Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I have known for about a month that Harold's Hamburgers in Washington is closing, but forgot all about posting about it until one of my readers sent me a message regarding them closing, which will happen this week.
We were hoping it wasn't true, but about a week and a half ago we stopped in for lunch (burgers and fries for my husband and a cherry pie for me) and talked to our cashier who confirmed it, and we noticed that some of the pictures and things in the restaurant were for sale.
My husband remembers the place from the Mr. Quick days, but I just enjoyed it for the nostalgia, friendly employees and some good eats. I will be sad to see them go.

The Ice Cream Shack in Peoria opens for the season this Friday.

Speaking of ice cream, Emo's will open for the season April 1. This could be the last season of Emo's as we know it, as the Peoria restaurant is for sale.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Last Chance Bar & Grill

On a recent Sunday we decided to try out the breakfast at Last Chance Bar & Grill in Peoria.
We found the main dining room and the one to the left to be full, so we headed to the room to the right, where there were some pool tables and dart boards.
We were soon joined by our "Dining Companion" and her husband, and were advised by our waitress that a large group was on their way, so we got our orders in quickly.
StfRon and I each ordered biscuits and gravy plus a side of corned beef hash and our companions ordered selections off the breakfast skillet menu.
The food was tasty and hot and service was friendly and prompt.
Can't wait until we pick up our new bikes and plan a breakfast and ride outing on the adjacent Rock Island Trail!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

June Restaurant

We dined at June Restaurant in Peoria Heights recently, a restaurant which has received much praise from both local media and the Wall Street Journal.
We arrived early, about 5:45 on a weeknight and were able to get a table without a wait.
Our dining experience took about two hours, and by the time we left business had picked up quite a bit.
The decor at June was simple and contemporary in style with soothing colors, concrete floors and nature-inspired artwork.
Even the table settings were simple, yet elegant.
Our server was knowledgeable about the wine list, the menu items and the food preparation methods, which include Sous-vide, slow cooking under pressure in a heated water bath.
The ingredients for many of the menu items are from local farms, which I think is great. Not only are local ingredients likely to be fresher, the support of local farms helps them prosper, which in turn can make these items more readily available.
We selected a bottle of Albak Tempranillo wine and sampled that while still pondering our dinner choices.
We were also served some of the breads baked in house daily, a ciabatta bread and a black olive bread.
After hearing from our server about the farm fresh egg on the first course menu, we decided to share that prior to dinner.
He described the egg as being cooked for about an hour and a half, placed on homemade brioche and topped with fresh herbs, hollandaise, bacon and shiitake mushrooms smoked with espresso beans.
The egg was extremely soft and fresh tasting, the brioche nicely crisped and the bacon had a good smoky flavor. The espresso smoke flavor of the shiitakes was a bit strong for our tastes.
We selected our dinner entrées, Branzino (sea bass) for me and a New York strip for my husband, and were not planning on having a second course item until the waiter mentioned a mozzarella salad, which we agreed to share. I don't recall the entire description of the dish, but the description of the cheese was very appealing, especially to us cheese lovers, and the dish had sunchokes, which we had to have a refresher on.
When this dish arrived we found the cheese to be wonderfully creamy and smooth, the plate sprinkled with fresh herbs and balsamic. The dish also included a caramelized onion garnish bursting with flavor. The sunchokes were prepared chip style and scattered throughout.
The kitchen at June is open to the main dining room, and most tables have a clear view of everything going on there. This also allowed us to experience several of the tantalizing scents the food preparation was generating.
Once our entrées arrived, we found that every element of them was notable, and we ended up passing our forks back and forth across the table so each could experience everything.
My Branzino had an amazing meaty yet tender texture, the thinly-sliced chorizo and sauce served with it was wonderful and the chickpea spaetzle was great.
My husband's New York strip (aged 45 days) had such a buttery texture it almost melted in your mouth and could easily be cut with a fork, topped with a smoky au jus and served with a seasoned potato puree, accompanied by carrots and other root vegetables.
Throughout our meal our server would stop by and top off our wine glasses without being intrusive, checking to see how everything was.
The food portions were reasonable enough that we could eat every last morsel and still consider dessert without being miserable.
After hearing the dessert offerings from another member of the team who was taking care of us, I selected the dark chocolate pot de creme which was described as having some heat to it, if I recall correctly it was ancho pepper, and was topped with a smoked cherry mascarpone.
StfRon opted for the peanut butter cake with brown butter paired with homemade caramelcorn ice cream.
He especially enjoyed the caramelcorn ice cream.
My pot de creme started out very good, and first seemed rich and almost fudge like, the cherry mascarpone subtly flavored. By the time I was done, I was loving and raving about the spiciness, and the texture of the creme reminded me of a ganache. I drove home with the heat from the peppers still lingering on my palate, recalling a wonderful meal.
Our bill came to $178 pre-tip.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. We haven't had a dining experience anywhere near this caliber in close to two years, and even before that it was few and far between.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Midway Duck Inn

