Monday, June 25, 2007

Firehouse Pizza, Peoria

Not long ago Chef Kevin reviewed Firehouse Pizza, and I made the comment that I didn't like a pizza sauce that was on the sweet side. I had reconciled myself to not trying this place, but today I just changed my mind. I'm allowed to do that.

So me, the wife and kid head out to their new location at Northpoint and found the place not real busy. I did like the looks of the place, with the TV's in every booth allowing me to catch the Cubs/Sox game without having to crane my neck around the place.

We got ourselves a couple of sodas, Jenny had a little side salad and I had the pigs-in-blankets, which were a couple big hot dogs wrapped up in the pizza dough. Those things I liked!! Great dipped in good ole yellow mustard.

The pizza we ordered was a "Cheeseburger" pizza, with hamburger, bacon, onions, and a cheddar-mozzarella blend. I would have really enjoyed it... were it not for that sauce. It wasn't bad... just had that sweet taste. Certainly different from other pizzas in this area. I can see people liking it... but not me. Took a helluva long time to get a refill, too, for such an unbusy Sunday afternoon.

While they are not going to make my HIT list, Firehouse Pizza will not make my SHIT list, either. It was passable food, and perhaps someday I will try the pizza with the white garlic sauce. It just wasn't my thang.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

River Station, Peoria

Well hot diggity damn!! Finally I get back to Peoria for a period of time so's I can do some eating!! I've been back a few times, but fairly quickie trips that didn't really call for any reviewing of restaurants. Not that I didn't eat, but in all honesty, it wasn't review-worthy.

Tonight me and the wife had us a date. We dropped off the kid at my folks house and headed down to the newly-reopened River Station for a 7:45 dinner reservation. I have to admit, I don't remember what the place looked like inside, seeing as how I believe I was only there like twice before they closed. But it sure looks nice inside now! They're getting some business, that's for sure. We were not called to be seated until about 8:15 or so, but they warned us that things were running a bit behind. It gave us lots of time for people-watching, which was fun stuff. Lots of nicely-dressed cougars, and men who looked like they either stepped off a boat or off the golf course.

When we were seated at a nice river-view table (which made the extra wait okay), our waiter, a nice young man named Jake, got us going with our drinks and discussed some of the features of the menu. We declined appetizers, choosing to save room for the dessert. River Station does a salad bar at your table-I've never been a part of something like this before. Lots of iceberg lettuce, followed by whatever toppings you told the waiter to put on, including something he referred to as "sour cherries". Looked like big raisins to me, but they were tasty! A clever addition to a salad. I had a balsamic vinaigrette which was just dandy. Jenny had ranch. She asked for French, but that's okay. Jake offered to get some, but Jenny ain't picky.

Our entrees arrived in a very timely fashion. Jenny ordered the lobster and crab ravioli, and the one I took off her plate as a driver's fee had large chunks of said shellfish, and the white sauce, while not overpowering, complemented the dish. My dish was called chicken saltabocca, which was a couple of grilled chicken breasts wrapped up in prosciutto and mozzarella, sitting in a dark wine sauce. Very tasty, indeed!! It was recommended to me by my father-in-law. The sauce was my favorite part of the meal, just yummyness. It was sauce that I could have on the side and dip waffle fries into and be content.

Dessert...ahh, dessert. Very enjoyable, if a bit on the expensive side. Jenny had The Caboose, which was a couple different ice creams layered on top of each other with some other stuff on it, with a piece of almond brittle sticking out. Yummy! Mine was some sort of chocolate ganache with lavender ice cream. Lavender!! Weird that I was eating something that had made bathrooms smell better for decades. I must have forgotten about the ice cream, because I commented that it tasted "herbal". It sure was good, however. I will look for this in other places. The ganache was utterly rich in chocolate delight.

I am glad the River Station has returned. To me, it really ties the riverfront together, having a well-known spot with historical significance. And free refills on soda!!

River Station-you made the "HIT" List!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

He's posting reviews again!!

