Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Billy Goat

I was in Chicago this past weekend and had a chance to check out a couple of places I've never been to before. I wanted to take a minute to pay respects to what is surely a Chicago institution; The Billy Goat Tavern. There are many bars named the Billy Goat in Chicago, there is even one in Washington DC, but the original is located at 430 N. Michigan in the lower level.

For those of you who don't know the story you can find it here and here. And for those of you who don't understand what makes this place so important to fans of the Chicago Cubs, you might want to bone up on your history. Now personally, I don't believe in "the Curse of the Billy Goat", or simply the Curse, as the Chicago and national media have termed it. If there is any curse on the Cubs, it stems from the last time they won the Fall Classic, in 1908. In my mind, if there is a curse it is certainly centered around the events of that year's pennant race and especially the event known as Merkle's Boner.

Moving on from that, despite the fact that I don't believe in "the Curse of the Billy Goat", I still feel the need to pay homage to this classic American neighborhood tavern. The original Billy Goat, called the Billy Goat Inn, no longer exists. But, much of the atmosphere of the original was transferred to it's new location at lower Michigan and Hubbard streets. When this version of the Billy Goat was opened there was no lower or upper Michigan Ave. This soon changed though, and eventually the Billy Goat saw upper Michigan Ave. built right over it, shielding it from sunlight forever. This adds to the mystique of the place. It would be an easy thing to do to spend a couple of days in the Billy Goat and never know when it was night or day.

The Billy Goat was (I say was because it has become somewhat of a tourist trap) the quintessential neighborhood tavern. It was a haven for policemen, politicians, and especially newspapermen. It's walls are crowded with the names and pictures of these journalists as well as singers, actors, and a few presidents. But none of these people held the Billy Goat closer to their hearts than Chicago newspaper columnist, Mike Royko. He wasn't the only one who fell in love with this place. John Belushi and Bill Murray also frequented the tavern. They even turned Sam Sianis, nephew of the original owner, into a caricature for a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Anyone who has respect for the tradition of the neighborhood tavern should visit this place. Other than the history there's nothing really special about it. The burgers are nothing fancy (get a double because they're pretty thin) and the beers aren't especially cheap ($3 for a Schlitz on draft). But what the Billy Goat lacks in thrift, it makes up for in hospitality. As soon as you walk in you feel like you taking part in  history, even if only for short time.

The Billy Goat now is much different than it was 20, even 10 years ago. It's more of a tourist spot now. I spent an hour in there and the place was a revolving door of families and groups coming and going in 15 minute increments. Not to say though, that if you were to venture in on cold January night in the middle of the week, you wouldn't be able to find an old timer in there to tell you about the good old days. The days when Royko sat in the Wise Guys Corner and argued anything, when Sam Sianis would test his strength by lifting bar stools with his teeth, when a goat sat at the bar next to you and drank beer, when bars were second homes and not soulless nightclubs. Cheers to the neighborhood tavern and cheers to the Billy Goat.

And one more thing... Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger, no fries chip, no Pepsi Coke!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Fox Pub and Cafe

The Fox Pub and Cafe is located at 7800 N. Sommer St. in north Peoria. It actually resides in the building that formerly housed Double A's Pizza in the shopping center adjacent to the old K's Merchandise, off of Pioneer Parkway. The Fox is a nice (classy, no belligerent drunks) place that caters mostly to a lunch and dinner crowd. Currently they are only open until 10 PM. I would think, however that this closing time is flexible depending on the crowd on a given night.

The Fox has good beers on draft (Guinness, Harp's, Smithwicks) as well as a small wine selection. The prices are reasonable, a Guinness and gin and tonic cost me only $7. The Fox has a pretty extensive menu that covers everything from a basic cheeseburger to more extravagant fare. There is a section on the menu called "Cock and Bull". Apparently this is an English term for sandwiches, meaning that one can substitute chicken for beef (hamburger) on any one of the sandwiches included in the section. I haven't eaten there yet but everything on the menu sounded good and I have no doubt that the food is fresh and well prepared.

Not surprisingly The Fox is an English themed bar. This is due to the fact that the owner is an Englishman, who many years ago made the unfortunate decision to leave his homeland and emigrate to the Midwest. Prior to opening The Fox, he owned and operated the River Beach Pub in Chillicothe.

Another aspect of The Fox worth mentioning is it's connection to hockey, especially the Peoria Youth Hockey Association. The PYHA holds some of their meetings at The Fox and the Cheesemans are extensively involved with youth hockey in the Peoria area. One of the sons, Bo spent 4 years in pro hockey playing for minor league NHL affiliates in various leagues, including a stint with the Peoria Rivermen back in the their ECHL days. So, not only can you expect to catch English Premier League football (that's right the original football that actually involves using one's feet) games there, you can also count on watching a variety of NHL games there on a given night. I am currently looking forward to the upcoming USA/England World Cup match, at which time I will go to The Fox and talk all kinds of shit to the Cheesemans, despite the fact that the US will probably get their collective asses handed to them. So mark your calendars for June 10, 2010. The US team will be taking on those imperial bastards from across the pond at 1:30 in the afternoon. Join me at The Fox for beers and many drunken chants of USA! USA! USA!

