I had pepperoni, onion, green peppers and black olives on my half of our medium thin crust. This pizza crust was very cracker-crispy, and the cheese was excellent.
The Works has open mic every Thursday night and jazz bands on Wednesdays. They also serve a pizza buffet for lunch during the week. There are also some video games to pass the time with while you wait for your pie.
Service was decent during our visit. We will certainly be back, and hope this place makes it for another 35 years.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ozark House Restaurant

A 50% off certificate and the temptation of some good hickory smoked ribs sent us to the Ozark House Restaurant in Bloomington a few weeks ago. The restaurant is located at 704 McGregor in a mostly residential area, and we were glad we had our new Magellan GPS on board to get us right to the door.
The restaurant is casual, 1970s-era, with several large fish aquariums throughout, which captured the attention of the children who were dining that night.
I ordered the smoked 1/2 chicken with BBQ sauce, accompanied by a sweet potato and a salad with creamy garlic dressing. The dressing was sweet and very good, and the salad was filled with lots of red cabbage and carrots. There was a cracker basket on our table, so we munched on those, but we saw several tables eating bread and butter. Ours ended up being delivered with our meal, which seemed a little odd, but maybe the kitchen was backed up.
StfRon had what is dubbed the "famous baby back ribs" with shredded au gratin potatoes and finished his meal with a very good coconut cream pie that seemed to be home made. Everything we ordered was good.
Our service was prompt and friendly, and when we got low on drinks, another server took the time to top them off for us.
Our only complaint was regarding the music, some slightly too loud almost elevator music. I think if it had been a little quieter, it would have blended nicely into the background. This would not keep us away, though. We had a nice meal, and it was a change from our typical Tazewell/Peoria County haunts.
The Ozark House also offers carryouts, nightly specials and banquet services.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ming's Buffet

Admittedly, I am not a fan of buffet restaurants.
A few years ago, I was with a group and visited Ming's Buffet in East Peoria, at 1000 Riverside Drive. I didn't have high hopes.
The decor was a surprise. The place looks bright and clean, with sheets of cracked glass topping the tables, and glass panels on the walls with pictures carved into them.
The food is plentiful, of course, but also has been hot and seemed fresh each time I have visited, which sets Ming's apart from buffets I have visited in the past.
I especially like the green beans and the lo mein noodles from the buffet, and the large variety of cold fruit and veggies. They also have a decent sesame chicken.
Ming's also offers a selection of sushi, a salad bar, prime rib during dinner, crab legs, crab rangoon and plenty more.
Lunch runs about $8 and dinner about $12. It's still a buffet, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the best buffet I've been to.
Ming's has also opened a Bloomington location.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Landing

Tonight on the CEFCU Center Stage at The Landing on Peoria's Riverfront, the Dave Hoffman Quartet will play from 7:30-9:30 p.m. The concert is free.
Dave Hoffman played and worked with the Ray Charles Orchestra for many years.
We have yet to hear him, but hope to tonight and we have heard nothing but good things.

Other upcoming events at The Landing include:

Jazz: Steve Heineman Quartet
Thursday, August 23, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Jazz: Billy Cook Quartet Plus
Thursday, August 30, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Fiesta En El Rio
Friday, September 7, 5:30-11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kep's Place

We recently stopped at Kep's Place in Washington for an after work drink.
Kep's was opened in 2002 in an old racquetball club. One thing Kep's is known for around Washington is wings. Someone we know in Washington buys pounds of the wings for a Superbowl party each year.
We saw the wings on this visit, and they looked very saucy and tasty, however we had dinner waiting for us at home, so we resisted the urge to order some.
Kep's Place has a sports bar theme, with big screen and flat screen TVs, darts and pool tables.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can play pool for free.
Looking for some grub instead? Kep's has good pizza, the BBQ one is one of my top choices, but one of my favorites here are the frips, kind of a cross between chips and fries.
There is a beer garden on premises, and a decent selection of bottled beers. Weekends feature DJs and live bands.
Oh, and looking to own a bar? I've heard Kep's is for sale.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Java Jolt

I remember the little coffee hut going up in the parking lot of the old Eagle grocery store on N. Knoxville Ave. in Peoria, later to be the Leath furniture store; now the large building is probably vacant again.
This Java Jolt coffee shop in the parking lot is so cute, just a little stop to drive up and zip away with one of your favorite beverages.
Later, I heard tales of an extreme toffee coffee concoction that StfRon would partake in from the Java Jolt located in the bank building at 230 SW Adams in Peoria. By the way he talked about this coffee, it sounded like crack or something.
Just last week, I mentioned the extreme toffee coffee to my friend Minney, and she also went into fits about how good it is.
I have heard that the bank Java Jolt location also has flat-screen TVs.
Personally, I have never been to the Java Jolt, only due to the locations not being convenient to where I am, but it sounds like the place is right up my alley. It's on my list to check out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Interstate Center