Not me, Chef Kevin, over at Culinary Rants and Raves. Check it out!! He has checked out such joints as the River Station (so wanna go there!), Firehouse Pizza, Eamon Patrick's (where is this place?) and one other one along the river. Name slipped my mind, but it sounds like my kinda place!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

New Blog To Read

My good friend Katie, she who helped birth my baby, maker of good hashbrown casserole, lover of Ron, and coach of co-ed softball, has started a blog to note her days of fine trailer park living. She entertains me, and I'm sure she will entertain her readers.

Notes From The Trailerhood

We're not coming into town this weekend, as we already have to make a trip to town next Tuesday night so that me and my buddies can go down to Kansas City and eat barbecue, among other events.

I will share that I just had a delightful ice cream sandwich, fresh out the box from Hy-Vee. Probably gonna have a few more based on that wonderful experience.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Corky's, East Peoria

I'm a fan of saying things such as, "it's hard to screw up a lunchmeat sandwich", or "it's hard to mess up a salad". One thing that is for sure is that it is EASY to screw up barbecue. Big John's, back in the heyday of his downtown location, was ON. They knew their barbecue, and I daresay that Peoria hasn't seen barbecue like it again. There are a few BBQ joints that I can attest to having pretty decent food, but I just think we're a bit too far north for any of the good ones.

Corky's, which is in the remodeled Citgo/Burger King building over by the East Peoria Wal-Mart, is a franchise that got its start in Memphis, home of barbecue, Elvis and rockabilly music. Back when it first opened up here in town a few months ago, the wait was far too long for me and my gathered group of gourmands. We were told that the list was two hours long, and after you ordered, it would be another hour. So this is the first opportunity I've had to get back and see what's up. I've heard different things about it, but the possibility of good BBQ is enough for me to give it a try.

We had a group of six tonight, and we ended up having to wait about a half-hour before being seated, and that ain't bad. I tried a combo that consisted of a half-rack of dry-rubbed ribs, beef brisket, turkey and pulled pork. Ron had the ribs and pork, Russ had a pulled pork sandwich, Jenny had turkey and pork, Jen had a turkey sandwich, and Katie had... I forgot! She doesn't like BBQ, so I'm sure she had something different. And don't make fun of Katie because she doesn't like BBQ. Ron will fix that, over time.

The only complaint I heard from anyone was from myself and Ron, and we thought the ribs were served a bit on the cool side. They were still fairly tasty and very tender, but it would have been better if they were the temperature they were supposed to be.

Other than that, nice atmosphere, a pretty kind server who kept up with our refills as long as we requested them. It doesn't measure up to BBQ I've had in other locales, mostly down south, but for Peoria, it does good. I hope they succeed, and I liked their Elvis-themed room.

Corky's makes the HIT List!!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Coop's, Princeville

Today was a day for exploring the backroads of Peoria County (and just a slight, slight bit of Fulton County). The first Saturday of every June is the Strawberry Festival out in Elmwood, which runs just north of Farmington. It's a pretty nice small-town shindig that draws seemingly every citizen to either visit or volunteer their efforts, especially given the fact that the town buried one of their own on Friday, a young Marine named Ben Desilets, who was struck down in Iraq.

After taking our cruise around the town square and eating strawberry shortcake (two helpings for me, of course), my wife, child, and mom headed up the road to Princeville, hope of Coop's, a little restaurant there on what seemed to be the main drag. It was right across the street from Casey's, so it's pretty much the center of town for this blogger.

Coop's is a cafe-like setting which is fairly rustic in appearance, both inside and out. The walls of the dining room drip with nostalgia, right down to the empty can of Standard Cream Separator Oil on a shelf high above us. Attached to the dining room and also accessible from the outside is The Whip, which is a little ice cream stand.

Today's specials were homemade tenderloins or pork burgers. My wife opted for the tenderloin, which she proclaimed was good. I got a taste, and it definitely tasted homemade. Had a good texture, and wasn't over-seasoned. Mom had a "Hawaiian Salad", which was an enormous helping of lettuce and toppings, served with a side of the house dressing, which was a hybrid of a sweet onion dressing and something else. The salad itself had grilled chicken, pineapple, and shaved coconut, along with a few other things I think. She really did like it, and for what it's worth, the lettuce, although it was only iceberg (sorry, lettuce snobs-no field greens), it was the kind that was cut up thin-shredded, maybe? Yeah, that sounds right. Before I reveal my meal, I want to take a second to talk about their salads. It seemed like every other table had salads, and they are just hoarkin' huge, and had lots of colorful toppings. At the quick glance I gave the salad portion of the menu, there had to have been like 10 or 12 different salads to choose from. Egads!!

