Monday, April 28, 2008


Sunday we found ourselves with time to stop at Maria's, 306 Peoria Street in Washington, for breakfast.
We drove by at 8:40, only to find that they don't open until 9 a.m. We ended up driving around a bit and coming back around 9:15.
Taking our seats by the window in the first dining room, which looks very much the same as Katie's Café did in the same location, I ordered some orange juice and StfRon went with coffee.
We were given the Sunday brunch menu, which had a handful of offerings.
I decided to have the Grandma's special, since it came with corned beef hash (along with choice of eggs, potatoes and bread) and StfRon ordered biscuits and gravy, and asked for a side of hash to accompany his meal.
Waiting for our food to arrive, it seemed like many of the staff were pitching in in all areas, with some of the kitchen staff coming out to deliver food and help seat customers and take drink orders, while our waitress was spending some time in the kitchen.
While waiting, we checked out the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Maria's offers a baked brie ensconced in puff pastry and drizzled with honey, and also crab cakes on the appetizer menu. Both sound like great possibilities for carryout to take home and enjoy with a nice glass of wine.
Our food arrived in a reasonable amount of time, and we were pleased with the quality of the meals.
Almost everything we ordered was home made, including the corned beef hash, and all of our food was served hot.
StfRon really enjoyed the sausage and biscuits.
Going to the cash register to pay our bill, I noticed snickerdoodle cookies covered in cinnamon, so StfRon ordered one of those for me, and a chocolate chip cookie for him. I ate mine later that afternoon, and it was a nice treat.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A milestone?

I've seen this day looming for a couple of weeks now: the 300th post for my blog.
Did I think this blog would last this long? Probably not. But it's still enjoyable to me, so why the heck not?
The moment may seem rather anticlimactic, though, since I really don't have anything profound to write about for my 300th post, and nothing much has been going on.
Let's see, I've enjoyed some local meals out in Peoria, like lunch at Vallarta's, Panache, Yen Ching and the Spotted Cow (they have a nice new sign, but bananas foster ice cream is gone from the lineup); StfRon picked out a winner of a wine at Super Liquors in Peoria; picked out some nice cheese to accompany said wine at Lindy's Downtown Market in Washington; we had some mediocre dining in Springfield; heard of one of our regular haunts being up for sale; spent part of a Saturday poking through the Illinois Antique Center; and welcomed spring with the purchase of some vegetable plants from our local greenhouse, Washington Greenhouse in Washington.
I noted with interest the opening of the Prairie Grille in Kickapoo. The cuisine sounds like not your everyday fare, especially for that location which has seen many a restaurant through the years.
We also have some plans on the horizon for some different local dining this weekend. If they pan out, I'll be sure to report back.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday fodder

Local biz news noted this week:

Looks like perhaps the sign at Fedora's at McClure and University in Peoria took a tumble. On my way by early this week, I saw a police officer looking at the sign laying on the sidewalk. On my way back, there was no sign of said sign.

The Rhythm Kitchen Music Café in Peoria is advertising Sunday brunch.

Tried to have lunch at Euro Jack's in downtown Peoria Thursday only to find the doors locked. Maybe the new management has discontinued serving lunch.

We're all set to try the brunch at the River Station in Peoria for Mother's Day, despite a recent fire. So glad it was caught early!

Friday evening I heard that perhaps River Station won't be open for Mother's Day. In any case, my mom is investigating other options. I hope to try the River Station brunch soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mickie's Pizzeria

Last week we met some friends at Mickie's Pizzeria for dinner.
This outing took place at their new Peoria location in Westlake shopping center, although we have visited Mickie's a few times at 137 Radio City Drive in Pekin in the past five years.
The Westlake location looked brand spanking new with it's clean tile floors, rust and green hued walls and ying yang-esque seat cushions.
Our waitress during this visit was very thorough, repeating back everyone's order to them after she had taken them all, to make sure she had everything right. And things were delivered just as we ordered them.
We started with some sweet bread and garlic bread, then all had our own thin crust pie (no thick crust here), with three of the group ordering fiesta pizzas. StfRon, the lone male dining with four females, went for the meat pizza, and I chose the five star, with smoked bacon, red onions, garlic, Canadian bacon and pineapple as my five stars. I was trying to come up with a new concoction with lots of flavor. It turned out to be pretty good, and made for a nice lunch at home a couple of days later.
Mickie's also serves wings, sandwiches and pasta dishes.

