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
Café Evergreen
Chiliworks Café
Baurer Furniture
Sizzling India
Ponte Vecchio
Lester's Donuts
Maria's Tea Room (Peoria Heights location)
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
Club Reign
The Hub (closed due to fire)
Tilley's at the River Station
Downer's Furniture Outlet
Christian Bros. Western Store
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


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


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
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 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:
Lori's Kitchen Store
The Garlic Press
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.