Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Final bells

2009 saw the opening of many independent businesses in central Illinois, yet as the year draws to a close my thoughts always turn to those we lost.
The list includes:

Feldan's Pizza, Pasta & More
Zim's
Café Evergreen
Chiliworks Café
Baurer Furniture
Sizzling India
Ponte Vecchio
Lester's Donuts
Maria's Tea Room (Peoria Heights location)
Vallarta's
Pleasant Hill Antique Mall Tea Room
Monroe Restaurant and Bar
Kep's Place (closed due to fire)
Jammer's Chicago Style Classics
Cracklin' Jakes
Mikey's Pizza & Subs
Angie's Creve Coeur Family Restaurant
Chicago Grill
Stadium Pizza
The Fair Store
Ducky's Formal Wear
Eamon Patrick's Public House
J Pree's
Z-Bar
Nikki's
Club Reign
The Hub (closed due to fire)
Tilley's at the River Station
Downer's Furniture Outlet
Christian Bros. Western Store
Jumer's
Heavenly Delights

I'm sure I missed a few. If you know of some, please let me know.
Here's to a great new year supporting locally-owned businesses!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Noted

Today after having lunch at Thanh Linh in Peoria we noticed this sign in the window of the former Sizzling India location. Pasand Indian Cuisine is slated to open there on January 17.

I also just read that Velvet Freeze in Peoria Heights may be closed. In addition, it appears that the kiosk near Aldi on War Memorial was closed the last time I went by.
Hopefully the Campustown location is still open.

Update: We did find the Campustown Velvet Freeze location open and enjoyed lunch there late in December.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mel's Cafe

Peoria's Mel's Café is located in a building that has changed hands several times over the last three or four years.
Most recently it was home to Stadium Pizza.

Located at 1420 SW Adams Street, the restaurant is serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week. We stopped by on a Sunday to give it a try.
The clean interior featured several tables in the front and along the wall next to the dining counter, which was topped with wood stained a rich chocolate brown.
They were doing a steady business just before 11 a.m., which was nice to see.
StfRon and I both decided to order a half order of biscuits and gravy accompanied by a side of corned beef hash and a couple of cups of coffee.
Our food arrived shortly.
The gravy was thick and rich, dotted with chunks of sausage. My husband said it tasted homemade. The hash was standard fare, but nicely prepared.
The coffee was good and we were kept well stocked with refills by our friendly server. In fact, at least three of the people working, including the gentleman who was cooking our food, talked to us and were quite friendly, making us feel at home.
One of the boards on display touted their pie selection, and we spoke to the lady who makes the pies. She said the pumpkin was fresh made the day before, complete with home made crust, but to our dismay we were too full to try a piece on this visit.
The prices were reasonable, and paired with the friendly service, I think Mel's Café may have a recipe for success to stop the revolving door of businesses moving in and out of this location.

August, 2010 — Mel's Café has closed. Hope to see them in a new location soon.
February, 2011 — Mel's Café opened in East Peoria at 520 E. Bloomington Road late last year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bags & Company

We were out for some shopping this weekend and stopped by Bags & Company in Peoria's Metro Centre.
The shop opened next to Abe's over the summer.
They carry a selection of trendy purses in many different sizes, plus jewelry and accessories.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Noted

St. Pauli's Pub and Eatery is open on Pioneer Parkway in Peoria. If you're thinking about checking it out, you may want to pick up one of the half price dining certificates at http://wzpw.regentdeals.com.
I saw an ad for PV2, the restaurant opened by the former Ponté Vecchio chef, in the Times Newspapers this week. The restaurant is located in the old Chiliworks Café spot on Allen Road in Peoria.

Looking for unique gifts? I always like to check the gift shops at Forest Park Nature Center, Luthy Botanical Garden and Lakeview Museum, in addition to the Art Guild gift shop. You can find great art, jewelry and nature-themed gifts.

$10 gift exchange for the office party? Why not pick up a bag of freshly roasted coffee from Leaves n' Beans in Peoria Heights?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reflections on Jumer's

The news of the most recent closing of Jumer's of Peoria was delivered to me via a family member on Facebook the evening of December 9.
Since then I've seen TV news blurbs on the closing, an article detailing a nice memory Paul Gordon had of the restaurant in the Journal Star and some postings on Peoria.com from people on the subject.
No, the restaurant and hotel is not being torn down like VOP (at least, not yet), but today during a moment of relaxation on my lunch break, I had a chance to reflect on my memories of Jumer's.
My first memory of Jumer's is from when I was a child of about 12 years old. I could be mashing two outings together, but from what I remember we were out with a friend of my mom's and her daughters for the day to go to "the woodpecker tower" in Peoria Heights, then had lunch at Jumer's. I remember how beautiful the area was near the hostess stand, and the sun was streaming in the windows.
Flash forward about five years and I had a date at Jumer's during high school prior to a formal dance. I remember sitting in the cobblestoned waiting area until we could be shown to our table, all dressed up and feeling semi-adult-like.
After meeting my now husband, in a German bar no less, we had dinner at Jumer's a few times while we were dating to sample some different European cuisine.
One time we were seated upstairs in one of the elegant curved booths. It was such a nice atmosphere and we had a wonderful time.
I also remember we visited the Black Bear Lounge in the basement a few times for drinks.
At the time my husband was working a late shift job so he had to drink Beck's NA. We would visit and enjoy the ambiance of the lounge before he had to go off to work for the night.
On one occasion when we visited the lounge there was live entertainment and we thought it would be great to hear a "band" but it turned out to be one lone gent playing some old elevator music hits on the synthesizer.
Walking down Moss Avenue for an afternoon stroll or during the Moss Avenue sales, approaching Western I have always admired Jumer's and the majestic gate leading to the property.
In the last three years my husband and I had gone to Jumer's a couple of times for lunch, and had met some friends there for lunch, too. It was very quiet in there, but still had so much character.
My most recent memories of the building are going there for banquets.
For my first banquet visit, I was unfamiliar with the location of the assigned banquet room and ended up wandering the halls a bit looking for the site. There was no one to ask at the hotel desk, but eventually I found my way after admiring some of the beauty of the building.
My mom somehow, many years before the Internet, had acquired a Jumer's cinnamon rolls recipe, and she did an excellent job making them over the years, as she does so many things.
Each time I've found myself inside the building, if time and circumstances allowed, I always tried to walk the halls back to the lounge, taking in the big black bear and other treasures along the way.
It's a sad day to see the site closed. I know they've had many years of rough going and I hope that this is not the end of the magical memories in the castle on Western Avenue.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bamboo Inn

We don't go out to dinner nearly as often as we did three or four years ago, but oddly enough for the past three years we've managed to attempt to go to dinner, in East Peoria no less, on the evening of the Festival of Lights Parade without realizing the event was taking place. We probably eat dinner in East Peoria once or twice a year, but somehow manage to try it on the busiest night of the year.
This time we were quite pleased with ourselves, my husband having come up with a new place for us to try that we'd never been to: the Bamboo Inn.
We came off of 74 in East Peoria only to see several police cars with flashing lights on blocking off East Washington Street where we needed to turn to get to the restaurant and, with a sinking feeling, we realized it was the night of the parade. I suggested we could park at Walgreens and walk, but StfRon declared it too cold, so we abandoned our quest and came back for lunch the following week.
Walking in to the Bamboo Inn, the decor reminded me of Yen Ching in Peoria circa the 1980s with the Asian chandeliers and wall art and booths lining the left and right wall. This is fine by me, since Yen Ching was our special family outing when we were kids, and it brings back good memories.
The booths on the left were big, red and cushy, some of them worn but comfy, and the ones on the right were the newer unpadded style you see in places like Papa John's.
There was a buffet set up near the back of the room, but there was no food there during this lunch hour.
There were a couple of other tables of people dining during the lunch hour.
I joined my husband and checked out the menu, a leather-style bound one with a paper insert in the middle listing lunch specials.
I selected lunch special B, your choice of beef or chicken with pea pods, onions and water chestnuts served with fried rice and an egg roll for $4.25. I chose the chicken.
My husband ordered some beef chow mein after making sure there were no green peppers involved.
Our server was very polite and soon brought us a ceramic teapot filled with tea we ordered to ward off the chill.
Our food came out shortly and the lunch special I had was simply the ingredients described in the menu in an almost clear sauce that reminded me of Mom's homemade chicken and noodles sauce. If I had to guess, I would say there was little to no MSG in the dish, just chicken, vegetables and a light sauce.
The fried rice did not contain chunks of food like some places serve, but was also simple and had a nice flavor.
Soon we were on our way back to work having experienced another local restaurant without making a big dent in our wallets.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Going local for the holidays