December, 2010 — Mickie's has closed their location in Peoria. Visit them in Dunlap, Pekin or East Peoria.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

International Beer Festival

This weekend we plan to check out the 16th annual International Beer Festival at Expo Gardens in Peoria.
Proceeds from this event benefit local charities.
More than 300 beers will be available to sample via 4 ounce servings. Sampled a real stinker? Dump it in one of the plastic buckets and move on to the next contender.
The festival runs Friday, April 11 from 6-10 p.m. with admission set at $20 on that night and Saturday, April 12 from 1-9 p.m. with $12 advance admission, $15 at the door.
Once you get inside, each beer sample costs 50¢ with a few priced at $1. The first 4,500 guests receive a free commemorative sampling beer glass.
Friday night's sampling is billed as a "smaller, quieter, more relaxing beer sampling", with a limited number of tickets being sold.
The beer fest seems to get larger and crazier every year. It almost seems like they could use a larger venue.
Let's hope StfRon samples some beer this year and doesn't just park himself in front of a pilsener booth and drink the same thing the whole time.
To each his own, though. I'm sure he doesn't think much of my fruity beer sampling each year...

Seejay & Pammy's Unique Teak

Never having been in Seejay & Pammy's Unique Teak, I had visions of a store filled with lots of wood furniture, salad bowls, picture frames and more, presumably made of teak.
I stopped in to their newer home (formerly on Sheridan Road) at 8414 N. Knoxville Avenue in Peoria this week, and was surprised to find nary a sign of teak wood.
Instead, I found myself surrounded by colorful purses and costume jewelry. There was also a selection of sunglasses, and even some decorative dish towels and wine bags. I saw a martini dish towel set made in the USA.
Unique Teak looks like just the place to find a fun gift for my mom.
There is also a Pekin location at 2942 Court Street.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fish House

I can't believe that apparently I haven't devoted an entry to the Fish House yet.
I had the best birthday dinner there a couple of years ago. It was a complete blast!
The Fish House has been serving fine seafood at 4919 N. University Street in Peoria since 1976.
The atmosphere is one of almost cabin-like coziness, with lots of dark wood and sedate lighting throughout the restaurant.
The bar has a nice cozy feel as well. Not so much one where we'd hang out just for drinks, but we have passed some nice times waiting for tables there bellied up to the lounge bar.
I've had many great seafood meals there, from the tuna to the grouper Oscar. StfRon, not so much of a seafood fan, enjoys their filet. They also have au gratin potatoes as a side dish choice, always creamy, cheesy and a little sweet.
On our most recent visit, a couple of weeks ago, we met up with some family and a friend for dinner.
StfRon and I both had the pistachio crusted sea bass. The crust was enjoyable and the dish was well-prepared, but apparently I'm not a big sea bass fan. I guess I prefer a meatier sort of fish.
The halibut my dad had looked great.
Our service on this visit, as usual, was very good. I would also assume that the Fish House is a pretty good place to work, considering the bar staff has been the same for as long as I can remember.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


We recently had one of our cars serviced, which included checking tire pressure and various other things.
Driving the car a couple of days last week, I thought the back driver's side tire was starting to look low. I mentioned it to StfRon, but I don't think he looked at it. In his defense, I do have a flat tire paranoia of sorts, at times even waking up from a dead sleep in a panic thinking my Jeep's tire is flat.
But, this time, I was probably onto something.
When we checked out of our hotel Sunday morning and loaded up the suitcase, StfRon noticed the back driver's side tire was almost completely flat.
We asked an employee in the parking lot if there was a service station nearby. The man said yes, two blocks over.
We carefully drove to the station, only to find they were out of business. Luckily there was still an air machine that accepted quarters. Of course, all we had was two quarters, but hopefully it would be enough to get us somewhere else.
Nope. The machine had seen better days, and would not make a good enough seal around the valve to air up the tire.
StfRon went into auto mechanic role (he is soooo not the mechanic type) and gamely put the spare on the car. Upon inspection, we did notice a screw head embedded in the tire.
We made it home on the spare and tried our trusty Washington service center, Brecklin's, at 119 Walnut, just off the square. I knew they were open Sundays, and thought we had even had my Jeep tires patched there on a Sunday before.
Sure enough, the attendant said he could work on the tire, and would give us a call when it was ready.
Turns out there was a screw and a nail in the tire, but an hour or so later and $10 lighter, we were driving on the tire again. Seems to be holding up fine so far, but I will keep a watchful eye on it.
Beats shelling out for a new tire right now, since we just sunk a large amount of money into service and repairs for the car.
Kudos to Brecklin's for tire patching on Sundays, and for rescuing us once again!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quad Cities getaway

On the best spring weekend we've seen so far this year, we were enjoying a weekend in the Quad Cities with some friends.
Saturday StfRon and I made it into East Davenport mid afternoon and caught sight of the quaint business district, so we turned off to check it out.

