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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Fall is my favorite time of year, and Oktoberfests are a fun way to get out and enjoy the fall weather.

One of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. is held in Peoria on the riverfront, the Peoria Oktoberfest. This year set for Septeber 21-23, the festival will bring bands from across the United States, the Peoria area and Bavaria, while celebrating great German food, beer and culture. There is also non-German entertainment planned for the CEFCU stage for those who are not big fans of schlager music.

September 23 brings the Kickapoo Creek Winery's Oktoberfest and art fair. Fall fun at this fest will include hayrack rides, blues music, food, wine, arts and crafts.

Bradford, IL will host another Oktoberfest September 28-30, bringing bands from Wisconsin, Peoria and Switzerland for your listening pleasure, and will be serving one of my festival favorites, pork chops on a stick. There will also be roast pig, hot dogs, heidelbergers, brats, beer and soda.

Furrow Vineyard and Winery in El Paso will host an Oktoberfest September 29-30. This fest will include brats and Oktoberfest wine combined with tunes by Sally Weisenburg and Illinois Brass Works.

So dust off your lederhosen and get ready to raise your stein, or soda, or wine to fall!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lester's Tasty Donuts

Let's Monday started out with waiting an extra 25 or so minutes to cross the McCluggage Bridge. Yes, I knew work was starting on the bridge today, but I also heard over a half dozen times on News 25 how they were waiting until after the 8:30 morning rush. Wrong.
While waiting in traffic, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to eat breakfast, which I never do. Oh, and forgot to return a DVD rental that's due today.
Though late, I continued my plan of going to Lester's Tasty Donuts on Glen in Peoria, because I wanted to try the donuts and knew they had a pretty nice looking outlet there. Lester's has been delighting donut lovers since 1953 at several Central Illinois locations.
For some reason I spaced out and went down Knoxville. I got near Proctor and realized my mistake. I jogged over on Northmoor and headed back the other way on University to 1401 W. Glen.
The lady who waited on me at Lester's was very pleasant even though her day seemed to be shaping up about like mine. I asked for an assortment of donuts, and she gave me a decent selection from what was in the case. I also noticed other pastries, cookies and coffee cakes.
I headed to the office a bit flustered and proceeded to spill hot tea on myself AND screw up a meeting time.
The best part of my day so far (other than the cheery lady who waited on me) was the donut I selected when I opened the boxes. At first I headed for a glazed twist, but part way there I saw what looked to be an almost bagel-like blueberry donut covered in glaze. I went with it instead, and it was wonderful. Light and cakey, with little blueberries mixed throughout, staining the donut batter purple, covered with just the right amount of glaze. This, my friends, was donut divinity, and my only true pleasure of the morning. Let's hope the afternoon holds more positives.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ing's Chinese Express

After conducting some financial business a couple of weeks ago at the Sheridan Village CEFCU in Peoria, we decided to go to Ing's Chinese Express in said shopping center for lunch.
Ing's used to be known as Happiness Chinese restaurant in Pekin on Route 29. I had been to Happiness, and recall it as a cute little restaurant with good food.
The Sheridan Village location looks nice and clean, with a more updated decor and art than many Chinese restaurants in the area sport. It also seems kind of roomy, as they have left the center of the room open for a wide aisle leading to the counter where you place your lunch order. There is a row of chairs near the cash register to sit in while you wait for carryout orders.
I ordered the Mongolian beef, as did StfRon. I'm not sure why I did, because I grew up on Yen Ching's Mongolian beef, and none can ever measure up to that for me. However, this was good, with lots of onion slices, served accompanied by a huge egg roll and fried rice.
The food is served in Styrofoam containers, so if you can't eat it all, it's easy to take away.
Did the Mongolian beef beat Yen Ching's in my book? No, but I would certainly have this one again, or try one of the many, many other selections.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Garlic Press (and Market Café)