16th of August 2010 Update: First off, we won! Ok, we tied but that's better than losing, right? Secondly, I have finally eaten at the Fox and it was a good experience. I had the fish and chips which was fantastic. My guest had the brisket which was also good but left a little bit to be desired in the portions departments. It was fine for her but I would have liked it to be a little larger. There was however, plenty of "chips" (read: fries) to go around, both meals left us with leftovers. With two pints of London Pride and some chips and salsa, our bill was just over thirty dollars. Let me just say that, it might have been just me but London Pride is some strong shit. It tastes a little like Smithwick's but less bitter and despite stuffing myself with fish and chips, I still had a pretty good buzz going when we left. Yay London Pride!

So, if you work in the area go check out The Fox Pub and Cafe for lunch, dinner, or drinks after work, you won't be disappointed. I'm glad The Fox has opened and Peoria now has a refuge for those of us who appreciate hockey and football (soccer if you must), two sports that generally don't get the respect they deserve. Now I know where I'll go to watch the Blackhawks make their run for Lord Stanley's Cup and the occasional Premier League match on Saturday mornings (brunch anyone?). So, cheers to the Cheesemans and cheers to The Fox, a Peoria sanctuary for the world's games.

7th of July 2011 Update: The Fox seems like it's become a pretty popular place especially on Thursday "Trivia" nights.  That is all for now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vonachen's Old Place; Peoria Institution no more

Beginning tomorrow the building at the corner of Knoxville and Prospect that was formerly VOP's will be razed, making way for a new development. VOP's closed on August 31, 2008 after nearly 52 years in business. For a short time it was known as Bud's Aged Steaks before reverting back to Vonachen's Old Place once again. There are many theories as to why the restaurant failed after so many years of success. I think the simplest of those would be that the novelty of dining in an old rail car finally wore off. Not to say that VOP's didn't have good food and a great atmosphere, I just don't think it had a customer base large enough to support the facility.
I remember eating there many times as a kid and I always made my parents request a table in the train car. It was a truly unique experience and it saddens me that someday if (god forbid) I have kids I won't be able to take them there. The train cars will be donated to the Wheels 'O' Time museum on N. Knoxville, just south of the Lake of the Woods shopping center.

For a short time in the fall of 2007 I worked at VOP's busing tables. I can say that it was a good experience. The staff was like family and the regular customers were very polite. I'm glad to say that I spent some amount of time in what will now be a part of history.

The positive side of this story is that now, the owners of Junction City can pursue other opportunities and bring in a business (or businesses) that might draw more people to the area. With the recent renovations taking place in the shopping center, I don't think anyone is surprised at this news but it is sad nonetheless. Whatever business occupies the lot where Vonachen's once stood I hope is a success. The owners of Junction City, Alexis and Elizabeth Kazzaam have done a great job in restoring the shopping center and attracting new businesses and this is undoubtedly a step in that direction.

While the majority of my memories of VOP's are good ones there is one that is not. I was working there until close on the night of Saturday October 6, 2007. Not ringing any bells? This was the night that, after an 85 win season (and the first of Lou Piniella's tenure as manager), the Chicago Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. Thus, crushing any hopes that the Northsiders would not go 100 years without a World Series Championship. It was not to be. I'll never forget standing in the bar with the cook, who was also a huge Cubs fan watching Jose Valverde pitch to Alfonso Soriano who promptly hit a pop fly to right field on an 0-2 pitch. I was crushed. But as a Cub fan that's a feeling one becomes accustomed to. Now when someone asks me where I was on that fateful night, I can say "a place that no longer exists". Cheers to Vonachen's Old Place and cheers to believing that someday we'll go all the way.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Katie McButt's Bus Tour

Last Sunday I participated in a pub crawl sponsored by Peoria institution Katie McButt's. We started at Katie's at 10 AM with doughnuts and beer, Homer Simpson eat your heart out. Just before noon we hopped on the bus which was, in fact a full size school bus. It's been ten years for me since I've been on one so I was pretty excited to make faces and moon people out the window. Since we were the cool kids we took our seats in the back so we could hop out the emergency door at each stop.

First Stop: Carrigan's Pub 5506 N. Main St. East Peoria

Located just southeast of Spring Bay Rd., Carrigan's looks like a newer bar inside and out and had some cheap drinks. A Guinness and bloody mary cost me only $8, while 16 oz domestic cans were two bucks. This place has the look and feel of a biker bar and probably is. During each quarter of every Bears game they hold a drawing that starts at $10 and rolls over. While we were there I noticed the current amount was $230. Like any good law abiding Peorian I rarely venture into Tazewell county for drinking purposes unless the sun is out, someone else is driving, or I am no longer sober enough to make responsible decisions. However, if you find yourself on the evil side of the river and reasonably sober, Carrigan's is worth checking out. After 35 minutes it was on to the next bar.

