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


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


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


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.