This holiday season I have increased my efforts to seek out gifts at local, independently-owned restaurants and shops.
So far my searches have taken me to:
Abe's
Lori's Kitchen Store
The Garlic Press
Re-
Holiday Presence
Willett's Winery
Metro Plantation
I Know You Like a Book
Emerald Tea Room
Cyrus Gifts & Home Accents

...and a few more I won't mention, lest they give too much away!
In many cases, I have also found gifts made in the USA, which was an added bonus.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Windy City Wieners

Due to a tip from yours truly, my husband checked out Windy City Wieners today and here's what he had to say. — Peoria Peepers

Looking for a good Chicago dog in Normal? Look no further than Windy City Wieners at 106 E. Beaufort Street.
This small shop serves up the real deal, complete with neon green relish.
The menu boasts pure beef wieners, (of course), Gyros, chicken sandwiches and burgers as well as some lesser known windy city faves like the Maxwell Street Polish.
I opted for the everyday special, 2 dogs and fries for 5 bucks.
The Red Hot Chicago wiener snapped perfectly with every bite, the relish, onion, and mustard complimented the wiener perfectly.
Purists know that ketchup should never go on a dog, but there are several bottles available on the counter, if you must.
The guys also deliver locally, so give them a call.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cyrus Gifts and Home Accents, Best of Post & Pillar and Jewelry on Water

Earlier this month, Cyrus Gifts and Home Accents moved from the 401 building on Water Street in Peoria to the Metro Centre, and brought the Best of Post & Pillar and Jewelry on Water with them.
I stopped in last week with Dining Companion to check out the new digs.
The store, next to Jalepeno's restaurant, was decked out for the holidays and filled with lots of great gift options, such as candles, lotions, martini glasses and Tag merchandise, just to name a few.
Someone was busy at work on a piece of jewelry in the room behind the Jewelry on Water counter, and tucked away at the back of the store there is a room that was filled with sale merchandise.
I wish them all well in their new location, and will be back again soon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Noted

I received a tip from a friend about a restaurant that has opened in the former Po-Boy's location in Peoria.
We drove by last night, and the exterior looks intriguing at Connected, which is described as a Ristorante Italiano. According to the sign outside, they are not currently serving lunch, but open at 5 p.m.

On his way to work this morning, my husband saw evidence of activity in Peoria Heights at the VOP site in Junction City. He said it appears that they might be getting ready to take the train cars away and tear down the restaurant. If so, it will be a sad day for me, since we had our first date there nine years ago, and I used to have "corporate" lunches there every week when I worked in that area.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holland's Homemade Caramel Corn

Last week on a trip to Lindy's Downtown Market, we spotted the new sign for Holland's Homemade Caramel Corn in the former 4A Deli spot.
My husband was thrilled, being a huge caramel corn fan. He still misses the shop in Northwoods Mall.
Monday when I got home from class I found a bag of Holland's Mix, a caramel corn/cheese corn blend on the kitchen counter, along with a sample bag of a white chocolate popcorn.
I guess I would have to say the mix was my favorite, since I like to have a piece of cheese corn and a piece of caramel corn in the same bite to get that sweet/salty combo, but the white chocolate was good, too.
The prices are pretty reasonable compared to some we've seen.
My husband said they also were selling cotton candy in the shop, located at the back of 110 S. Main Street.

December, 2009 — Holland's is now making their flavored popcorn on site.

In 2011, Holland's moved their caramel corn operation to the north side of the square.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spirit of Peoria

I've always thought it would be fun to attend a murder mystery, so when I saw that the Spirit of Peoria was hosting one this fall, I called and bought tickets.
Some history from their web site reveals: "The Spirit of Peoria was built in Paducah, Kentucky in 1988 by Walker Boat Yard. It is solely propelled by its stern driven paddle wheel. The wheel, composed only of fiberglass and wood, has 68 bucket boards and is 22 feet in diameter. The paddle wheel is powered by two Caterpillar 3412 diesel engines that turn 350kw generator sets."
We boarded, were shown to our seats and learned that we were guests at the Sheridan family anniversary party, and were seated with none other than Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan, the guests of honor.
After being greeted by our captain, we learned that nine paddle boats shut down this year and that the Spirit of Peoria is the only one currently offering overnight cruises.
Our seating location made for an interesting evening as throughout our prime rib buffet dinner we were able to chat with and pick up clues from the Sheridans and their guests who stopped by the table.
Soon, the dastardly deed was committed and we had to take our best guess at who the culprit was.
The show was put on by the Champaign Urbana Theater Company, and all involved did a great job.
Only seven people on board guessed the murderer correctly, and my husband and I were not among them.
We especially enjoyed the atmosphere of the boat, and look forward to boarding again sometime soon in the warmer months so we can enjoy being out on deck.
The Spirit offers many cruises and excursions throughout the year, as well as some upcoming holiday events.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trinkets & Treasures

Trinkets & Treasures is a quaint shop located on Washington's historic square, 120 N. Main Street.
Inside you will find primitives, hair bows, scrapbooking supplies and hand dyed wool items among all of the, well, trinkets and treasures.
I noticed they carry some costume jewelry, including lots of Scrabble game piece charms which I recently saw for the first time on etsy.com.
I also saw some fun holiday pottery, small square trays propped up on stands, one of which had a beautiful poinsettia design.
As we left on this last visit, I noticed that their front window box was filled with all sorts of colorful edible plants, including some kale. What a fun fall display!

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Pizza Peel

My mom had been talking up The Pizza Peel in Lacon for weeks and weeks, so we made plans to meet my parents there for dinner.
The restaurant is located in an old brick building, formerly the American Legion.
The basement location adds to the atmosphere.
Inside, the building has been completely remodeled, although my husband did mention seeing some cool old battleship looking stairs near the restroom.
Our waitress was upbeat and friendly, and brought us some menus before heading off to get our drinks.
My parents decided to split a salad and a pizza, and StfRon and I just ordered a pepperoni pie.
We noticed bottles of honey on the tables, and learned that some people like to put honey on the pizza crust.
We also noticed lots of paper plates of cheesecake being served to customers, and when we asked our waitress about it, she said it was turtle cheesecake, and that the owner was sampling it to see if it should be added to the menu.
Our pizzas arrived, thin crust, ours tasty and nicely covered in pepperoni. My husband had pulled the switcheroo when ordering, from the 12-inch we discussed to a 14-inch, so we ended up taking about half of it home.
We all ended up making the sacrifice of sampling the turtle cheesecake, and it was one of the best I've had in recent times.
If you find yourself within a short drive of Lacon and are looking for a nice thin crust pizza, The Pizza Peel has your pie.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Noted

The Fieldhouse in Peoria's Campustown is open as of at least yesterday, and is serving lunch.
PV II, a new restaurant run by the chef of the recently closed Ponté Vecchio along with his wife, will open this month in the former Chiliworks location in Peoria.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Relics

What first caught my eye about Relics was their blue circle logo...I absolutely loved the look of it, the turquoise with the simple name displayed in a flowing typeface. I also loved the bird silhouette on the same blue circle background on the sign I would often see in front of the store. I would glance over each time we headed in or out of Peoria to see if the open sign was displayed.
I knew I had to go in.
We stopped by the shop, 3402 N.E. Adams, Peoria, on a recent Saturday.
The quaint shop was filled with lots of great items, from stationery to fun Blue Q merchandise to vintage items, all artfully displayed.
Relics is just the kind of place to visit often because you don't want to miss out on anything that might come through there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. G's Chicago Style

I was first introduced to Mr. G's Chicago Style about 10 years ago. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate it.Mr. G's caught my attention this summer when I heard they had been the 49th inductee into the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame.
From the Vienna Beef web site: "Hot dog and delicatessen operators become eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame based on a variety of criteria including how long they have been representing Vienna Beef products. The youngest of the bunch having been around for about 20 years, and the oldest almost 50."
I enjoy a good Vienna beef Chicago dog as much as the next guy, so my husband and I stopped in for lunch.
We ordered the special, two Chicago dogs, and my husband added some sort of chili-topped dog as well, along with an order of fries.
I had one of the Chicago dogs and some of their hand cut fries. The dog was good, complete with the appropriate shocking green relish and the fries, wrapped in foil with one of the hot dogs, were some of the best I can remember in years, thin cut, greasy-tasting fries with bits of skin still on.
We made another stop several weeks later and I decided to try the Italian beef. StfRon ordered two Chicago dogs and fries. With two small drinks, the total was $16.99.
The Italian beef was good as well, but I'm going back to the Chicago dog next time, with the tasty fries, of course.
They also serve several other items, like Polish sausage, salads, gyros and even a few carnival-type desserts like chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick and funnel cake fries.
Mr. G's has a limited amount of seating inside at their Main Street, Peoria spot, and several tables outside. If you do choose to dine in, be warned you will probably smell like french fry oil for quite some time after you leave.
Maybe that lingering aroma is their way of sucking you back in.