Second Stop: The Silver Bullet 135 N. Main St. EP

The Bullet is located in the shopping center that houses Harbor Freight Tools and Co-Op Records. Basically the fucking Lion's Den. I'm guessing the EP Police Dept. probably has a 30 second response time seeing as their headquarters are a stones throw away. The Bullet is probably an institution in EP but to me there's nothing really special about. Average pub food, reasonable drink prices, and a shitload of TV's. Recently, the owners of the Bullet added a smoking patio on the river side of the building. From what I've heard the city of East Peoria made them jump through all kinds of hoops to get this done, but I'm sure it was worth it in the end. Bonus: the patio does have a pretty nice view of our fair city's skyline. 35 minutes and 2 Bud Lights ($2) later it was back on the bus.

Third Stop: Club Phoenix 4602 Pfiefer Rd. Bartonville

Not surprisingly Club Phoenix isn't so much a "club" as it is a regular bar. Located atop the hill on Pfeifer Rd. it sits caddy corner to the Insane Asylum, (not sure what it's real name is but I think most of you know what I'm talking about). The last time I've even been in this area was in high school when some friends of mine may or may not have been breaking in to verify the claims that this place is haunted. I don't remember what the verdict was but the this place looks creepy even during the day. I asked a guy on a Harley, who I assumed to be local, about who owns it etc. He said that last he heard, some guy from Chicago had bought it but that was all he knew. Whatever the case may be the building looks to be in piss poor condition complete with gaping holes in the roof. Back to Club Phoenix. Nothing really special about this place except for the fact that they had a basketball hoop on the patio out back. Upon discovery of this, a game of horse ensued which I won due to my superior hooping skills. Okay, maybe it had something to do with my opponent being in his mid forties, pathetically out of shape and whiter than my ass in a snowbank. Drinks were reasonable ($2 domestics, $4 shots), 50 cent pool table, and a good atmosphere. Club Phoenix probably gets packed on the weekends as its really the only bar around.

Fourth Stop: Jimmy's Public House 2801 W. Farmington Rd. Peoria Il.

Despite the fact that Jimmy's looks like a DUI trap from Hell they do some pretty solid business and for good reason. Cheap drinks, good atmosphere, and plenty of local flavor can all be found at Jimmy's. The walls are adorned with Peoria sports memorabilia and other local nostalgia. Another great thing about Jimmy's is that they serve up man-sized shots. Basically, a shot at Jimmy's is a double anywhere else. One of the guys on the bus tour works there so we ended up staying there longer than was originally planned. Also, the leader of our tour was getting pretty sauced and our strict schedule was waived in favor of....well boozing. The only downside to this was that we had to skip our last stop, the Hillside on Sheridan, which is one of my favorite places.

After Jimmy's we hopped back on the bus where myself and a few others started a Hillside chant but to no avail. Katie McButt's was our destination and short of hijacking the school bus nothing was going to stop our driver from getting us there. Back at Katie's we were provided with hors d'ouvres and spaghetti and meatballs. The food was good but I stuffed myself and couldn't handle anymore beer. Before you judge me though, let me just reiterate that I consumed 20 some odd beers and about 8 shots in a period of 6 hours, so I think I did pretty good for myself. On the plus side, while I was sleeping off a long day of the Creature, I didn't have to watch the Bears lose! God they suck. Anyway, a good time was had by all and I'm looking forward to next year's trip. Not to mention how nice the weather was that day. It might have been one of the last good days we have so I'm glad I was able to get out and enjoy it.
I hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend and folks, let's not get too crazy on Black Friday, unless you're going to buy me a new flatscreen, in which case arm yourself to the teeth and take no prisoners!

Friday, November 20, 2009


The Fieldhouse, formerly known as Gorman's Pub is located at 1200 W. Main St. in the Campustown shopping center. The new restaurant and bar is a massive improvement over Gorman's.

It's a typical sports bar with an extensive menu and a shitload of flatscreen TV's. They also have 3 huge (8 feet by five) projector screens on opposite walls. This is just the front room and there is another bar in back with 2 more big screens and a handful of LCD's. The owners of the Fieldhouse did a fantastic job of gutting and remodeling the building. The only thing that remains of Gorman's is the bar which has been refurbished.