On our way to Lacon a few months back, we drove past the Midway Duck Inn in Lowpoint. I made a mental note to make plans to dine there, and this month we did.
My husband and I arrived at the cabin-style restaurant about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled to meet my parents, so we took some seats at the bar after being greeted by a lady who was seating people in the dining room. We told her we'd be back for a table in a little bit.
StfRon ordered a beer and I decided to go for a margarita, which turned out to be very good.
The bartender, who was a young lady, and the rest of the bar patrons were friendly. This was not one of those places where everything falls silent and everyone turns to stare when "outsiders" walk in.
We checked out the menu while we waited and noticed duck tenders and frogs legs among some of the notable items, plus tenderloins, catfish and a selection of burgers. We also overheard that one of the day's specials, the hot beef, was sold out.
Most of the dinners were around $7-$9, with catfish priced at $11.95.
My parents arrived a while later and we headed to the dining room, taking a seat by the windows. If we had taken our seat about 15 minutes earlier, we would have had a great view of the sunset.
The tidy dining room was paneled in horizontal car siding-type wood, stained in a nice lodge look, with some hunting decor throughout.
I had heard that one of their specialties was pan fried chicken, so that's what I ordered when our friendly waitress took our order. Actually, everyone at the table ordered the same, some the 1/2 chicken, some 1/4, some all white and some mixed.
For sides we got salads, bread and potato, mine was baked and everyone else sprung for the au gratin version, plus a racquetball-sized corn fritter for each of us.
The breading on the chicken was nicely seasoned and crispy, the au gratins were good and the corn fritter was positively covered in powdered sugar, the outside crispiness giving way to the soft corn goodness inside.
My dad, who probably somewhat grudgingly came along, was appreciative of the decor and enjoyed his meal, eating practically every last morsel. He also commented that he could go for some more fritters, and I pointed out that he could place an order for $3.95.
During our time at the Midway Duck Inn, I had noticed the bartender took the time to say goodbye to each group as they left and thank them for coming in. We were no exception.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Round up

Willett's Winery and Cellar will open their restaurant, The Ironstone Room, 101 East Market Street in Manito, today. There are several items on the menu I would like to try. Check it out here. The hours are also posted on that page.

This weekend catch comedian Danny Storts March 12 and 13 at Mason City Limits in Mason City. Tickets are $12.50.

The Hyacinth in Peoria's Metro Center will hold a spring open house March 12 and 13.

A session on leafless tree identification will be held March 13 at 10 a.m. at Peoria's Forest Park Nature Center. This event is free, but donations are appreciated.

The Bogside Zukes will perform March 14 at Kelleher's Irish Pub & Eatery in Peoria from 2-6 p.m.

