Friday, May 30, 2008

Abe's Deli

This week I headed downtown with Abe's Deli in mind. Arriving downtown at about 12:50, all of the sidewalk lunch vendors were packing up.
Having never been to Abe's, I entered the Chase bank building at 124 SW Adams next to their sidewalk sign and followed printed signs throughout the building directing back to the deli.
I stepped in to the small deli where a couple of ladies were finishing their lunch and was greeted by the woman at the counter.
I checked out the menu board and decided to go with a chicken salad sandwich, and after perusing the bread choices, selected the marble rye.
Adding a can of Squirt soda, which I love to see offered, my lunch rang in at $4.75. It's hard to find a lunch for less than $5 anymore (although I did skip chips here).
I took my sandwich and soda out into the grassy area on Fulton across the street and found a bench so I could take in the sights while eating.
The chicken salad was tasty, just like Mom used to make. Heck, washing it down with a Squirt, I could have been back in the 1980s eating lunch out in the backyard with Mom after school.
All in all, a relaxing time.

Abe's features several sandwiches, salads, and loaded baked potatoes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Weekend roundup

This weekend we stopped by Denhart's in Washington for breakfast one morning. They are still doing $2.99 breakfast specials during the week. Now, if I can just get myself out of the house early enough to take advantage of it!

In case you've been waiting, I should mention that Second Chances in Washington is open again after their pipe bursting mishap. Lots of fun new recycled items to check out there.

I enjoyed a great lunch at the Landmark in Galesburg. While out west I also checked out other Seminary Street favorites of mine, Uncle Billy's Bakery and the Calico Cat. I even squeezed in a quick stop at Cooks & Company.

Monday we took in the Memorial Day services in Washington, which was a nice way to start our day. Later that evening, we went to Gracie's in Washington for a chicken enchilada pizza, and enjoyed a nice visit and a drink with one of our local veterans.

This week I plan to take in some outdoor fun and food at the Cherry Festival in Washington, which starts on Wednesday. There are two cherry food items I've been wanting to try forever, and if I am successful, I'll report back later this week. The only thing that could probably top that in my book is if they were also serving Galena Cellars cherry wine!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Round up

Recently I've enjoyed dining at Thanh Linh (diggin' the new paint job!) in Peoria; Cyd's in Peoria Heights, which was packed with a party of gents; and Bernardi's in Washington, where I sampled the new fried zucchini, breaded in the same batter they use for their fried chicken (mmm!).
I noted the closure of one of our favorite lunch spots, Euro Jack's in Peoria, and the fairly new Basil's in Washington, with some concern about the future of more local favorites with the economy being what it is right now.
But, on a positive note, we learned that Sully is planning a new restaurant venture in Peoria Heights that we look forward to checking out, and also learned of the possibility of a new locally-owned restaurant expanding to the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

Firehouse Pizza

I had heard a lot of good things about Firehouse Pizza, so I was interested in checking the place out.
I zipped over to 8879 N. Knoxville Avenue in Peoria for lunch one day this week, meeting my friend R and my mom.
Walking in, you can choose to enter one of two doors, one to the left or one to the right. To the right, I could see golden yellow walls, to the right, a brick wall look. We headed to the right and made our way past tall, dark wood booths to the cash register.
There is a lunch buffet for $7.50, tax included, that comes with salad, pizza and a soft drink. You can also order a personal pizza with a drink for about the same price. I could see the buffet right next to the cash register, so I figured I would try it.
I wanted iced tea, but when I went to the soda station, all I saw was the raspberry variety, so I had a Pepsi instead. Later on I saw regular iced tea on the menu, so I'll have to track it down next time. Firehouse Pizza also offers beer and wine.
We took one of the tall booths, which are equipped with personal flat screen TVs. There was a pretty steady crowd of people in for lunch while we were there, several of them enjoying the programming of their choice in their booths.
Going up to the small salad bar, I fixed a salad of iceberg lettuce with red cabbage, two kinds of shredded cheese, skipped the croutons and went for some of the honey mustard dressing. The quarters were a bit cramped between the cash register, salad bar and pizza bar, with them all being in the same pathway, but everyone managed.
The salad was decent, and I especially enjoyed the dressing.
On to the pizza. The slices were narrow, which was good because I got to try more varieties without wasting food. I first went for a slice of some sort of meat lovers looking pizza, since I spied some bacon on it. I also snatched a slice with black olives and green peppers and went back to the table.
The crust is sort of a hand-tossed style, but the thing I enjoyed the most was the sweet tomato sauce. So much so that I went back for two more slices.
While enjoying our food, we took a look at some of the firehouse memorabilia near our booth and on the walls. I also noticed that the menu on our table mentioned a gluten free pizza and take and bake pizzas.
My mom arrived late, and on her last trip from the pizza buffet she scored a slice of dessert pizza with peaches on it that hadn't been up there before, but alas, I was full. It will have to wait for next time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lou's Drive-In