October, 2011 — Mr. G's has closed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the town

Wondering what to do this weekend? Here are some upcoming events planned in the Peoria area:

Wine Flight Fridays October 23 — Two25 4:30-11:30 p.m.

Wildlife Scary Park October 23, 24 and 25 — Wildlife Prairie State Park from 5-9 p.m. $6.50 per person, $4.50 for park members, free for ages 1 and under.

You've Been Boo'd Haunted House October 23 — 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Proctor Recreation Center. $2/Peoria Park District members, $3/nonmembers.

Resurrect the Elms in El Paso October 24 — 301 W. Main Street, El Paso. Day tours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $10 via PayPal. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the restoration of the Elms. Originally The Wathen House Italianate Home dating back to 1856 and Elms Restaurant opened in 1937 by Zilpha Morgan. Call 309-846-4306 or email info@spiritsoftours.com.

Zombie Crawl at the Bowen Building October 24 — Groups of zombies will be set up at different locations to start from and then will converge on the Bowen (old state hospital).
Afterwards, enjoy a bonfire outside of the Bowen. Check in will begin at 3:30 p.m. with the walk officially kicking off at 4:30 p.m. Pre‐register online for $10 at www.peoria‐asylum.com or at the event for $15.

The Peoria Rivermen take on the Rockford IceHogs October 24 — 7 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center Arena. Tickets are $15 and $20.

"Crooks and Characters" October 24 — presented by Peoria Prairie Tellers Storytelling Guild, 7-9 p.m. at the Peoria Contemporary Arts Center. $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Call 309-691-0508.

Tim Slagle October 23 and 24 — Mason City Limits. Call 217-482-5233 or visit McLimits.com.

Mike Armstrong October 23 and 24 — Jukebox Comedy Club. Call 309-673-5853 or visit JukeboxComedy.com.

Rumors October 23, 24 and 25 — Conklin's Barn II. For Reservations call 309-965-2545.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

These guys are on fire!

Just got word today that the former Godfather's Pizza on Camp Street in East Peoria will become a Firehouse Pizza.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Metro Plantation

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays was to stop by Village Plantation in Peoria's Sheridan Village to look at all the great furniture and holiday decor, so when I heard they were closing, I was disappointed.
I was glad to see Metro Plantation open in Peoria's Metro Centre.
I recently stopped in to have a peek.
The shop is smaller than the Sheridan Village location was, but is still filled with gifts, lamps, candles, home decor and a few furniture pieces.
I'll be back next month to look for some holiday gift ideas.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Cupcake Camper

When I heard there was an Airstream trailer topped with a cupcake selling the petite pastries at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria, I said I must visit. I am a big fan of cupcakes. Heck, one of the first things I became a fan of on Facebook is cupcakes!
We served cupcakes at our wedding, but they were not all I dreamed of.
Sunday we were walking through the mall when I spotted it, The Cupcake Camper.
After finding out my husband would buy me one, we walked up the wooden steps and I selected an orange and chocolate one, noticing they were out of both the pink and spiced cupcakes.
My cupcake was delivered in a mug-sized cardboard box with a folded pink napkin and plastic fork slid into the gap.
Having had lots of treats over the weekend during Spoon River Drive, I decided to save the orange-iced cupcake dusted with black sprinkles for later, so I put it in the fridge.
Monday I ate the last of my Maurie's carmel apples, since they'd been around for a few days.
Tuesday after dinner I pulled the cupcake box out of the fridge so it could warm up a bit.
I opened it later and poked at the icing, saddened to find it a bit hard. I had the fleeting thought that I may have to throw it out, but decided to turn the oven on for a minute, then back off, and put the treat in there to sit a bit.
A few minutes later I pulled the cupcake out and tested the icing again. Soft and fresh as new.
I cut the cake neatly in half, noting the thick layer of orange icing. Sampling it, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.
The icing was soft, thick and buttery tasting, with a hint of almond flavor.
The cake itself was made of a fine, almost silky chocolate flour mixture.
Considering this cake had been neglected far long enough, I went ahead and ate the other half in the same sitting, enjoying every last morsel.
Part way through I informed my husband I may need to try some more of their cupcakes. Right after I take that long bike ride.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Noted

China Garden in Washington celebrated their grand opening October 7.
Bone Appitit will soon be open in Washington.
Peoria's Chicago Grills have closed.
The Underground is now open for lunch and dinner in the Cornerstone building in Peoria, operated by Mary Ann Fahey.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Jane Dough Bakery & Café

I was driving through downtown Peoria trying to decide where to have lunch when I came upon an open parking space right in front of Jane Dough Bakery & Café.
I'd been wanting to try the place out since they replaced the City News Café, so I pulled into the space.
Digging into my purse for some change for the meter, I was pleased to find over an hour of time left on the timer.
I noticed a help wanted sign in the window of the café.
A sidewalk sign in front proclaimed the special to be turkey meatloaf with bistro fries for $7.50. Glancing at a few of the sandwich options, I decided a warm meal sounded good, so I ordered the special at the counter, paid and then took a seat.
The owner, Anne, soon brought my meal artfully arranged on a tin pie plate topped with waxed paper. She mentioned she had forgotten to bring me a fork and stepped back behind the counter.
I waited a bit, but she didn't return, so I went to the counter to ask for a fork.
Fork in hand, I dug into the moist meatloaf, finding it hearty, warm and full of great seasoning. I have to say it is one of the best meatloaves I have ever tried.
The bistro fries turned out to be baked potatoes sliced into wedges, fanned on my plate and sprinkled with herbs.
While dining, I checked out some of the other offerings listed, which included gazpacho, breakfast wraps, sandwiches and home made granola, plus the café offers organic breads and uses some local farm ingredients.
Box lunches are available as well.
Located at 311 SW Main Street in Peoria, Jane Dough has some great breakfast and lunch options, and it's great to see them supporting local farms as well.

April 2010 — Jane Dough has closed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Noted

Tavern On Prospect will celebrate their grand opening at Junction City in Peoria October 9.
October 5 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., everyone receives free admission to the Peoria Zoo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Noted

The 4A Deli in Washington has closed.
I'm excited about the prospect of a Tapas restaurant, Noir, on Prospect in Peoria Heights, which I read about in this morning's Journal Star.
Lee's Family Restaurant has been open for a week or so in the former Steak 'n Shake on NE Adams in Peoria. We checked it out and will post a review soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oscar's Family Restaurant

Last week we were looking for someplace inexpensive to have lunch.
My husband mentioned a family restaurant on Farmington Road, and I was game to check it out.
Oscar's Family Restaurant is located at 3118 W. Farmington Road in Peoria.
The dining room is a bit rough around the edges and decorated with pictures of John Wayne and likenesses of what I assume is Oscar the hound dog, based on the dog on the sign on top of the building. There were poker machines lining the front wall.
Our friendly waitress told us to have a seat anywhere.
I noticed the specials board listed a pork fritter with mashed potatoes and gravy plus green beans, which I think was $6. Sounded great to me, so I ordered that, while StfRon ordered a cheeseburger and fries.
My meal arrived piping hot, complete with a dinner roll. The pork fritter, reminding me of a Schnitzel, was topped with a brown gravy that had a bit of hickory smoke flavor to it. It was a great comfort food meal, and despite liking his cheeseburger, my husband sampled my meal several times and said he should have ordered the same thing.
Oscar's does not accept credit cards, but will take checks.
I love a good special that includes veggies, and it seems to be getting harder to come by. Oscar's delivered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Main Street Mercantile