Once I recognized where we were, I knew the Bier Stube would be right around the corner.
We stopped in at Avatar Books, Estate Wines and Calla then headed over to the Bier Stube. I had been there several years ago with my mom and dad, but StfRon had never had the pleasure.
This location of the Bier Stube is a cozy establishment with a couple of handfuls of tables and some wooden stools lining the bar. They serve some German drafts along with other beers, and sandwiches, sausages and Schnitzels. Someone was eating some red cabbage or sauerkraut that smelled divine, but we were in between meals. We'll have to come back with an empty stomach next time!

After checking in to our hotel and getting a free upgrade to a suite (sweeeeeet!) we met up with our friends and did some shopping near the hotel.

Then, on to the Blue Cat Brew Pub in Rock Island for some hoppiness.

Next stop: Moline for dinner. Our tour guide for the weekend Minney has an aunt who lives in the Quad Cities, and she recommended Pasteur as a favorite for dinner.
Celebrating almost 20 years in business, Pasteur serves Vietnamese cuisine prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
The owner was very friendly and seemed to remember all of his customers. He was welcoming and delighted to see us.
He told us that the location has recently been remodeled. The decor in the tidy restaurant was light and airy.
We all started with some of their golden egg rolls (vegetarian for one of us) and they were excellent. We also had an order of chicken wontons. These were delicious as well, as were the sauces accompanying these appetizers. We were surprised to find that one of the sauces we loved was a fish sauce.
For my entreé, I chose some pad Thai, wild rice noodles, served with beef. A couple of us had pork entreés and one had Minney's aunt's fave, the cashew chicken. Another tried the shrimp with almonds.
The freshness of the produce was noticeable with my meal, especially the onions in my noodles, which were crisp, sweet and spicy. The flavor of the sauce in the dish was wonderful. So much so that I stuffed myself silly.
The service during our meal was great as well.

After this pig out, we were so close to Whitey's Ice Cream that a few of us were game for dessert. There was quite a line of people inside. I made my way to the counter and ordered the cake batter ice cream on a sugar cone.
Upon receiving it, I was surprised to see ribbons of chocolate in the creamy yellow concoction. Sampling them, I found them to be like fudgy cake batter.
StfRon had a chocolate malt with extra malt. Whitey's, unlike some malt makers, apparently knows what extra malt means, as the malt had crispy crystals of malty magnificence throughout.

After this and the filling meal, I found myself starting to feel sluggish. We made it over to the Bent River Brewing Company, but I was never able to snap out of it. StfRon apparently had the same problem, because when I brought up geocaching (thinking that some walking might give me a second wind, and we could meet up with the group and go to the hotel bar or the casino bar later) he turned me down. StfRon turning down geocaching is unheard of!
So, party animals that we are, we were in bed by about 10:30.

The next morning, we couldn't find any notable local breakfast joints online, so we headed to the Iowa Machine Shed, established in 1978. It's a little corporate, but the location we hit, the Davenport restaurant, is the original location.
Our service was great and the food portions were huge. In the restaurant shop, I thought it was neat that they had a selection of "green" items, including household cleaners and bamboo plates, bowls and tableware, and I also saw some cookware made in the USA in the shop.

With stomachs full, we headed off for some geocaching at Vander Veer Botanical Park. We found one quickly, but spent probably forty minutes searching for another, only to find that it was M.I.A. Oh, well. It was a nice day, we saw lots of dogs and got to check out the botanical gardens.
After spending so much time looking for that last cache, we decided it was time to head home.

I enjoyed seeing Davenport and taking in some of the sights. This is a town that has tons of historic buildings still standing, making use of many of them while rehabbing many others. It's a great thing to see.