Finally, this coming weekend on August 19, I think I will make it to the Third Sunday Market at the Interstate Center in Bloomington.
This event features antiques and collectibles from 400+ dealers in air-conditioned comfort. A good entertainment alternative on a hot, August day.
The Mennonite relief sale is also hosted here, plus livestock shows, poker tournaments and much more. The site is also available for rentals for your event.
The Interstate Center is off I-55 at exit 160B, on Route 9.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Harp & Thistle Imports

If you're in the market for Irish and Celtic merchandise in the Peoria area, Harp & Thistle Imports should be at the top of your list.
Located in Peoria Heights at 4605 Prospect Road, Harp & Thistle carries clothing, jewelry, gifts, china and more, including food such as cookies and tea. Looking for Guinness merchandise? They've got it!
Harp & Thistle will also have a booth at the upcoming Erin Feis on the Peoria Riverfront August 24-26.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gil's Supper Club

A couple of friends I used to work with always raved about chicken from Gil's Supper Club, located on Main Street in Hanna City. Leaving Wildlife Prairie Park one time last fall, I convinced StfRon to swing by to check out the place for dinner.
Gil's is a family restaurant, operating since 1962.
We lucked out by stopping in on a Wednesday, when fried chicken is the dinner special. There were several people waiting, but when we went up to the podium and were asked "smoking or non" we said it didn't matter, and were seated right away. We hang out in bars where smoking is common, so we figured no big deal. WRONG. Next time we will wait for non smoking. It seemed like everyone in the dining room was smoking, and you could really tell.
We both tried the fried chicken dinners, and the chicken was very good. We also saw people eating fritters, which perked me up.
Growing up in Chillicothe, every once in a while my parents would get us Weaver's chicken for dinner, complete with corn fritters, deep fried balls of dough with corn mixed in, topped with powdered sugar. Excellent! My mom would also break out the Fry Daddy from time-to-time and whip up her own corn fritters, which were great.
Seeing the fritters at Gil's, I had to try them. We ordered a small batch, and were told the fritters were pumpkin, in honor of fall. Interesting. Then we tasted them. Oh, baby! They were wonderful. So great, in fact, that we ordered one dozen to go and ate about three more each on the drive home.
Now that fall is nearing, I find myself thinking of Gil's and their pumpkin fritters. It won't be long before we can partake of them again!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Festa, anyone?

This Sunday brings us the 78th annual Italian Festa at Hickory Grove Park, set for Sunday, August 12 from noon-7 p.m.
The festa features food by Basta Mangiare (such as Italian beef, sausages and spaghetti with meatballs plus desserts), Italian beer and wine and live music. There will even be a spaghetti eating contest for kids and bocce ball tournaments.
It looks like Sunday will be a hot one. If there is a breeze, it will be helpful, because there is a decent amount of shade at Hickory Grove from the old trees. If there's no breeze and you're still up for it, at least you can cool down with an Italian ice! Hey, what else are you gonna do? Sit in the house and watch TV?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eamon Patrick's Public House

On my third visit to Eamon Patrick's Public House, I finally ordered some food. Up to that visit, I had been in for blueberry beer and iced tea and fries, but not anything of substance from the menu.
Located at 112 SW Jefferson in Peoria, Eamon Patrick's has been open for several months now, the latest restaurant involving Mary Ann Fahey, this time in conjunction with her son.
The menu features homemade soups and desserts, several sandwiches and some interesting pizzas. I had to try the pear, gorgonzola, walnut with brie and red peppers. It was a gamble for me, because I am only marginally tolerant of gorgonzola. The pizza was good, but the cheese a bit much for me. Any true gorgonzola fan would be all over this pie.
Next time, I hope to try the tomato basil soup and the margherita pizza.
My friends ordered the spinach artichoke dip, which was very good and rich, plus covered in french fried onions, like the green bean casserole at Christmas. Mmmm! This was served with thin, toasted bread slices, salted with some sort of gourmet salt.
Our group finished with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. The cookies were tasty, and had a touch of cinnamon mixed in.
The food seemed to take a while to arrive, however, Eamon Patrick's plans to expand and take over the former F. Scott's location. This may allow them to have a larger kitchen.
The decor is warm and cozy, with thickly plastered walls. A great place to duck in for an after work drink, lunch or snack.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Desserts Unlimited