Ever since I saw ads for the Main Street Mercantile in Congerville, I've wanted to stop by for a visit.
Earlier this month we parked alongside 112 Main Street, walked past a couple of rockers on the porch and went inside.
The store was filled with some primitive and country gift and decor items, a selection of toys along the back, and in the next corner was an intriguing array of bulk food items. We looked through baking products, spices, snack mixes, candies, soup and dip mixes and more, selecting a horseradish bacon dip mix and a cream of asparagus soup mix.
Just past the row of food items, a group of people was enjoying a meal at a cozy table in the center of a small dining area.
We made our way to the counter to pay and passed a case of homemade fudge.
While I was paying I noticed a sign for Eduardo's pizza, which can be eaten on site or taken home to bake. I remember a friend of ours said she knows someone who raves about the pizza.
Last night we mixed our horseradish bacon dip mix with some sour cream and sampled our find. The horseradish had a nice bite, and the smoky bacon bits plumped up nicely after sitting for the recommended 30 minutes. I know we'll be heading back to Main Street Mercantile to get some more of that!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Noted

In Peoria's Campustown, Monroe Restaurant & Bar is closed and has a business for sale sign in the window. I believe they opened on August 1. The Fieldhouse bar in the former Gorman's looks well on it's way to opening day.
The Ice Cream Shack in Sunnyland has added a drive through lane that's been open for several weeks now.
Emo's and the Ice Cream Shack in Peoria are both closing for the season in the next week or so, so get your fill before it's too late!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Noted

Firehouse Pizza in Washington has been open for a few weeks now, and it looks like many people are taking advantage of it.
Cherry Garden is shaping up in Washington's Cherry Tree Shopping Center. It does look like it will be mainly carryout.
I noticed a sign in Haddad's Restaurant's (Peoria) window announcing that they will be moving to a new building a couple of doors down.
Simply Everything Boutique, a newer addition to the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria, showcases art from more than 35 local artists.
This weekend is Peoria Oktoberfest at the riverfront.
Morton's Pumpkin Festival begins tomorrow and continues through Saturday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Uncle Bob's Homemade Ice Cream

Ice cream season may be winding to a close for the year, but we managed to make it to Uncle Bob's Homemade Ice Cream in Eureka on their last night of the season at their Eureka spot, 111 S. Main Street.
Uncle Bob's has taken some prizes for their ice cream, including the Best Dessert category at Taste of Peoria this year. Its chocolate raspberry cheesecake earned first place, while its fudge brownie sundae won second.
I ordered their cookie batter ice cream on a regular cone instead of the waffle cone offering, while StfRon tried the turtle sundae.
The cookie batter ice cream had a buttery base that reminded me of butter pecan with a few chunks of cookie dough and plenty of tiny chocolate chips. It was very good.
If you haven't had a chance to try their ice cream yet, don't despair. We spotted Uncle Bob's mobile truck at the El Paso Corn Festival this weekend, and I'm sure they will be making rounds at other fall events.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Morton joins 3/50 project

An article in today's Journal Star reports that Morton has joined the 3/50 Project, yet another project touting support for local businesses.
According to the project's Web site: Consumers are asked to select three locally owned, brick-and-mortar retailers in their hometown that they would hate to see go out of business. Once those businesses are chosen, spend $50 there monthly. Not $50 each, a total of $50. Using U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, if half the employed population in the country spent $50 at three independent businesses each month, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Round up

I was sad to learn that Ponte Vecchio in Peoria's Sheridan Village has closed. We celebrated many occasions there.

It appears that Firehouse Pizza in Washington is now open, however we have not made it in yet.

As far as my recent dining escapades, I've enjoyed meals at Café 401, Ming Shee, Avanti's and One World in Peoria; The Butcher Block in Peoria Heights; Captain Ron's in Creve Coeur; Bernardi's in Washington and had some great tuna at Reality Bites in Bloomington.
This week I won't have as much time to dine out, but I'm looking forward to trying a few new places in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gebby's Family Restaurant

Last week we were on our way out of town and looking for some place to have breakfast.
I hadn't been to Gebby's Family Restaurant in years, so I suggested it.
We arrived at 726 E. War Memorial Drive in Peoria Heights just before 9 a.m., and were seated quickly. But from the time we sat down, I noticed a constant stream of people coming in, and many times people had, and were willing, to wait for a table to empty up. All this on a weekday, too.
The restaurant was tidy and nondescript, with light wood and light paint colors throughout. Wagon wheels were mounted inside window openings next to the booths.
The coffee was hot but not bold, and I enjoyed a glass of grapefruit juice, which they offer in three sizes.
The service was efficient and the food was good.
I ordered eggs Benedict and my eggs were covered in Hollandaise, perched atop nicely crisped English muffins, appropriately accompanied by a steak knife to cut through said crispy muffins.
My husband had biscuits topped with a thick, creamy gravy and a side of corned beef hash.
I noticed several homestyle lunch specials posted on the wall, such as meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, which would hit just the right spot during the lunch hour.
Gebby's is only open for breakfast and lunch.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More dining savings

There was a discussion going on recently in the comments section of my blog about Dining Tour books.
The $30 books are sold as fundraisers for various organizations in the area.
My husband and I have bought these several times in the past, and recoup our costs quickly with the offers inside.
This year's book includes restaurants like Aachi's Indian Cuisine (which we've been planning to try); The Chateau; Kaiserhof Restaurant; Maid Rite; Peoria Pizza Works; and Water Street Café, just to name a few.
Find out more about how you can purchase a book on Peoria Secret Server's blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Noted

We've been vacationing over the last few weeks, and have been catching up on changes around the Peoria area.

Feldan's Pizza Pasta & More in Peoria has closed.
Apostrophe bar in Peoria's Junction City has closed, and soon will reopen as another bar.
Café Evergreen in Peoria's Metro Centre is closed.
Monroe Restaurant and Bar in Peoria's Campustown is now open in the Zim's location.
Double D Diner is in the works in Washington.

I'll post more as a remember or see them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Savings galore

If you're looking to stretch your dollars and support local businesses, here are a few good finds.

Frugal Fridays is offering half price gift certificates such as:
$50 for $25 for Specs Around Town in Bloomington
$50 for $25 for Sticks and Stones in Peoria (as seen on Oprah, of course)
$51 for $26 for Wee Tee in Peoria
$50 for $25 for Kartville in West Peoria

Discount Dining is offering:
$30 for $15 for Stadium Pizza in Peoria
$30 for $15 for Firehouse Pizza in Pekin
$30 for $15 for Los Jimadores in Peoria

If interested in the above offers, there are only a few left in some cases, so don't wait.

This weeks 3B Freebies in the Journal Star include a free coin purse from Unique Teak in Peoria (Wednesday) and a free soft drink from the Kaiserhof in Peoria (Thursday).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kaiserhof Restaurant

You may remember the Kaiserhof from Bradford. We do miss that location.
Since last winter, the Kaiserhof Restaurant has been much closer for Peorians, at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.
We stopped by Sunday and I enjoyed the $3 Bloody Marys, my husband had a great tenderloin sandwich and I had a nice Caesar salad.
A couple of months ago I enjoyed an excellent bowl of clam chowder there as well.
There are sandwiches under $5 on the lunch menu, daily specials, plus a lunch card so you can earn a free lunch.
There are pitcher specials several days a week (I know a few people who are taking advantage of this), various drink specials, plus kids eat free on Mondays and Wednesdays.
There is a newly added beer garden, and also a German deli for your take home needs.

Hodel's Chanticleer

Recently on a Friday night we were bored and looking for something different to do, and the Chanticleer, or Chantilly, as StfRon's uncle would say, popped into my mind.
We made the short drive to Eureka and pulled up in front of the low, nondescript building at 744 N. Main Street.
We decided to sit on the bar side of the building, and were the only people sitting at a table instead of at the bar.
Our server was also doing bar duty, and was very cheerful and helpful, as was the manager or perhaps the owner who greeted us as soon as we stepped inside.
We placed our order for white meat fried chicken and potato salad for me, and prime rib for my husband, along with a salad. She explained that their bleu cheese dressing is homemade, with a Thousand Island type base, and said it is a favorite among customers. He decided to try it, and by the end of the salad, I was scraping the bottom of the container for every last drop for the crackers from our table cracker basket. It was not very bleu tasting, as I don't really care for bleu cheese, but it was very good.
As the menu stated, the fried chicken did take a bit of time to prepare, and we passed the time enjoying a pitcher of beer until it arrived.
I also noticed as an older gent stopped by to compliment the staff on the catfish he had enjoyed on his way out.
My chicken was not overly salty or seasoned, but had a nice, greasy, crisp crust covering the juicy bird.
StfRon said the prime rib was not as rare as he wanted and was not as slow roasted as some, but it was good, and the horseradish sauce the waitress mixed up for him carried a real kick.
The meal was very reasonably priced, service was good, and with the atmosphere and cracker basket, Hodel's Chanticleer brought back memories of places we went for family outings when we were kids.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Free ride

The Journal Star publishes a coupon for something free each day, dubbed the 3B freebie.
The coupon, believe it or not, is always located on page B3.
I noticed a good one in Thursday's paper for a free 12 ounce coffee from Cracked Pepper Catering & Bakery, Inc., valid through July 31.
Tuesday's issue featured an offer for a free Wonder Dog from Velvet Freeze, also expiring July 31.
So dig those papers out of the recycle bin, and watch for new great offers every day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Round up

I spent a lunch hour recently in front of the court house near the Zen garden eating some chicken lo mein from the Thanh Linh cart, and noticed that Ponte Vecchio has a cart open downtown now. Next time I plan to order something from them.