Drinks are a little expensive, however you can get a $3 Coors light 23 oz. everyday. But don't expect to take a shot for cheap, a Jameson straight cost me $4.50. I wasn't that hungry but knew I had better eat because a long night of boozing lay ahead of me so I ordered the garlic fries. They were good but were short on the parmesan, if they had more they would have been a lot better. There are some interesting items on the menu, especially the sandwich known as "The Mess". The Mess is a Texas toast grilled cheese with a 1/3 lb hamburger, grilled ham, fried egg, shredded cheddar and diced onions. Basically, there are more calories in this sandwich than the entire menu at McDonald's. All I can say is God bless America, we are the only country in the world that uses a fried egg as a fucking sandwich topping, take that Al-Quaida!

The Fieldhouse is going to make a lot of money, it's a great environment in a great location, with good food. How the owner of Gorman's managed to run that place into the ground I will never know, maybe he had a coke addiction or something or maybe he was just an idiot. With that many students within walking distance it would seem almost impossible to fail. I don't think The Fieldhouse will have that problem.

I like that this bar pays homage to a Peoria landmark that is now gone. I like it even more that they have enough TV's to literally watch every sporting event that is taking place at any point in time. So if there's a big game or twenty big games that you want to watch, then go to The Fieldhouse. If you feel like having a heart attack or rendering yourself completely worthless for the next 3-4 hours try The Mess, it sounds good if your into that sort of thing, which you probably are because you were born in America. Fuck yeah!

Update: The last time I went here the place was absolutely packed. The garlic fries were much better the second time around and I had a grilled chicken sandwich that was pretty good. My guest said she really liked the sweet potato fries.

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Peoria Institution: Dome Tap

The Dome Tap is located at 2305 W. Lincoln Ave. in south Peoria. I think it's safe to say that this is a pretty rough neighborhood, especially at night. I don't think I would ever be concerned unless there weren't that many people in the bar or I closed the place down. I went down to the Dome about 4:00 to catch the after-work crowd and ended up staying till about 9:00. The crowd got significantly more rowdy as the night progressed, especially when the karaoke started.

I'm going to go ahead and add Dome Tap to the list of Peoria Institutions for several reasons. First: it's age. This place is probably one of the oldest bars in town that has operated continuously I couldn't find anything online that actually confirms it's age but there were a few clues. The entrance to Dome Tap is adorned with a tile mosaic with the Gipps Beer logo on it. I'm not quite sure when they closed the Gipps brewery here in Peoria, but according to a Q&A with Pete Vonachen and the Journal Star in 2003 it was somewhere in the mid 50's which would have been MANY years after the height of its popularity, here's the excerpt:

Q: You ended up in an ad for Gipps?
A: Yes, I did an ad for Gipps in like, 1951 or '52. I was probably one of their best customers so they used me in an that tried to promote Gipps beer. Now right shortly after that they closed down.
Q: You jinxed them?
A: Yeah I guess I must have.

If I had to guess I'd say that the Gipps mosaic is original (or close to it) and that Dome Tap has been around since the early 20's. Above the bar is a stained glass Dome, hence the Dome Tap. The Dome is definitely original and I don't think I've ever seen a more original ornament hanging above a bar.

The drinks were cheap, $1 PBR and Old Style drafts, Bud family we'll cost you 2 bucks. Thursday night at the Dome means $2 Cuervo shots. I did not partake in any tequila because unfortunately it doesn't make my clothes fall off as much as it makes me want to fight anyone and everyone in the room. The $1 PBR's were working out just fine and a good time was had by all. The bar seats 12-15 and the sign above the bar said the maximum capacity was 47. By the end of the night there were definitely 47 people in there, maybe more. Also, this bar is Altoid tin friendly for you 20 percenters out there. The Dome is a typical dive bar so the bathrooms are small and dirty. Which makes me wonder were people smaller back in the day? Or was space at a premium, because every old bar I've been into has tiny bathrooms. The Dome was no different. I'm only 5' 8" and if I had sat down on the toilet, I'm pretty sure my knees would have touched the door.

So, the Dome Tap is definitely an institution and a must see for any native Peorian. If you are at all intimidated by the neighborhood, go check it out during the day. The neighborhood may not be nice but the folks in the Dome Tap sure are, they even clapped at my drunken off-key rendition of "Pride and Joy"! That's got to count for something, right?
Cheers to Dome Tap!

Update: The Dome has apparently closed due to unpaid rent, no word yet on when it will re-open.
According to this note left on the front door of the Dome, this amount of rent was due in late March. Hopefully the bar will re-open soon.
Update II: There is now a for rent sign outside the Dome, hopefully someone will take up the challenge of running this joint as it's been around forever. But for now, R.I.P. Dome Tap.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Northeast Adams Stretch: Amy's Anchor Club (Now Veteran's Pub and Pizza)

Amy's Anchor Club is located at 2525 NE Adams St. in Peoria. You can only see the sign if you are driving towards downtown as it hangs above a window on the northeast side of the building. When my two friends and I walked in, there were some odd looks, I'm guessing this was because we were the only white people in the bar. The only special that night (this past Saturday) was MGD 64 for $1.50. I've never had one and I heard they suck so I ordered a tall blonde. The Miller High Life cost me 2 bucks and PBR's were the same, no drafts, bottles only.