A couple weeks ago I made a long overdue trip to the Garlic Press in downtown Normal. Anything with garlic in the name is bound to be a favorite of mine!
I have probably been there years ago, as the place has been around for 30 years, but I just don't remember for sure.
Located at 108 North Street, the Garlic Press not only carries pottery, gifts, kitchen gadgets, spices, sauces and more, but offers cooking classes and a great little café right next door.
Monday, September 10, the cooking class will be autumn comfort foods, including baked pork chops with Parmesan sage crust. Sounds divine! The class may be full by this time, but there are others upcoming.
Browsing through the store, I could hardly take it all in: stationery, toys, bath products, clothing, coffee, chocolate...I saw a beautiful lamp I would love to have, and some Frank Lloyd Wright styled house numbers, which I am in the market for, too.
I also found jackets, vests and shirts made in the USA, which is a hard thing to find locally.
My only regret on this visit was that I was not hungry, so I didn't visit the Market Café. I did peek in and see a nice selection of soups and sandwiches. Choose from things like sushi rolls, Thai chicken salad, chilled sesame asparagus and soups like sweet potato and ginger, smoky lentil chili, the list goes on and on. I plan to make it back soon for some of these great-sounding dishes!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Labor Day weekend road trip

Over Labor Day weekend, we decided to head to Michigan City, IN. One of the big draws to the area is the Lighthouse Place outlets, and the other is lovely Lake Michigan, with Michigan City being home to a couple of lighthouses.

As far as businesses local to Michigan City, we hit the quaint, wooden shotgun house area of 4th-7th streets near the outlet mall for the Golden Leaf Cigar Shop and Lange's Old Fashion Meat Market.
The cigar shop has a room in back where three men were sitting on leather couches smoking and watching TV. Made me wonder if Peoria would soon have establishments of the same sort.
The brothers at Lange's meat market were quite the of them actually claims to have dated a girl from Chillicothe and spent time in Chillicothe, but never Peoria. The shop has sawdust on the floor, and great smoked-on-site meats sitting uncovered in dishes along the top of the meat case. Ahh...Indiana knows how to do things the old fashioned way! There is even a side of bacon hanging on the back wall that one of the brothers claims is three years old.
Alas, when we were in, they were out of bacon to sell, so we ended up with a couple of smoked pork chops. They made an excellent dinner Monday night, with some white acorn squash we picked up from the Third Sunday Market in Bloomington.
We also stopped into the Banyan Tree boutique, which was filled with brightly-colored clothing and some gift items. The lady working in the shop was chatting with us and asking how our summer was and what we had done, so I told her we had gotten married. She nicely insisted on giving me a packet of bubble bath from Germany to celebrate the wedding. It was a nice surprise! She also said this shop closes in September, and reopens in May and that the proprietor buys a lot of merchandise from Italy, in small numbers, so that you won't likely see someone with the same shirt or bag as you walking around.

After the outlet mall and downtown area, we headed to Washington Park in Michigan City to check out the lighthouse. The place was packed with their Labor Dayz Festival. We paid our $6 to get in to the park, then walked the long, sandy walk to the beach. Once we hit the shore, we rolled up our pants and took off our shoes and walked in the surf along the shore toward the lighthouse.
After cleaning the sand from our feet and putting our shoes back on, we headed into the arts and crafts/carnival area of the festival. Nothing too exciting there.

On our way out of town, we took US 20 so we could pass by a BBQ joint we had seen on our way into town, Smokey's Southern Barbecue. The neon pig in the window beckoned us in.
The place is small, holding only about six retro formica tables, but the decor is quaint and cozy. I actually loved the way this place was decorated. For a wainscoting, they had used corrugated metal, and had touches of wood throughout, including wood floors. The bathroom was sort of half an outhouse built against one wall of the restaurant. StfRon didn't believe it was real, and had to pull the door open and check it out.
We both ordered pulled pork sandwiches and cole slaw. The slaw wasn't the best I've ever had. The pork was good and juicy, but probably not as good as some we've tried in Memphis. After staring at the dessert board and pie stand while we ate, we tried the desserts, peach cobbler and chocolate pecan pie. Again, not the best we've ever had, but the place was neat, service was good and we were glad we made the stop.
After we went outside, we got out the camera for some pictures, and an older couple came out of Smokey's with their carryout. The wife said, incredulously, "You're taking pictures of SMOKEY'S???" Hey, lady, this place is coooool.

This trip made us want to spend more time in Michigan City, since we only had the day. We want to check out more of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the zoo, and much more. We hope to make it back soon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fall festivals

In honor of my favorite season, here are a few fall events to check out this week in the area:

Elmwood Fall Festival - Free admission, carnival, food tent at Central Park in Elmwood September 6-8.
Pekin Marigold Festival - Free admission, arts and crafts, food, carnival. Mineral Springs Park in Pekin September 7-9.
Fire on the Water, Firefighters Street Festival, Peoria - $5 donation to enter, concert, car & bike cruise, food and beer. All proceeds donated to local charities. September 8 CEFCU Center Stage and The Landing, Peoria.