I had a fun lunch this week at Ming Shee in Peoria with my friend and her daughter.

Tuesday night we checked out the Taste of Washington on the square. I had a spinach dip from Denhart Baking Co. and we shared a pig wing with honey bourbon sauce from Gracie's Chicago Style Grille. It was pretty crazy with everyone packed in the middle of the square. Hopefully next year they can expand out a bit.

We've been keeping our eyes on the activity at the former Gracie's location in Cherry Tree Shopping Center in Washington, and there is now a sign displayed in the window for Cherry Garden, serving Chinese and Japanese food. We're excited to give it a try!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Time article: Tough Times Lead to Local Currencies

I ran across this article in Time magazine this week:

By Judith D. Schwartz

With local economies flailing, communities across the U.S. are trying to drum up more action on Main Street. "Buy Local" campaigns are one way to go. But many towns--from Ojai, Calif., to Greensboro, N.C.--are considering going a step further and printing money that can only be spent locally.

Issuing an alternative currency is perfectly legal, as long as it is treated as taxable income and consists of paper bills rather than coins. In the U.S., where local currencies were popular during the Depression, the biggest alterna-cash system is in Massachusetts' Berkshire County. Go to one of several banks there, hand a teller $95 and get back $100 worth of BerkShares, a nice little discount designed to reel in users. BerkShares are printed on special paper (by a local business, naturally--a subsidiary of Crane Paper Co., which has been printing U.S. greenbacks since 1879). And since the program's inception in 2006, more than $2.5 million in BerkShares have circulated through bakeries, vets' offices and some 400 other businesses that choose to accept the colorful bills, which feature famous former Berkshire residents, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Norman Rockwell.

What's the point of all this pretty, community-printed currency? Money spent at locally owned companies tends to create more business for local suppliers, accountants, etc. The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a London think tank, compared the effects of purchasing produce at a supermarket and at a farmer's market and found that twice the money stayed in a community when folks bought locally. A study of Grand Rapids, Mich., released last fall by consulting firm Civic Economics, concluded that a 10% shift in market share from chain stores to independents would yield 1,600 new jobs and pump $137 million into the area. "Money is like blood," says NEF researcher David Boyle. Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers, he says, and "it flows out like a wound."

Read the whole story... http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1908421,00.html

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cracklin' Jakes

I've been meaning to make it to Cracklin' Jakes for well over a year now.A couple of weeks ago we were actually on our way to another restaurant near Canton, but due to hunger and boredom with the drive, we decided to hit Cracklin' Jakes instead.
Located at 111 E. Valley View Drive in Banner, the restaurant had a cozy log cabin style that I love.
After being greeted warmly and taken to a booth, we took inventory of the menu and decor.
The floors were a neutral tile, which did cause conversation and laughter from a group near the fireplace to echo throughout the dining room off and on through the evening.
There were various animals mounted on the walls and dried flowers here and there, and I really liked the shade of green they chose for their wainscoting.
I ordered a glass of Gnarly Head Zinfandel, which, at $6 a glass, was a nice find. My husband had an iced tea.
For my entrée, I chose the stroganoff, accompanied by the lobster bisque, which was a stretch for me. I've never been a big fan of lobster, even vacationing in Maine, but for some reason the soup sounded good.
I did notice that the stroganoff did not say it was made with bison, which was one of the things I had noted when I wanted to visit the restaurant.
StfRon selected the prime rib, accompanied by salad.
Our first course arrived with bread, and trying the bisque I found it to be excellent. Slightly sweet, creamy and flavorful with tiny flakes of seafood.
StfRon's salad was pretty much standard.
The stroganoff was not the sour cream and sauteed onion and mushroom fare like my mom used to make, but the meat was tender and falling apart and reminded me of a home made pot roast, piled on a bed of boiled noodles.
When we arrived, I was happy to see they had a bread pudding selection on the menu, but we decided to skip dessert and head home.
The waitstaff we encountered, although they appeared young (late teens to early 20s), were very attentive and professional, and made our visit more enjoyable.
If you find yourself near Banner and are looking for a nice sit down dinner, keep Cracklin' Jakes in mind.

November 2009 — Cracklin' Jakes has closed.
May 2010 — Cracklin' Jakes has reopened.
October 2011 — Cracklin' Jakes now houses Boss Hogs

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Noted

Zim's Diner in Peoria's Campustown has closed, but according to signs in the area, will reopen as Monroe Restaurant & Bar August 1.
I also heard through the grapevine that the Gorman's location, also at Campustown, will reopen soon with a new, fitting name for the area.
I also saw the news that Eamon Patrick's in Peoria has closed. Just a while back I found out that they apparently served a great Sunday brunch, but just about as soon as I heard it, it was no more. Sad, because we are often looking for a good Sunday breakfast and the downtown area is a bit lacking.

Vintages Tasting Room & Wine Garden

A couple of weeks ago we visited Galesburg's Seminary Street, and wandered into Vintages Tasting Room & Wine Garden.
There were a couple of people at the tasting bar sampling wines, and as I looked past them, I remembered the quaint back room complete with bistro tables and chairs from the last time I had been in.
The tasters soon moved aside, so my friend C and I stepped up to sample the wares.
She is more of a sweet wine drinker, and even told our hostess she wanted something "syrupy sweet", which made the lady chuckle. I went straight for the reds.
First I sampled the 2005 Castillo De Fuendejalon Crianza. It was not the oaky wine I normally prefer, but it was nice.
The wine samples were poured through an aerator, which we had never seen used before, and there were crispy cracker bites on the counter to cleanse the palate between samples.
The hostess suggested I try the 2008 Dornfelder sweet red wine. I hesitated, not being a huge fan of German reds, but went for it, and was pleasantly surprised. I figured I needed to grab a bottle of that to put away for our annual fall German party. Plus, I need to get in the German mode for our upcoming trip.
C decided to try it too and liked it.
I gave my husband a ring, who was down the street at the pub with C's man and told him about the samplings. They popped over and he agreed about the Dornfelder, but also wanted a bottle of the Castillo, so I took both to the counter. Taking notice of the sign that asked for payment via check or cash if possible vs. credit cards, I broke out the rusty checkbook to help a local biz.
The wines were both in the $12.99-$14.99 price range.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Round up

Over Father's Day weekend, I finally had a chance to check out the brunch at Wildlife Prairie State Park. With the crowds, the dessert table seemed to have been hit pretty hard by the time we meandered over there, but no matter because I filled up on prime rib and other goodies, including chocolate covered strawberries and pound cake from the chocolate fountain.
I think it was the most humid day on record (sure felt that way), and the rain had just finished as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, so we did get a chance to visit the park with our niece and my brother and his wife.
It was a good day at the park, too, because we saw the wolves and bears up close, and got to see the otter take a swim.