Track Inn

This weekend we finally found ourselves in Chillicothe briefly while an antique store we've been wanting to visit was actually open.
After looking through the shop, we stepped out onto the sidewalk and smelled the tantalizing aroma of bacon. We could tell it was coming from the Track Inn, and, since we were looking at a two hour ride once we got in the car, decided now was as good a time as any to grab a bite.
I know my grandma took me to eat at the Track Inn, located at 1815 N. Santa Fe Drive, once, I would have to say well over 15 years ago.
The place has actually been a restaurant for over 100 years. I dare say there's no place else in Chillicothe that can claim that.
I'm sure times were much more prosperous for the site when there was an Amtrak stop right down the street.
The decor is simple, with some railroad memorabilia and news clippings on the walls.
I was up for some breakfast, so I ordered corned beef hash, scrambled eggs and some wheat toast. StfRon went for the small tenderloin, fries and cole slaw.
The slaw showed up almost immediately, and my husband really enjoyed it, especially due to the caraway.
When our food arrived, the word "small" describing the tenderloin almost seemed laughable. But, in comparison to the regular sized one, I'm sure this one was small, despite hanging an inch or two out of the bun here and there.
The loin was hand battered, and full of tenderloiny tastiness.
My breakfast was good and arrived at the table hot, which is always a plus. I hate lukewarm eggs. I decided not to make a pig of myself and didn't clean my plate.
The prices were quite reasonable, and when we were at the register to pay our bill, I checked out a few of the framed stories gracing the walls. I also noticed that the Track Inn is known for pies. I probably could have made room for a slice, or a shared slice, but with what was to come later that day, I'm glad I didn't! I'll keep those pies, and the made from scratch soups in mind, though.


Friday I found myself looking for lunch in Champaign.
I got some tips from a fellow central Illinois blogger, and jotted down some great ideas. What did I do with them? Forgot them on my desk on Thursday.
I had also read with interest about several restaurants who use local ingredients in their dishes on this blog. I kept driving by a place called Ko-Fusion that I remembered seeing on the list, so I decided "what the heck?", parked and walked in.
Located at 1 East Main Street in Champaign, Ko-Fusion has quite the contemporary look and feel, from the blue glass block windows to the concrete floor and modern metal chairs.
A sign outside proclaims they use organic meats and wild-caught seafood, which is great to see.
I took a booth and perused the menu, quickly settling on the organic chicken Bento box, complete with California roll, summer vegetables, salmon cake and salad.
I'm no Bento box pro, having only had one before this experience, but this one seemed quite large to me. The portions were reasonable but not large (fine by me) and this entreé was priced at $13.
The chicken and vegetables were wonderfully seasoned with a sweet and spicy sauce, the green beans were crisp and fresh tasting, and I ate every scrap, tossing in a bit of sticky rice here and there.
I ate a couple of pieces of the California roll and tried a bite of the salmon cake. I ate about half of the salad of mixed greens topped with a gingery dressing.
My favorite by far was the chicken and vegetables.
My waiter was unobtrusive, bringing me a second iced tea when he delivered my meal. He was also quick to notice when I was finished and promptly stopped by.
This lunch outing proved to be interesting in both decor and taste.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Midweek check-in

Over the weekend, we enjoyed dinner in Washington at the C Note Pub after finding Gracie's Sports Grille & Pizza had a 45 minute wait. My buffalo chicken sandwich was extra saucy, and we got a sneak peek of what the new menu items will be, both upstairs at Denhart's and downstairs in the pub.

We also made a semi-impromptu appearance at the Fish House in Peoria, meeting up with some family and a friend. StfRon and I both had the pistachio crusted sea bass. The crust was enjoyable, but I found that apparently I'm not a big sea bass fan. The halibut my dad had looked great.

Monday night we got in to Gracie's in Washington before they got too crowded. It almost seemed like they might have been a little short on waitstaff during this visit.
In any case, we enjoyed dinner at the bar, and I tried the salmon this time. The entreé was almost artfully arranged, with a nicely prepared hunk of salmon topped with a sweet sauce, next to it, my side of cole slaw in a ramekin and the large white plate was garnished with a purple kale sprig. I thought the salmon was great and the cole slaw had an interesting kick of horseradish to it.
When we first got there, some guys in the bar were getting into the Cubs game, and the sound was really echoing off the ceiling and floor. If you're looking for more quiet dining, you might want to head next door to Basta O'Neill's.

Haven't had any local lunches out this week. We've got some travel planned this weekend (so I'm saving my lunch money), but tomorrow looks promising for a nice local lunch experience. I have some hopes as to where it may be...