The bar was really nice; a couple of flatscreens, lots of blue lights, and of course, nautical decorations. There is a kind of half wall seperating two pool tables from the bar area. Up against this wall on the bar side is a shuffleboard table. I asked the bartender for the pucks and my friend and I started to play with the rules he learned at The Illinois State University. In the other room with the pool tables, there was a DJ (or maybe just some guy who works there) playing music from his laptop. Now, normally I'm not usually a fan of having no say in what is being pumped through the sound system but this guy had some good picks, mostly old soul, R&B, and blues. Also on the "pool side" was a table with some crock pots, apparently somebody was having a pot luck.

Side note: at least Notre Dame lost to a ranked opponent this week, but losing to a team coached by Dave Wannstedt always hurts.

After watching ND lose and losing my first game of shuffle, something interesting happened. A few people in the bar turned around in their barstools and started watching our second game. Eventually, a guy approached me and asked how to play. It was then that I realized that apparently, shuffleboard is a white guy's game and never looked interesting enough until my freinds and I started getting competitive and talking shit to each other. So, I obliged this guy (who I'll call Dre) and we started playing, it didn't take long for him to catch on and he eventually beat me 15-13. He then showed his girlfriend how to play and she beat him. Ahhhh, the circle of life. Not to say that no one in Amy's knew how to play shuffleboard prior to Saturday night but I think at least a couple of folks in there got hooked. Maybe the next time I go to Amy's, people will be gathered around the shuffleboard table instead of the pool tables.
The most unique thing about Amy's are the bathrooms. There are no sinks in either bathrooms but a common sink sits just outside of them. This way, everybody knows if you use the john and don't wash your hands afterwards. Also, they are the cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen in a dive bar or any bar downtown for that matter.

As we were about to leave, Dre asked me if I wanted to join him in enjoying a "cigar". As we were enjoying this fine Jamaican stogie, we watched a State cop who had pulled someone over and was lining up beer bottles on the curb....ouch.

Amy's Anchor Club seems like a fun place. It is definitely the most lively place I've been to on the NE Adams Stretch. Cheap drinks, good times can be had at Amy's.

Update: It seems that Amy's has closed. For the past three Saturdays or so, the bar has been closed at night. Not sure if it is temporary or permanent.
Update II: The past few times I have driven by, it looks as if people are working inside. Amy's may be getting ready to re-open.
Update III: The sign bearing the anchor club logo has been removed, the building next to Amy's has been completely torn down. On the roof there are now several military related flags flying and a temporary sign reads "Guess Who's Coming Back?", or something like that.
Update IV: There's a new sign on top of Amy's it reads "Veterans Pub and Pizza Coming Soon". Sounds like I'm going to have to add a "Gone But Not Forgotten" tag to this post.
Update V: Amy's has changed hands and is now Veteran's Pub and Pizza, will provide a new review eventually.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Roger's Place

Roger's Place is a great little hole in the wall located at 1923 SW Adams St. just south of downtown Peoria. I went there last night after work to have a few before the Bears game. Roger's is a one room bar with 30 stools, no tables and a smaller than usual pool table. The table looks really old and I can't think of another place where I have seen one the same size. One side of the table is only about four feet from the wall but the bar provides shooters with a short stick in case you have to shoot from that side.

I walked into Roger's about 7:00 and there were only three people inside, including the bartender who is called Booter. I think it is a safe bet that this is a nickname, I can't really picture anyone actually naming their child Booter but I guess anything is possible. Roger's has two beers on draft: PBR and Bud Light. The PBR goes for $0.75 and the Bud Light will cost you $1.00. I thought I would splurge so I ordered a Bud Light. To the suppossed 20% of you reading this, Roger's Place is Altoid tin friendly, if you don't know what this means, I guess you'll just have to find out for yourself. You can also buy six packs of Blatz for $5.00 (awesome!), and 40 ounces of King Cobra or Steel Reserve.

After about 40 minutes the place started to fill up with regulars. The first ones to arrive were two Mexicans, one spoke fluent English, the other did not. Javier told me that he had just come from a DUI class, where he translated for his friend, which I found hilarious. He said it was fun and he heard some good stories. So, basically after attending a court ordered Dry Roads class, Javier's buddy needed a drink and Roger's Place was the watering hole of choice. Anyone who has ever had to go through one of these guilt trip sessions probably has felt the same way. They are like AA meetings without the actual intention of not drinking AND they are required AND you have to pay for them.

I took a picture of the bathroom sink because I don't think I've ever seen one like it. I swear to god the bathroom was two feet by two feet. It had a NO SOLICITING sign on the door, which I assume is some joke about prostitution.