Monday, March 08, 2010


My husband said he was in the mood for something new Saturday night, so I suggested Connected, the restaurant which opened in the former Po-Boys spot in Peoria.
Tucked away next to Wal-Mart and the bingo hall on N. Dries Lane, from the outside we weren't sure they were open, but saw the hours posted (it was close to 5:30 p.m.) so we headed inside.
We were greeted by a young lady smartly dressed in formal black and white, a white cloth draped over her arm, who led us to our table in the elegant dining room accented with strands of white lights. She informed us that she, along with another gentleman, would be taking care of us, then placed cloth napkins on our laps.
She offered us sparkling, still or tap water, then told us about some drink specials which included a pear martini. It sounded great to me, but I asked to see the wine list instead.
We selected a bottle of Mountain View, a Cabernet, I think, which was priced around $25.
We decided instead of salads (which are not included with meals, although some meals include a side of polenta or other accompaniment) to try the mozzarella Caprese appetizer. We placed our order for that and soon our waitresses' partner brought us a basket of crusty bread and a spread which he said was made of pureed eggplant, dill and lemon. It had the consistency of hummus and actually tasted somewhat similar, and was very good.
The mozzarella Caprese complimented our wine, which at first had seemed too light for our taste, nicely. The balsamic on the appetizer was wonderful, and the basil tasted very fresh.
My husband ordered the Pollo Al Quattro Fromaggi, and I ordered an eggplant entree with four cheeses as well.
The combination of the four cheeses on each dish was great, and the tomato sauce was robust and very fresh tasting. Both dishes were also quite large, and we each ended up eating about 1/3 and asking to have the rest packaged to take home. The leftovers were delivered to our table a while later in a convenient brown handle bag.
We noticed the couple next to us ordered creme brulée for dessert, which was doused with liquor tableside and lit afire.
We asked about the desserts, and our waitress also mentioned a tiramisu and canolli. I discounted the tiramisu right off the bat, so used to central Illinois and their frozen institutional desserts. It occurred to me several minutes later that Connected probably makes their own.
We selected a cannoli instead and it was wonderful. My husband said he thinks it was the best one he's ever had.
Throughout our meal, we noticed the chef greeting some diners from time to time, but did not have a chance to speak to him.
By the time we were getting ready to leave, sometime after 7 p.m., there were only two tables available, which had not been open very long.
Once we were finished, our bill was brought and placed near my husband while I was presented with a yellow rose.
The bill, with appetizer, wine, two entrées and a shared dessert, came to $68 before tip.
We headed for the exit and passed a couple of servers standing at a podium near the dining room door. Just as we were reaching out to push the door open, our waitress dashed up to open the door for us and thanked us for coming.
A nice finishing touch to a nice evening.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Saving on fresh baked goodness

If you're a fan of Peoria's Apple's Bakery, you should check out the You Gotta Save deal, a $50 gift certificate for only $25 (plus a couple of dollars shipping and handling).
I've been dreaming of trying their chocolate bourbon pecan pie for years, so I hope to get one of those, some lunch, and maybe some goodies for a party.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Furniture shopping

We've been in the market for a new couch for a few months now.
In the past, I bought the majority of my furniture from Cohen's, who closed their stores a few years back.
I've decided that brown leather would be nice, sort of a club sofa, such as the one pictured here.
The other criteria? Made in USA. Oh, and it has to have a tight back. No poufy cushions.
We've been to Lippmann's and Illinois Furniture in Peoria, Baurer Furniture in Washington (before they closed), Faulk's Furniture in El Paso, StfRon stopped somewhere in Pekin and looked, and we've been to Melgreen's.
We have even checked a few chain places to see what's out there. StfRon called American a couple of weeks ago as they have an OK couch and they sent a flyer to our house about a sale. He called to check the price on that couch to see if we wanted to drive all the way out there, and they said "we don't give prices over the phone." Yet another reason to keep trying the locally-owned places.
We've been trying to get to Martin Furniture in East Peoria, but keep forgetting they are closed on Sundays.
And we need to try Sherman's and maybe trek out to Good's in Kewanee.
If you know of a good locally-owned furniture store I haven't thought of, please let me know!

Round up

Last weekend we braved the Swing at CAC dance lessons at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria and had a good time.

I've been laying low for lunch, but have enjoyed a couple of outings including The Goodness Café, Ming Shee and One World in Peoria.

Last week we attended a dinner meeting at the newest Avanti's in Peoria, 8517 N. Knoxville. I got to try their bruschetta for the first time, which was pretty good, and enjoyed copious amounts of food at a reasonable price.

We bought some grass fed ground beef patties from Eureka Locker via Naturally Yours in Peoria. My husband grilled them up for dinner and they made great burgers. He commented on how it was the first time since he was a kid that he's had ground beef that tasted and smelled like that, and I had to agree. The smell of the patties cooking reminded me of when I was young and Mom was grilling up ground beef for tacos or spaghetti.
We also bought some of the Eureka Locker grass fed steaks which we plan to try tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


The Kaiserhof restaurant in Peoria has closed.


Moon Dancer in Peoria Heights has closed. I have a feeling they may be moving to a different location in Peoria, but haven't heard the final news yet. They are now located at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria.
Apache Junction next door to the former Moon Dancer is also closed.
Sullivan's, also in Peoria Heights, has been sold and is currently closed for some changes by the new owners, who will change the pub's name.