We had a small local wedding reception this weekend. While planning the menu, I asked StfRon what kind of dessert he wanted, and he said cheesecake.
I had seen ads for Desserts Unlimited, 108 E. Queenwood Road in Morton, several times in Dining Out magazine, so I thought we could give them a try.
They boast 23 flavors of cheesecake. What flavor did StfRon want? Plain. Fine by me!
When I picked the cheesecakes up, the lady who brought the order out said "Ours is a soft cheesecake". I wasn't quite sure what to make of that. Now, having tried them, I know they are wonderfully smooth and tasty. We set them up with bowls of caramel, chocolate sauce and strawberries, plus a bowl of Oreo crumbs for people to top the cheesecakes with. They were a hit.
The cheesecakes were $20 each, and you can have them cut in 14 or 16 slices. Not bad for your next gathering.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Childer's Eatery

Childer's Eatery, 3312 N. University in Peoria, is a family restaurant. Despite all the years it's been around, I finally stepped in this summer for the first time.
StfRon and I dropped by Childer's for lunch. The menu is filled with breakfast choices, sandwiches and dinners. A sesame chicken salad with thai dressing caught my eye. For some reason, any meat or fish covered in sesame seeds appeals to me.
This salad featured greens topped with plenty of chicken dipped in egg and then rolled in loads of sesame seeds. The thai dressing was good, and there were also mandarin oranges and nuts in the salad. A nice, filling lunch.
StfRon went with the Memphis sampler, which he had with a sweet potato mash type dish and homemade chips. The Memphis sampler was good, as were both of the sides.
Childer's has many specials, which are listed on signs posted near the ceiling, wrapping around the room. Many of them sounded very tasty.
I'm sure we'll be back for lunch.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Burger Barge Dry Dock

I first went to the Burger Barge Dry Dock, 1401 N. Main Street in East Peoria, maybe five years ago, and was not thrilled after my visit. Much to StfRon's dismay, as he had never been and is a true burger buff, I vowed never to go again.
Flash forward to this year, and a work group outing sent me there again. Maybe my tastes have changed or something, but this time I found a winner: the BBQ burger (cue heavenly music). The burgers at the 'Barge are huge, huge, huge, and this one is no exception. It's smothered in barbecue sauce and cole slaw, and the combination is awesome. Reminiscent of my trip to Memphis earlier this year.
After tasting this gem, StfRon and I stopped in a few weeks later, and I ordered the same burger. Why mess with a good thing?
The Burger Barge also has such favorites as a paper bag o' fried shrimp and great homemade chips. My scheme is to snag some chips off of someone else's plate, as the burgers alone are more than enough to fill me up (sides are not included with the burgers). They also have salads for those who choose to graze. And beer, of course!
The Burger Barge is very casual, and features outdoor seating as well, right along the river.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Avanti's Italian Restaurant

OK, call me crazy, but I'm not a huge fan of Avanti's like most Peorians are. I guess it might be the tomato sauce. It's just not my favorite. And I've never been a huge fan of a gondola sandwich.
I mean, I hear stories of people who move away and can't stop thinking about Avanti's. Each time they come to town they MUST load up their cars and suitcases with Avanti's bread.
I used to hit Avanti's on Main Street in Peoria after class at ICC back in the early 90s. I always had the pizza bread, and it was fine, and the price was right for a college kid.
Then, I worked for a department starting in the late 90s which would order Avanti's delivery once a month or so. I would get the pasta salad, which is actually pretty good, and comes with a nice chunk of bread and Country Crock (prefer the real deal myself) and I usually would snag a packet of the parmesan cheese to sprinkle on it, too. It's a very reasonably priced lunch.
Recently, a friend suggested going to Avanti's, so I said OK. I was surprised to see personal pizzas on the menu. Having had a good fill of the pasta salad the past several years, I ordered one. It was actually very good, kind of reminded me of a Pizza Hut style pie.
Avanti's has locations on Rockwood in Peoria near Northwoods Mall, on Main Street at University, plus a location in East Peoria and one in Normal.
Their menu features hot and cold sandwiches including the gondolas, salads, pizza and plenty o' pasta.

Uncommon Goods

Branching out for a non-local, but cool plug really quickly.
Uncommon Goods is a great place for unique gifts, jewelry and decor items. You can find so many fun things on their web site or in their catalog.
Also, if you put USA in the keyword search on their site, you can find many items made in the USA.
I just found something that looks fun, a wine board game called Winerd. You pick three bottles of wine and answer trivia questions regarding the wines. Who doesn't love wine drinking games?
Hey, come to think of it, my Mom's birthday is in less than two weeks. I'd better get shopping!