One last thing about Roger's Place, if you are a pool player the following house rules apply if you want to hold the table. First, you must make the eight ball with a bank shot to win the game. Secondly, if you scratch trying to make the eight ball, you do not lose. In other words the game continues until someone makes a bank eight. I thought this was cool because it makes the game last longer and with the smaller table, is significantly easier to do than on a full size (7 foot) bar table. Also, bars that have house rules mean that the same guys play there all the time, in other words, there is almost always competition. I played Booter for two games, lost the first and won the second, despite the fact that he was obviously better than me.

Roger's Place is your typical hole in the wall with regular customers. It seems like it would be a fun place on the weekends. I'm guessing that a lot of craziness goes on here. On top of that, Booter told me that Willie York has been hanging out there a lot lately. So if you want an opinion on just about anything, maybe you can go down to Roger's and have a little talk with Willie! I know I have always found his semi-incoherent slurs to be very enlightening.
Cheers to Roger's Place!

Update - I've really grown fond of this place and the characters in it. Several times, people at the bar have thrown down some cash to buy a half pint for Willie who stops in from time to time. Booter is a great bartender and a fun guy to talk to. Kenny and Donnie are two brothers who sit at the Adams St. end of the bar and are nothing short of hilarious. Kenny's catchphrase is Yah Right! This place is a real solid boozer and is usually busiest from 5 - 8 on the weekdays. It gets kind of slow after that and is a good place to waste away by yourself if you're looking for solitude.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Northeast Adams Stretch: Dixie's Dungeon and Averyville By Chance

I'm not really sure why there are so many bars on NE Adams in Peoria. It doesn't seem like a huge population center (at least not one that would neccessitate 8 or 9 bars in a 2 mile stretch). Whatever the reason, most of these taverns have been around for a long time. My girlfriend and I went out last night and hit up two of these fine (?) establishments and are planning more trips to check out the rest of them. Here's the breakdown from last night.

First Stop: Dixie's Dungeon 1227 NE Adams

For some reason if you look for bars on NE Adams online there are two entries for this address; Cookie's and Dixie's, apparently this bar is now known ad Dixie's Dungeon. Aesthetically speaking I think referring to Dixie's as a dungeon is a good analogy. It's a small, cramped place seperated into two rooms, one with the bar and another for billiards. Despite the fact that Dixie's has an Adams St. address, the only entrance is on Spring St. When you walk in you'll find yourself looking straight at a bar with about 20 stools. There's a good size flatscreen in the middle (something I suspect is a rarity amongst Adams St. bars), to your left are 6 poker machines, that I assume, like most dives, probably pay out. At the end of this row is an ATM machine, probably because the bar doesn't accept plastic. Also in this front room is a cigarette machine (yes apparently they still exist) one of only two or three that I know of in Peoria. My girlfriend and I ordered two Miller Light drafts for $1.50 each and I was happy to see they were in the full size pint glasses. The bartender was very personable and my girlfriend immediately started a good conversation with her while I searched via the remote for the Blackhawks game on TV. Side note; any place you go where the bartender gives you the remote so you can find what you want to watch is a good place in my book. The beer was cold and the atmosphere was real laid back, of the three other people in Dixie's last night I had good conversations with two of them. The third was a really old guy who looked like he was super drunk and I couldn't understand him that well. In between our first and second beers I took down Dixie's weekly specials.

Sun: $2 vodka drinks
Mon: free food (not sure what kind) and $1 Miller bottles
Tue: $2 Miller Lt. bottles
Wed:$2 wells
Thu: $2 Miller Lt. cans (not sure if the bottles cost more or what thats all about)
Fri: $10 buckets 'o' beer
Sat: $12 buckets 'o' beer

Second Stop: Averyville by Chance 2803 NE Adams

First off, in case you weren't aware the general area that most of these bars fall under is called Averyville and has been for a really long time (when most Peorians actually lived downtown). This bar has had this name for as long as I can remember so it might be encroaching upon "institution" status. I'd really like to go here in the summertime because my impression is that this is a huge Cubs bar. The cabinets behind the bar are all painted red and Cubbie blue, with lots of Cub memoribilia everywhere and the bartender (owner maybe?) was wearing a Cubs hat. Also, my girlfriend said that the girls' bathroom had pro Cubs/anti-Cardinal graffitti all over, yet the guys' had none, so maybe its a Cubs/lesbian bar. Unfortunately, they only have two old rear projection TV's to watch games on. There were three beers on tap; Bud, Bud Light, and PBR (awesome), I had a Red, White, and Blue and started checking the place out. For those of you who like to shoot stuff but can't actually go through with killing a living thing, there is a Big Buck Hunter machine as well as some poker machines, two dartboards, and a pool table. The bar seats about twenty and there are tables and chairs for twenty more, definitely way bigger than Dixie's. It was a cool place but there wasn't really that much going on, so we finished our drinks and moved uptown to check out some bars on Wisconsin Ave. However, I'm guessing that on the weekends Averyville By Chance gets pretty packed and might be worth checking out. Before we left I got the weekly specials.