Beautiful spring weather is out in full force, which made it a perfect time for us to visit Lou's Drive-In late last week, since it's open for the season.
I've been going to Lou's since probably 1988 or so, and it's always a fun time. Considering they've been around since 1953, they've gotta be doing something right.
After 5 p.m. and all day on weekends, carhops offer curbside service for your auto-dining pleasure.
There are lots of great baskets to choose from, like the tenderloin, cheeseburger and BBQ sandwiches (including fries and a drink). Or, go with a hot dog or even skip the basket, it's all good. Heck, Lou's even has Boca burger baskets!
I typically get a cheeseburger with pickles and mustard. A lot of people I visit Lou's with like to order the homemade root beer, but it's not really my thing. A good iced tea hits the spot for me.
In the fall, the bees go crazy for the root beer, but I've found them to be harmless.
On Friday when we visited Lou's, it was a non-stop rotation of people trying to get a seat at one of the tables, for well over an hour.
It's great to see this longstanding tradition doing so well.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This week I stopped for lunch at Junction City, and took the a few moments to walk down the boardwalk to Anecdotes, 5901 N. Prospect Road in Peoria Heights.
This gift shop is filled with fun home decor, gifts and more. I saw many items I've admired from the Uncommon Goods catalog and also on (a bit of backstory: "Bob's your uncle" became one of our catchphrases when we saw a sign on the Interstate for Bob's Your Uncle pizza. Bob is StfRon's uncle, so we got a kick out of it. We researched the phrase, and found it to be equivalent to "and there you have it." Shortly after that, I found the web site, Bob's Your Uncle, which had some great products featured).
Back at Anecdotes, I even saw some coasters made from old records, a fun item I haven't run across before. These would look great in a mod home bar or on the coffee table of your hip friend.
I didn't have time to fully delve in, but I know Anecdotes will be a great stop to look for gifts for my friends and family.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Early May Round up

Recently we've enjoyed several local offerings.

We had lunch late last week at Yen Ching in Peoria, which was great, as usual. I'm still stuck on the lo mein with chicken, but I subbed the sizzling rice soup for the typical lunch soup offerings. The lunch special price is so reasonable, I don't blink at the extra cost for my favorite soup.

We made our usual weekly stop in at the Hofbrau in Peoria during the work week, and also made it in for the Saturday lunch special, homemade corned beef hash and eggs.

Saturday night we had the sis and bro-in-law over for appies (a nod to my Colorado pal Kim) and the wine 'o the month. To prepare, we picked up two of the baked brie wheels from Maria's in Washington. Encased in some buttery, flakey pastry, served with green apple slices drizzled with honey and topped with almond slices, the brie pockets were delicious, and we scarfed them all up.

We also had a chance to check out the Mother's Day Brunch at River Station in Peoria. There were plenty of food choices in the offering, and everything was very good, including our service.

After the brunch, we headed to Lakeview Museum in Peoria to catch the last day of the William Morris glass works exhibit. Heading in, I thought it would be neat, but I was very impressed with his works. I especially enjoyed the beautiful colors of the glass vases and bowls that were being lit from the bottom.

We've become fairly regular at Gracie's in Washington, for cocktails and food. Sometimes there's a bit of a wait, but we've not been disappointed. We finally tried the deep dish pizza, and found it to be salty and excellent (salty food is mouthwateringly delicious to me, but if you have an issue with high blood pressure, you might think twice before ordering the deep dish with pepperoni). It also made some great leftovers for dinner a couple nights later.

I also recently enjoyed lunch at Walt's Dos in Peoria with some friends. We all ordered some Mexican entrées and enjoyed chips and salsa while our food was being prepared.

Today, with a picture perfect day in the offering, it occurred to me to stop downtown and check out the street vendors for lunch options. I ran into some friends, and had a great grilled chicken breast sandwich topped with grilled onions from Willy's Tamale Factory. The day was so nice, I took the opportunity to jaunt down to the Ice Cream Shack and have a butterscotch sunade with crunch topping while sitting near the old shade trees. It was a welcome respite from the daily grind.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lorena's Mexican Restaurant