And, finally, my meal was a big ole double cheeseburger. There was more that I could have chosen from, but it's what I want, and what I want is what I want. It was a tasty burger, lots of cheese, with my typical mayo, mustard, pickles and onions. It was everything I could ask for in a cheeseburger. The fries that came with the sandwiches were the crinkle cut variety, and we rather enjoyed them. Got a lot of 'em, too!!

Seeing as how I'm not a frequent traveler to Princeville, I couldn't tell you of the many other reasons to make a visit to the fine farming community. If you find your way out that direction, I would suggest a stop by Coop's for a sandwich, or one of those awesome salads!! They might even be worth a drive out there just for one of them!

Coop's-You made the HIT list!!! Thumbs up, and good luck under your new ownership (or was it just management?)!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Avanti's, East Peoria

Good ole Avantis. A Peoria staple for many years before my time, and it has expanded into East Peoria quite a while back. I can remember eating at their Main Street location when it was across the street. Does anyone remember the "Gondola" controversy between Avanti's and LaGondola? What a great legal battle that was. Someone should have written a book about it.

I know Billy D wrote about it a while back (sorry, Bill - not going archive diving tonite!), and it seemed like a good mix of opinions.

Avanti's is real hit-and-miss for me concerning whether I even want to eat there. Nothing's gross on the menu, it's not like you can go wrong. Locals know that you are not going to get fine Italian cuisine on the menu. Sometimes I don't want meat sauce or marinara, or even the alfredo. Just doesn't sound good, and if I eat too much of their all-you-can-eat spaghetti on that most special of nights, I fart a little more than usual.

The bread - good stuff. I am not going to waste time extolling the virtues of Avanti's bread. But jeebus, they found one thing to do good, and they do REAL good. Just the bread and butter is enough of a meal for me. The pizza is not bad, either. I prefer it over any of the chains around here. (speaking of which, I gotta find out how to do polls, because I'd like to see what pizza reigns supreme in the Peoria area).

Tonight's visit to the Avanti's in East Peoria, to begin, was just dandy. No problems that weren't taken care of quickly, and nice folks waited on us and brought us food and soda refills. I had the lasagna, and this is something they have down so well that it lacks the fun of eating homemade lasagna that falls apart and you end up eating one big spoonful of ricotta or a big sheet of pasta. Still, it's tasty, and it's just enough for me. Because I filled up on the bread. And the goony little salad, which just works, for some reason.

Lovely wife Jenny had the chicken alfredo, and I heard no complaints. Ron and Katie both had Gondolas (capitalize that?? dunno), and I guess it was good because it's hard to screw up a lunchmeat sandwich, especially on that bread!! Russ had the Friday special, which was oven-baked cod. He specifically told me that he enjoyed the fish, but the accompanying linguini dish was just kind of "meh", not bad, nothing special. Jason had the only issue of the evening, when they brought his spaghetti and meatballs without the layer of mozzarelly on top like he wanted. They corrected it, and he dried his tears.

The kid who rang me up barely said a word, no "how was everything" queries, and I had to wait for like two minutes for someone to show up. Not gonna complain about that, because 1) high school kid has to work Friday nite at Avanti's isn't always going to be "on", and B) had fine conversations with the others standing around.

All in all, don't set the bar too high. Yeah, there's better places in town to go eat. I can name a whole bunch. Gotta pay more for that, however. Pay more money-get better food. Pay less money-get less better food. And so on. Avanti's is never my first choice of restaurants, but it's better to take the kid there than to the smoke-filled bar of choice for grub.

Avanti's-you made my HIT list (which, to refresh, is the good list to make. The bad list is known as the SHIT list)!!!