Sun: $1.50 drafts
Mon: $1.50 drafts
Tue: $2 Monster (energy drink) bombs
Wed: $2 Bud family bottles, $2 UV bombs
Thu: $9 buckets
Fri: $3 Monster bombs
Sat: $3.50 well pints

Cheers to Dixie's and Averyville, for being the kind of laid back dives I have come to love. The next time you find yourself at the bottom of the hill, skip all the downtown bullshit and cruise on up to NE Adams. At least you won't have to pay upwards of three bucks for a Bud Light.

Update: Dixie's has been closed for a few months now with no signs of re-opening. Averyville by Chance is owned by a guy named Chance (duh!) and he is super cool for many reasons, the least of which being his love for Trailer Park Boys. On Sundays, Chance provides his patrons with a nice spread of hot dogs, brats, and usually salsa. Last point, this is a huge Cubs bar, so if you're a fan of another team, don't expect to watch them if the Boys In Blue are playing.
Update II: Dixie's re-opened a few months ago and originally had a sign that said 745 Tap. That sign is gone now but the bar remains open. Also Averyville by Chance has been closed for about a month (I think). Will provide more information as it becomes available.
Update III: I'm still not sure what Dixie's is now called as there is no signage at all on the bar. Secondly, Averyville has been closed for about eight months with no signs of re-opening.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Peoria Institution: Katie McButts

Katie McButt's is located at 2440 N. Knoxville Avenue in Peoria. If you have ever driven towards downtown on Knoxville, you have probably noticed an Irish flag painted just outside the front entrance of Katie's on a wall facing north. This bar has been around for a long time, probably about 30 or so years. A friend of mine told me that long before it was Katie's, the bar was called the Turf Club and was  pretty hip place in the 60's and 70's. The bartender, Trevor has been serving drinks at the East Bluff tavern for the past 15 years and is as good a bartender as you could hope for, especially if you get to know him. Every time I have ever gone to Katie's, Trevor has always bought me a shot and/or a beer.

Among their specialties are 18 beers on tap (with one tapper of root beer) and the best Guinness combos in town. Try a Half and Half (Guinness and Harp), Belgian Waffle (Guinness and Blue Moon), or an Irish-American (Guinness and PBR or Old Style), all for only $3.75. Among their other drafts are Killian's, Honey Brown, Smithwicks, Beamish, Coors Light, Spaten, Moose Drool, Miller Lite, Old Style, PBR, Harp, Smithwick's, and several other. Out of the 18 drafts, almost all are "regulars" with only a few that rotate. Imports are $3.75 while domestics are $2.75.

Despite the location, Katie's is generally a safe place to stop in for a drink. A few years back, a robbery took place. Luckily though, only a handful of people were in the bar at the time. I consider this to be an isolated incident as this is the only such robbery to have taken place in recent history. The bottom line is that Katie's is no more dangerous than a night out downtown. The crowd is friendly and on nights when the dart league takes place McButt's is a lively place to be. The bar does not have a pool table but has three dartboards, a Silver Strike machine, and several poker machines.

A friend of mine recently told me about his 21st birthday at Katie's where he took "The Challenge". Behind the bar is a large copper tub which holds ice and beer mugs. On the front of this tub are the 19 drafts. To the left of the tub, above the cash register are two bottles of Irish whiskey, upside down, with pouring mechanisms on them. The first is Tullamore Dew (rough!) and the second is one of my personal favorites, Jameson. "The Challenge" as my friend called it, is to drink one of all 18 beers (and the root beer) going from right to left. When you get to the end of the line, you must take a shot of Tullamore then Jameson to complete the challenge. I can only imagine how drunk one would be at the end of this excursion but it still sounds like fun. Plus, then you can brag to your friends about your completion of one of the more unique and ridiculous drinking games there are! And while 18 beers may not sound like much, keep in mind the brews involved in this challenge run the gamut from Belgian white ale, to Irish lagers, to American pilsners, and everything in between. If you think you can handle the challenge, drink a Miller Lite, Smithwick's Guinness, Harp, Old Style, then PBR in that order to test your insides. That sequence makes up the heart of the batting order for "The Challenge."

As for food, you can always get a Butch's pizza and a bag of chips. Katie's also has fifty cent chili dogs every Saturday (11 AM- 5PM), which Trevor informed me is the reason for having root beer on tap.

I've listed Katie McButt's as a Peoria Institution because of it's age and atmosphere. Personally, I cannot think of another bar in town that is locally owned (with the possible exception of Crusen's) that has more beers on tap, this adds to Katie McButt's uniqueness.