Last week we made plans to visit The Butcher Block in Junction City in Peoria to check out their new (to us, since we hadn't made it out yet) breakfast offerings.
The shop has changed a lot since my last visit, and it is good to see them adapting, hopefully to fill a great niche in the neighborhood.
The gourmet market selections are gone, replaced with much more seating in the middle of the room, surrounded by glass cases of meat and deli items. The open feel surrounded by the cases and the high ceilings with exposed ductwork reminded me of the Milwaukee Public Market, a place we love to visit.
We were greeted by a waitress when we walked in and were told to choose a table. The menus were waiting on the table, so we took a look.
As soon as I saw this: Hash Benedict — 2 soft poached eggs, corned beef hash, English muffin and Hollandaise sauce ($7.50), I knew I could look no more. Even the Independence Day special of French toast topped with red and blue berries and ice cream could not deter me from my selection.
StfRon chose a half order of biscuits and gravy ($3.25) and a side of hash.
I sipped a cup of coffee while I waited, and was pleased to find it to be a quality brew.
Our food soon arrived and the portions were huge!
My English muffins were topped with tons of hash, nicely prepared eggs and a thick bright yellow/orange Hollandaise. The whole meal was very good.
The sausage gravy was made with a nice quality sausage with some seasoning to it, maybe caraway, and the biscuits were soft. StfRon said if he had known it would be that good, he just would have gotten a full order and skipped the hash, although the hash was cooked to a crisp perfection.
Our waitress kept the refills coming whenever needed, and soon we were on our way, our bellies full.
The Butcher Block is currently serving breakfast from 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m., so whether you are a morning person or not, the hours should work out well.
They also offer Hagen Dazs ice cream, one thing I've missed at Junction City for years.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Jim Kightlinger Antiques

The first time we stopped at Jim Kightlinger Antiques, 8320 N. Jackson Street in Edwards, was a couple of years ago.
We had a fun time poking around looking at antiques and collectibles, and we made our first purchase together for our soon-to-be-a-reality home bar: a bear's head bottle opener.

Recently we stopped in again, going through the side building first, where we saw lots of neat signs and trinkets.
We then made our way inside the house and checked out the couple of rooms there, where I found another fun item to add to my collection.
The shop is right across from Ludy's and the old Edwards bar next door, so the next time you're out that way, pop on over.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Noted

Last night on my way home from work, I noticed that Velvet Freeze has taken over the kiosk on War Memorial in Peoria at Central Avenue. I think the location will be a hit for them, although I will miss the quick $2 slices of Geo's pizza.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Round up

Recently I've visited Water Street Wines in Peoria; Sol Azteca in Washington; Captain Ron's in Creve Coeur; and the Burger Barge in East Peoria.
We tried to have lunch at Café Evergreen in Peoria's Metro Centre, but found a sign on their window saying they were closed for vacation, so we dined at Jalapeno's instead.
Of course, along the route from the Café to Jalepeno's was Abe's, so we stopped in to look around and I bought a couple of treats. The carmelcorn smelled wonderful, so if you've been needing a fix, Abe's is your place!
Saturday I got to go to Galesburg and hang around on Seminary Street, one of my favorite things to do. I visited my faves Uncle Billy's Bakery and the Landmark Café & Creperie, enjoying spinach bisque and roasted garlic spread on bread. We also poked around in the Galesburg Antiques Mall, a gorgeous building I always enjoy visiting.
Gorman's Pub in Peoria has closed, and early this morning I heard the news that Kep's Place in Washington burned over the weekend. It sounds like they plan to rebuild.
This week kicks off several Independence Day festivities. Yonder Mountain String Band plays Friday at 8 p.m. at the Peoria Riverfront, and sounds like a fun band.
Saturday, weather permitting, we will be privileged to enjoy the fireworks and air show of Methodist's Red White and Boom from our comfy perch on a boat on the Illinois River.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kouri's Pub

I remember going to Kouri's Pub in Peoria several times in the 1990s and hanging out in their beer garden on a nice night with friends. Heck, I think I had only stayed inside once, they just had such a nice beer garden with all of the hanging plants and such.
Kouri's has moved down the road a bit to 4421 N. Sterling Avenue.
StfRon and I stopped in for lunch this week, and walked through their new beer garden to enter the restaurant. If there is a nicer beer garden in Peoria, I've yet to see it.
The beer garden is large with slate style tile flooring and the fence is lined with flowers. It reminded me of some serious beer gardens we saw in the Ozarks last year, with a large bar along the back. There are also TVs for the sports/news fans.
We dined inside on this visit. They still have their menu housed in a plastic table tent, and have a decent selection of sandwiches, appetizers and salads.
I ordered a Reuben, which was $5.71 and came with chips, or an upgrade to fries for a bit more. I stuck with the chips.
StfRon ordered the gyro with fries, which was the featured special.
Our waitress was very friendly and attentive and before too long our food had arrived.
The corned beef on my Reuben was super tender, and the sandwich came with Thousand Island dressing on the side, and a crisp pickle spear (one of my favorite touches). Overall the sandwich was a little greasy, but good.
SftRon said his gyro was great, the pita bread was soft and that all of the veggies seemed quite fresh. I snagged a couple of the fries and they were hot and tasty.
With two iced teas and tip, we were out the door for $20.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supporting independent businesses

Besides the Shop Local Peoria campaign, a couple of other independent support efforts have come to my attention recently.

First I read about Lowcountry Local First and their 10% shift effort, "10% Shift gives us the tools we need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. We are asking all citizens (that's you!) government agencies, local businesses and non-profits to do an assessment of their expenditures and see if they can shift an additional 10% of their annual budget to local independents."
What they are suggesting sounds simple enough: out of every ten times you go out shopping or dining or even looking for service, opt to spend your money at an independent business.
Nice idea, and I'm glad to say I have far surpassed the 10% mark. Granted, I do still visit franchises and chains. Heck, some of them are very good, and nothing local compares to them right now.
But there are also a handful of franchises that have opened in Peoria in the last few years that I have yet to set foot in.

My husband picked up a card this week touting Independents Week July 1-7. The Capital Area Independent Business Alliance's challenge is for you to spend 50 cents of every dollar with independent local businesses.
The CAIBA is working to assist Central and Springfield Illinois areas independent businesses, so this one hits a little closer to home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sgt. Pepper's Café

A couple of weeks ago we were in the Route 66 vicinity, and decided to grab some grub in Springfield.Springfield reminds me of Galesburg when it comes to restaurants. Unless you want to go to a chain during non-traditional lunch hours (i.e., after 2 p.m. but before 4 p.m.) you are pretty much out of luck.
We drove by a couple of StfRon's regular haunts only to find them closed, and then he suggested Sgt. Pepper's Café.
Rolling up to the nice brick building at 3141 Baker Drive, we were glad to see they were open.
Once inside the restaurant, we were greeted and directed to sit where we like, so we chose a table near the window.
I looked at the menu briefly, but decided I would have to go with the grilled chicken sandwich my husband has raved about, topped with cheese and honey mustard.
I selected fried mushrooms as my side.
StfRon had his Springfield favorite, a horseshoe, this one with a tenderloin topped with fries and cheese sauce.
I sampled the horseshoe, but not being much into mixed foodstuffs, it wasn't my bag.
I did enjoy the chicken sandwich though, and the mustard had a distinct honey flavor. The mushrooms were piping hot and flavorful.
While sitting in the dining room, I spotted a mural on the wall that got me to thinking and looking around. The green and white striped awnings over the cash register area paired with the pattern of the pictures (some nice Beatles shots, of course) behind finally added up: the location used to be a Schlotzsky's!
The owner or manager was checking on us and bringing us refills, and StfRon asked him about it. He said yes, it is a former Schlotzsky's.
We tipped him off about the vacant Schlotzsky's in Peoria near Northwoods Mall, so if they ever move a Sgt. Pepper's in there, perhaps we will be the reason!
The Sgt. Pepper's in Springfield was opened in 1998, and there are also locations in Edwardsville and Wood River.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Noted

Firehouse Pizza plans to open a location in Washington next to Dollar General early this fall.
They will feature their "all-u-can-eat" pizza and salad buffet, which is now available at the Pekin and Peoria Northpoint restaurants.
I love their sauce and thin pizzas and have to say, it will be great to have another local pizza joint in town. If they plan to serve adult beverages there, I'm sure we'll become regular fixtures, but if not, we'll certainly eat a lot more pizza.

