Monday, December 10, 2007

Old Chicago, Peoria (the one out by the new mall)

When someone says to me, “Let’s go to Old Chicago,” I am just old enough to think that they are talking about the indoor amusement park that used to be in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook back in the late 1970’s. It was one of the places we visited during one of our family vacations when I was a kid.
Nowadays, few people remember the defunct park, but they recognize the name of a pizza restaurant that has locations throughout the United States, including two in Peoria. The first restaurant opened on the riverfront platform, located with Joe’s Crab Shack and the now defunct (that word again!) Damon’s Grill.
Old Chicago prides itself on the sporting teams of the Windy City, with décor and televisions advertising the Cubs and Bears, for the most part. Street signs, cityscape pictures, and pride in serving Old Style all contribute to the ambience. If people are not there for the World Beer Tour, which offers fabulous cash and prizes for drinking 100 different beers, they are there for the Chicago cuisine, especially the pizza.
On this night I was joined by my wife, Jenny, and our two friends, Ron and Katie, for an early Saturday evening dinner. Upon entering we could see open booths, but were told we would have to wait about 10 to 15 minutes. Turns out it was time for the shift change, so there must have been some issues presenting themselves. It was no big deal, as we were not in a great hurry.
We were sat in a booth with a high chair at the end for the lovely one year-old Chloe, and immediately our server was there to take our drink and appetizer orders. Our group chose to share Pepperoni Rolls, which, as it may sound, were pieces of dough rolled up with pepperoni inside, along with some mozzarella cheese. We also ordered “Italian Nachos”, which tasted just wonderful. These consisted of fried pieces of pasta, topped with slices of Italian sausage, pepperoni, pepperoncini peppers and some mozzarella cheese, with a side of marinara to dip. All of the flavors worked fabulously together.
Our dinners arrived shortly after we had completed our first course. Ron and I both ordered the Southwestern Fajita calzone, which contained chicken, salsa, cheese, onions and bell peppers, and came with a side of green chili ranch dressing for dipping. We both enjoyed our dishes, though Ron stated that his was a bit liquidy, probably from the salsa.
My wife ordered the classic club sandwich, which she liked. It was nothing out of the ordinary, and she reported that her fries were a bit overdone. Katie thoroughly enjoyed her calzone with pepperoni, extra cheese and green olives. I heard nary a complaint from that end of the table.
This visit to Old Chicago was a wonderful time, with a very attentive waitress who looked to the needs of the talkative Chloe, bringing applesauce and crackers for her to munch on.
The kicker for me and any restaurant is the timely and efficient manner in which I am brought many soda refills. I am happy to report that I floated right out of the restaurant.
After a visit like this, the next time I hear the name “Old Chicago,” my mind will be focused on something other than a crappy indoor amusement park. I will instead be thinking about the good times to be had, especially during baseball season when the Old Style is flowing and the Cubs are winning (or at least playing on television—can’t ask for much).


Kevin Lowe said...

Nice post. I like Old Chicago. It's not my favorite pizza (I'm more partial to Hoops in Peoria), but definitely very good. I've had similar experiences with attentive waiters and waitresses -- they keep me refilled with fresh beer. And, of course, beer drinkers can seek solace in their mighty selection of brew.

Fraochán said...

I too enjoy Old Chicago! I will be honest though, never tried their pizza (*gasp*). hehehe. AND I ABOUT FELL OVER - I REMEMBER THAT AMUSEMENT PARK! When I talk about it - everyone acts like I made it up - but I remember being very little and going to some indoor amusement park! Crazy!

Fraochán said...

P.S. Since you are a Macombie like me....and are attending one of the schools I graduated from (horray!)....I wanted to give you the heads up about "Il Spazio's". Have you ventured there yet? New place on the square....