With Cinco de Mayo falling on a Monday, it seemed a perfect time to check out the new addition at 422 Riverside Drive in East Peoria, Lorena's Mexican Restaurant.
StfRon was planning to meet me there fairly early, right after work. I walked through the restaurant and didn't see him, so I stepped through the arched doorway decorated with painted stone accents and found him sitting at the bar having a cerveza.
I joined him and ordered a margarita, which, due to the projected large (or crazy) crowd, was served in a plastic cup rimmed with salt.
We visited for a while and played some festive tunes on the digital jukebox, then decided to just have our dinner at the bar.
We asked for some menus and found them chock full of offerings. Our lovely bar maid/maiden also brought us some chips and salsa. The chips were not salty, like some offerings I've had.
Being a green sauce junkie, I went with the enchilada zuisas, three cheese enchiladas topped with roasted pork and green salsa.
StfRon selected a beef chimichanga.
Our food arrived pretty quickly, but not so fast that we didn't enjoy our drinks and chips and salsa.
My meal was good, not spicy at all, and had a heftier amount of pork on it than I've been served at some places. StfRon's chimichanga was good, too, buried under lots of guacamole, beans and more, and he said it did have some spice to it.
Most of the entrées on the menu were priced at $7.75.
By the time we left around 6:30 or so, they were not yet packed and we were wishing we'd arrived a bit later so we could hear the band that was set to play starting at 8 p.m. But we did notice that they have a live mariachi band every Thursday starting at 6 p.m.
There are also three large TVs over the bar, for the sports enthusiasts.
The next time you're in downtown Peoria and are thinking about making a run for the border, take the short jaunt over the river and check out Lorena's.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Success is mine...but almost not

Yesterday's lunch plans panned out. StfRon mentioned lunch, and based on a tip from a reader, Alice, I suggested the Spotted Cow in Peoria.
Maybe you've been following the saga of my quest for some bananas foster ice cream from the Spotted Cow. Alice clued me in to the fact that the ice cream was back on the lineup.
After placing our order at the counter, I sauntered by the ice cream case on my way to get my iced tea, and I saw it, smack in the middle of the bins of ice cream: the black cow labeled bananas foster. YESSSS!!
I selected a table and took a seat. After going up to get his drink, StfRon also checked out the ice cream case and came to the table with a puzzled look on his face. "Creme brulée?" he asked. "No, bananas foster." I said. He went back by again and came back and said they didn't have it. Surely he was pulling my leg, especially since I had already seen it. And probably just to get a rise out of me.
He went up to the counter again, and returned to tell me that he noticed an employee scooping the dregs of some ice cream into a pint container. Apparently she had already removed the bananas foster label and was packaging the leftovers up. StfRon asked her if it was bananas foster, and she said yes, so he asked her to save us some.
Our food arrived, an Italian beef sandwich for me and a cheeseburger with onion rings for StfRon. My Italian beef was OK, piled on swiss cheese and topped with peppers, but the point of the trip for me was really the ice cream.
I did snag an onion ring, and it was really good, more Schooner's style than the breadcrumb type onion rings most places serve. StfRon said his burger was really good, and said maybe we'll have to eat there more often, so I know he was serious about it.
He went up and paid for our rescued scoops of bananas foster ice cream. Finally getting to sample it, I found that it was very good, somewhat cinnamony with chunks and bits of bananas throughout.
After trying a couple of bites, I decided that some hot caramel sauce would make it divine, so next time I see the ice cream on the lineup, I'll try it out. But now I'm starting to get a hankering for some sort of peanut butter concoction...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Round up

Last weekend we stopped by Water Street Wines in Peoria to try the cheese fondue. It took about half an hour to heat up the cheese at our table, but since we were sharing a bottle of wine with good company, the time passed pretty quickly. A couple of us were set on trying the Aztec style dessert fondue, but a while after ordering it we were told there was no cayenne in the house, so we decided to go with caramel instead.
This was our second visit to the café, and they were doing a pretty good business on a Friday night.

I've also heard that the River Station in Peoria is going to start serving fondue. I'll have to check that one out, too.
Speaking of the River Station, looks like we're on again for Mother's Day brunch. I'm glad, because I've been looking forward to trying the brunch for a long time.

Recently I had occasion to do some traveling and had a top notch meal at the Great Waters Brewing Co. in St. Paul, MN.
I have been to many brewpubs since they started gaining popularity sometime in the 1990s, and recall how creative the menus would be at the pubs. It seems like over the last five years or so, the popularity and the food selection has worn a bit thin, but Great Waters gets high marks from me.
There were numerous specials available that night, rattled off without a glance at any notes by our waitress. I was going to just get a sandwich of the menu, a grilled chicken with green apples and brie, but the roasted pork tenderloin with a portobello mushroom reduction special sounded too good to pass up.
The dish was wonderful: tender, juicy pork topped with a rich, thick mushroom sauce I can only wish had topped my last Schnitzel I had at a German restaurant. The meal was accompanied by two rounded scoops of wonderful spicy herbed mashed potatoes and some crisp, colorful fresh vegetables.
The brewing company also features some cask conditioned ales to compliment your meals. The process is popular in England, and the beers are served pulled from the cellar and served at around 52 degrees.

Today I have some local lunch plans, and this weekend we're off to our home away from home in Wisconsin. If I can squeeze it in before we go, I'd like to hit the Perfect Pear boutique in Peoria Heights as I know they're having a sale starting today (through Saturday) and I would love to pick up a new shirt, pair or pants or some shorts.