Nick's Deli

Last week we had the pleasure of checking out a restaurant we've never been to in Peoria, despite it being around for almost 20 years.
My husband heard about Nick's Deli from a coworker. We knew it was off of Spalding Avenue somewhere near Heyde Eye. We approached Methodist College and spotted Heyde Eye, so turned and soon saw the restaurant tucked inside the Plaza Medical Arts building at 416 NE Saint Mark Court.
The deli offers breakfast and lunch including gyros, hoagies, deli and small and large sub sandwiches, as well as pizza bread and other items.
I ordered a Genoa salami sandwich on wheat with provolone, onion and lettuce, and my husband ordered a gyro with a bag of chips. We each ordered iced tea, and, spotting a closed case of baklava on the counter, I added a piece of that.
The restaurant offers seating for about 20 people. While we were there, they did a steady carryout business, and a few people chose to dine in. There are also benches outside in front of the restaurant, but no tables.
The salami sandwich was just right, no crazy piles of meat and cheese here, just a respectable, good sandwich at a good price.
My husband enjoyed his gyro.
I sampled the baklava and immediately decided I needed to play it cool. If I let on to my husband how good it was, I might need to share. If I really thought about how good it was, and how it only cost $1, I might decide to dart back to the counter and buy five more. It was perfectly flaky and not gooey, honestly one of the best specimens of baklava I've ever had.
Before I managed to eat the last bite, my husband asked how it was. Noticing my reaction, he tried to give me the eye and score the last morsel, but I held strong, so he headed up to the counter to buy one of his own.
"It IS really good," he said when he tried it.
I'm glad we found out about Nick's Deli.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Round up

I've been hitting some regular haunts lately.
We've had two fun group meals at Bernardi's in Washington in the last week.
I've had several great servings of Hunan chicken at Ming Shee in Peoria.
We enjoyed lunch at a new (to us) restaurant a bit off the beaten path in Peoria. More about that in a few days.
We made it to the Burger Barge in East Peoria via boat for the first time this season. I wasn't feeling up to a nine ounce burger, so I tried the grilled shrimp skewer, which was pretty darn good.
We had lunch at TNT Sports Bar and Grill in the former Penguin Tap in Peoria Heights where I enjoyed a great supreme pizza, holding the green peppers for my husband's sake. I loved the flavor of the cheese, and the thin crust was nicely dusted with corn meal, one of my favorite touches on a pie.

In local business news, it looks like the former Mikey's Pizza & Subs in Peoria (Gale Ave.) will soon become a Firehouse Pizza.

The Pet Pantry

Over the past few years, we have transitioned our dog to healthier food.
She used to eat Pedigree dry dog food, and we had switched her to Iams Weight Control dry dog food when, this spring, we heard from a friend about a place that would deliver dog food to our house.
Since we had to go out every few weeks to buy a 40 pound bag of Iams, for about $36, which also involved bringing my husband along so he could heft the bag around, I figured I would check into it.
The Pet Pantry is located in Germantown Hills.
Checking their web site, I found a dog food I thought we could try, the Premium Adult Maintenance. We called and placed an order for 60 pounds at a cost of 82 cents a pound.
We found that they deliver to our area on Tuesdays, and we would need to pay a one time deposit of $15 for our dog food bin.
On that Tuesday, we left our garage open and when we got home there was our bin nicely placed in the garage, our invoice and a few surprises for our dog inside.
She scored some medium biscuits plus some Easter dog treats. We also got a Pet Pantry magnet.
Last Monday I called for a reorder, and we emptied our bin prior to Tuesday's delivery.
We got home and again found the full bin in our garage, with our invoice, and a note letting us know that our variety of dog food was not going to be available in the future, plus a sample of something comparable for our dog to try out. The note also said to let them know if we needed any more samples.
This order was about $52, since we did not have to pay a bin deposit.
The 60 pounds of dog food lasted our 70 pound dog almost exactly two months.
The food is good quality, and is made in the U.S. You can check ingredients on the Pet Pantry web site.
Each time we've talked to the gentleman there, Bill, I think his name is, he's been very friendly and helpful, and we enjoy supporting another good local business.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Noted

I was sorry to hear that Chiliworks in Peoria has closed.

Today also brought the news that another local furniture store, Downers in Pekin, will close after 20 years in business.

This Saturday is the Moss Avenue Sale in Peoria, beginning at 8 a.m. We are passing it up this year in favor of another big sale, and hope to have a fun day exploring.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Noted

The Blend Express coffee kiosk is now open in Washington.

The Shoppes at Grand Prairie hosts Titanic, Treasures from the Deep this weekend, Friday and Saturday noon - 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The exhibit is free.

This Saturday kicks off the Riverfront Market season in Peoria, 8 a.m.-noon. I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Fest season also begins at Hickory Grove in Dunlap on Saturday with Sommerfest. The fun carries on through Sunday. Hours both days are 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

I saw the sad news this week that longtime Washington business Bauer Furniture will soon cease business.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Red Rock Bar & Grille

Last month after an appointment, we stopped by Red Rock Bar & Grille in Morton, since we haven't had a chance to check it out.
The restaurant is a former Brick Oven Pizza at 332 Detroit Avenue, and I recognized the tile topped tables from the former Brick Oven in Washington.
The dining room had a nice earthy feel, and a few tables were filled with early diners. In the corner, a fire was blazing in the brick oven.
We took a couple of stools at the bar and ordered some drinks, then perused the menu.
StfRon said he was game for whatever pizza I wanted, so I took advantage of it and ordered a BBQ chicken pie.
While we waited for our pizza, I mentioned to my husband that with the music and atmosphere, the place had a bit of a college bar vibe, but without the dirt and stickiness.
Our pizza soon arrived via our efficient bartender, and I took a bite, instantly feeling like I had been transported back to the Brick Oven in Washington.
If it was not the same recipe, it was a great attempt, the great crust topped with garlicky chicken, onions, and a tangy BBQ sauce.
Today I checked out Red Rock's web site, and was surprised to see they book some of our favorite bands. We can't make the first two shows, but we'll be keeping it in mind for future entertainment.

Monday, June 01, 2009

M & M Twistee Treat

Now that ice cream season is officially upon us, we made our first visit to M & M Twistee Treat in East Peoria.
This fun ice cream cone shaped building is located at 1207 E. Washington Street, offering both outdoor and indoor (in the attached building) seating.
The original Twistee Treats were built between 1983 and 1990.
One thing that has always impressed me about the East Peoria Twistee Treat is the number of items on the menu. I could eat there five days in a row and still have more things I wanted to try.
The massive menu includes: tenderloins; burgers; hot dogs; polish sausage; tamales; chicken; pizza burgers; catfish; Italian beef; tacos; pizza rolls; BBQ; and fried veggies, plus several frozen treats.
They offer basket specials which include fries, and daily specials.
M & M Twistee Treat is closed during the winter months.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Noted

For a few weeks now, I've noticed a banner in front of the Butcher Block at Junction City in Peoria advertising breakfast starting at 5:30 a.m. So for those early birds looking for something different, check it out!

The square in Washington is now home to Tidbit's Mercantile, a southwestern gift shop.

The Cherry Festival in Washington will run through tomorrow evening. If you're jonesin' for some carnival rides, deep fried veggies or deep fried Oreos, stop on by.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Carlock Family Restaurant

This month we were looking forward to the first 3rd Sunday Market of the year in Bloomington.
We headed out with plans to eat breakfast at the Busy Corner in Goodfield, but when we arrived, it was standing room only.
We decided to keep going and find someplace else to grab a bite.
My husband suggested the Carlock Family Restaurant. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's local, so I was willing to try it out.
Located in a former Hen House Restaurant at 304 W. Washington Road in Carlock, this barnlike structure is now painted in earth tones. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch.
We stepped inside and seated ourselves at a booth near the door.
The dining room looked neat and clean, with white painted wood and a burgundy/mauve color palette.
Opening the menu, I first mistook the price of corned beef hash to be more than $6, but then realized that price was for a corned beef hash omelet, not something that struck my fancy.
We both ordered combos of eggs, hash and bread, mine scrambled with English muffins and StfRon's over medium with toast, plus he threw in a side of biscuits and gravy. I also had a side of grits.
The food was very good, and StfRon was pleased with the preparation of his eggs. Many times they are not runny enough for toast dippin', but these were just right.
The grits tasted to me as if they were made with milk instead of water, and with a bit of butter, hit the spot.
We both had coffee, which was not bold, but also not bad, and refills were constant until we swore off having any more.
Service was good, and the price was not a drain on the ole pocketbook.
I think we've found our new breakfast tradition for 3rd Sunday marketing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Joe Rogers' Original Recipe Chili Parlor

On an overcast day in late April, I had a chance to enjoy lunch in Springfield with my husband.
He wanted to share a recent find with me, Joe Rogers' Original Recipe Chili Parlor.
The parlor, located at 820 S. 9th Street, still prepares their chili using recipes from more than 60 years ago.
The restaurant is simply decorated, with a counter and stools along the kitchen area and tables filling the adjacent dining area. The ceiling has a rustic flair with its wood beams.
As far as the chili, the beans and meat are prepared separately, so custom orders are available. After placing my order for a small bowl of medium (spice) chili and a tamale, I then watched several other people place special orders and wished I had thought to do so. You really can have it your way there!
The chili was good, filled with meat but not tomatoey, and not as spicy as I expected. Next time I would order touch vs. medium, and work my way up from there until I found just the right amount of heat. The chili is served with a Styrofoam cup of oyster crackers.
The tamale was covered with a thick cornmeal coating with nicely seasoned meat inside.
StfRon ordered chili dogs for his lunch, drowned in meaty chili.
Currently open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Joe's kept up a steady stream of customers the whole time we were there, both diners and carryouts. Many of the ladies working behind the counter seem to have been there for years, and are efficient, if not terribly chatty.
The restaurant does not accept credit or debit cards.
If you're feeling adventurous, there is a chili challenge you can take on. Eat a bowl of the JR Special chili and your name can forever be emblazoned on the wall of fame. Your tongue may be forever emblazoned, too, for all I know.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Noted

German Specialties in Peoria is cooking up hot dogs, brats and more at an outdoor cart in front of their store during lunch.

Sullivan's Pub in Peoria Heights is starting a weekend breakfast buffet Saturdays and Sundays.

Soy Candles by Sharon is now open in Peoria's Metro Centre. The farmers' market at Metro is also in full swing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Round up

This weekend we took in Squabbles at Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theatre in Goodfield. I very much enjoyed Bob Lane Jr's performance, and also savored the peppery chicken noodle soup.

Saturday we took a short hike in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. The breeze made it a bit brisk until we got moving and got some blood pumping. We then headed home and had some BLTs al fresco using the Usinger's bacon I found on sale at Lindy's Downtown Market in Washington. Right now it's our favorite bacon, barring the bacon my husband made a couple of years ago. All that was missing was fresh tomatoes, which we should have an abundance of in a month or two.

Sunday we stopped in for what turned out to be a noisy breakfast at Cummins Family Restaurant in Washington. Despite it being Mother's Day, we only waited about five minutes for a table, but the room we were in was full and a bit loud. The corned beef hash was nicely browned and tasty.

We lucked in to Washington Greenhouse in Washington being open on a Sunday, probably for all of the moms out there. I picked up my last two fruit and veggie plants for the garden, as we've run out of room!

We went to UFS Savings Center in Peoria to pick up a couple of bottles of wine, after seeing two of our favorites on sale in the Sunday newspaper.

As I pass by the 3400 block of NE Adams Street in Peoria, I've been noticing a new tenant and signage going up. The business, now open, is called Cracked Pepper Catering, Inc., and the menus feature some nice sounding choices: http://www.crackedpeppercatering.com/

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Peoria Players Theatre

We took in our first show ever at Peoria Players Theatre this month, Man of La Mancha.

I had ordered tickets ($17 each) from their web site and paid online, so we stepped up to the ticket windows to pick them up prior to our show. One of the windows was being manned and a woman was picking up tickets, and the other was currently unmanned.
As soon as an employee stepped up to help the next customer, a woman who had just stepped up behind us blurted out that she needed to get her tickets right away, before they were given away. Sure, OK, and I'm standing here hoping that mine will be given away. But no worries, once her crisis was over and she had her tickets, ours were soon in hand and we stepped into the theatre to find our seats.

The seats were nicely upholstered and posh, perhaps a little too posh for a Sunday afternoon, as I became a bit drowsy sitting there.
The 16th century stone prison vault set was quite impressive, especially to my husband, who loves to create Halloween props each year.
Once the show began, there was no way I wanted to doze in the comfy seats, as I didn't want to miss any of the show.

Man of La Mancha is a musical that tells the story of the mad knight Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote).
This tax collector has been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, along with his entertaining servant Sancho. They have brought all their possessions with them into the dungeon where they are attacked by their fellow prisoners who set up a mock trial. If found guilty, the knight will have to hand over all his possessions.
Cervantes falls for Aldonza, a kitchen maid he calls Dulcinea. He sends her a letter via Sancho, and the token she returns for him is an old dishrag, which he cherishes.
I was impressed with many of the musical numbers performed by the cast, my favorite probably being "Little Bird, Little Bird".
The casting was great, from Sancho to Don Quixote to the Duke, and we had a very enjoyable time. We've already discussed a couple of the upcoming 2009-10 season shows we would like to see.
Man of La Mancha continues through May 10. If you've been thinking about seeing it, I would suggest getting tickets a.s.a.p., as the showing we attended ended up being sold out.

Peoria Players, organized in 1919, is the oldest continuously running community theatre in the state. The theatre is located at 4300 N. University Street in Peoria.

Shop Local Peoria campaign

From May 2009 | Issue 015 | Junction City Newsletter:

Shop Local Peoria is a campaign designed by Junction Ventures to encourage residents to shop locally and support local businesses.

Shop Local Peoria will begin its campaign exclusively with the businesses in Junction City.

Join us in supporting local, independently owned businesses in Peoria through the SHOP LOCAL PEORIA campaign!

http://www.shoplocalpeoria.com/

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

S'more Couture

I remember my surprise when my sister-in-law told me there was a new local shop open in Alta. Alta has shops, I thought?
What I did not realize was that the area right around the bend of Alta Road near Dunlap is considered Alta.
We were checking out a bike trail that we picked up off of University Street in Peoria, and popped out at the Rock Island Trail parking area near the Last Chance Bar & Grill. There, perched on the corner, was a cute pink and brown building dubbed S'more Couture.
We took the opportunity to go in and browse around, finding unique jewelry, purses, perfumes, lip balms, dresses and headbands, some interspersed with some great vintage radios.
One thing that caught my attention was the selection of P.B. Loco peanut butters. The flavors range from Peanut Butter with CoCoBanana to Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Duo to Peanut Butter with Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough, which I hear is a best seller. Let me just say I don't think I would be chucking that aside if it turned up on my doorstep!
Located at 2700 W. 2nd Street in Alta, S'more Couture has lots of fun gifts for the "girls" on your list.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Noted

Lou's Drive-In in Peoria is open for the season! Now if it would just stop raining for a day or two...

The Metro Centre Farmer's Market in Peoria kicks off their 2009 season on May 1.

The 5th Amendment Bar & Grill in Peoria has closed. I was looking forward to trying the beef stroganoff and mashed potatoes for $5 I saw on their sign last week, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Noted

Driving through the Heights, I noticed a sign touting Wine Country's French Toast restaurant's newly offered lunch. Looks delicious, and reasonable to boot.
Located at 4600 N. Prospect Road, they are now serving lunch Tuesday-Saturday from 11-2, and also offer wine tastings Saturdays from 12-4.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Noted

Twice in the past couple weeks when driving by the former Original Gulley's BBQ in Peoria, I've noticed people busy at work spiffing up the building. I think we can expect a new tenant there soon.

Last weekend we attended a wine and dine event at Willett's Winery & Cellar in Manito and learned that they will be taking over the Vino 100 location at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria. The outlet featuring Willett's wines plans a soft opening May 1, with a grand opening at a later date.
Out of a handful of Illinois wineries I have visited thus far, Willett's has some of my favorite selections.

Peking Garden

On our way back home this weekend, we passed through Eureka and StfRon asked if I wanted to go to Peking Garden. Having never been there, I was game.
We parked across the street from 116 N. Main Street and stepped inside to find about a dozen patrons enjoying a lunch buffet.
We scoped the buffet out, but decided to try something off the menu instead. StfRon placed our order at the counter and we took a seat along the wall.
Soon our order of crab rangoon was delivered, and we dove in. Out of habit, I put a bit of sweet and sour sauce on the fried puff, but after tasting the filling, deemed the sauce entirely unnecessary. The cream cheese filling had visible chunks of what seemed to me to be real crab meat (I'm no crab expert, but I'm pretty sure it was the real deal), and a nice sweet flavor.
My meal arrived: Szechuan chicken with steamed rice, filled with carrots, water chestnuts, onions, green peppers and pea pods, swimming in a nicely spiced sauce. It was certainly good, but I did wish I had tried the hunan chicken instead (I was teetering between the two). I loved the spiciness, but the sauce wasn't quite what I was looking for.
StfRon ordered the Mongolian beef, and the beef, green and white onions and sauce were a nice combination, but not as sweet as some he's had. I sampled the dish and actually preferred it to some of the sweeter versions I've tried.
The tab, with one hot tea and one ice water came in at about $28, and we had enough left over for dinner later this week.
Several more patrons came in while we were there and were greeted warmly by the people working in the dining room. They bantered about how so-and-so was doing and who was in earlier in the day for lunch. Peking Garden obviously offers good Asian fare, and hometown appeal.