Another unique thing about Katie's, is that it holds baseball dual citizenship. Mac, the owner, is a Cardinals fan and there are several St. Louis mementos in the bar. The bartender Trevor, however, is a die-hard Cubs fan (as if there were any other kind). So, when Mac is occupying his seat in the tavern, it's a Cardinals bar but as soon as he leaves, Katie's magically transforms into a Cubs bar. If it is a slow night at Katie's, Trevor will turn the juke box off and turn up the game. Seeing as he had fond memories of both ball clubs, I think Harry Caray would find himself right at home here, especially with Budweiser on tap.

The atmosphere at Katie's is much like other older taverns that are located in a neighborhood, or in Katie watching the news. Around seven, they'll clear out and business will be pretty slow until nine or so when the regulars start creeping in. Katie's is hardly ever busy. The only exceptions to this rule are when a band is playing (not often) or when a group of professionals from downtown decide to take a chance and check out the East Bluff tavern for after-work drinks.

This past New Year's Eve, my friends and I made Katie's our bar for the night. Knowing that every place in Peoria was going to be packed, I came up with the idea to make Katie's our home base. It couldn't have worked out better. From nine until almost midnight, we had the bar to ourselves and even after people started showing up, there was still plenty of room to be comfortable. I'm not sure why it is that more people don't frequent McButt's and I'm not complaining because it's a great place to go and watch a Cubs game in peace. But I will say, if you're looking for a place to meet some friends that isn't too crowded and has a friendly atmosphere, Katie's is the place.

So, if you live in the East Bluff, I suggest making Katie's your local watering hole. If you don't live around the area, Katie's is still worth a shot (or two).

Cheers to Katie McButt's fro keeping the neighborhood tavern tradition alive and well!

P.S. Katie's, in keeping with the way things used to be in Ireland, is not open on Sundays

Friday, October 30, 2009

Peoria Institution: Mike's Tavern

Mike's Tavern is one of my favorite places in Peoria. It is located at 626 W. Cedar in West Peoria. Mike's is also known as "Mike's Stand Up Tap". This is because there are a limited number of barstools (three) and the only other seats are some vintage school desks, you know, the one's that have the desk attached to the chair and were apparently made before people wrote left handed. Mike's oozes character; lots of dust, old beer signs, worn out bar, and even a pay phone inside! It's like walking into a time capsule except for that the house beer is Bud Light instead of Hamm's or Blatz (which they probably have if you wanted one). The only draft beers are Busch and Bud Light, anything else you might want comes in a can.

Mike's has a great story behind it which adds to its charm. When you pull up in one of the three parking spots directly in front of the bar, you might say "this place looks like an old garage" well that's because it is. That's right, years before Mike's Tavern became a friendly neighborhood tavern it held the cars of whoever lived in the house adjacent to it. Turning your garage into a bar is every red blood American man's dream and in West Peoria that dream has come true. Mike's underwent it's conversion in the 70's and was a much different place than it is today. Back in the day Mike's was a stag bar, meaning females were not allowed. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that the original owner went to great lengths to avoid his wife and wanted to ensure that the guys in the neighborhood could do the same. The only way women could get a drink from the bar was through a window behind the bar where girls from the neighborhood and Bradley could buy six packs. Times have changed and now women are allowed in Mike's, however most days (and nights) the majority of patrons are men.

Mike's Tavern is a no frills, old school neighborhood tavern. No flatscreens, no overpriced drinks, no deutschbags in cargo shorts listening to Seether. If you go to Mike's you might get a few looks from the regulars but that's probably just because they consider it to be a well kept secret and would like to keep it that way.

The hours are erratic, usually depending on the mood of the owner or whoever is tending bar and how many people are in there at the time. Most nights Mike's stays open till 1 AM and usually opens around noon. So, if you've never been to Peoria or been here your whole life Mike's is a must see and if it's not your cup of tea then frankly, you have no respect for tradition and are an idiot. Go check it out and see for yourself!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Peoria Institutions

Today I would just like to provide a list of taverns that I consider to be Peoria institutions. The common thread among these establishments is that they have all been around for a long time and still have the same name as when they were established (some with the same owners). Eventually I will get to writing extensive reviews about these places but for now a simple list will suffice. Some of these taverns are located in somewhat questionable neighborhoods but I can attest that at each and every one of them you will be treated well by both the regulars and the bartenders. I will list the taverns in order of what I consider to be their importance to their respective communities, historical significance, and uniqueness. There are assuredly more bars that can be considered "institutions" and as time goes on I will add them to this list.

Edward Gilles Tap 9919 W. US Highway 150 Kickapoo (309) 691 2021

Castle's Patio Inn 802 W. Loucks Peoria (309) 685 9570

Mike's Tavern 626 N. Cedar West Peoria

Katie McButt's 2440 N. Knoxville Peoria (309) 682 6916

Edwards Tap 10004 Powder Mill Rd. Edwards (309) 673 5515

Last Chance 2713 W. Second St. Peoria (309) 253 5036

The Hillside 1745 N. Sheridan Rd. (309) 686 0206

The Variety Club 123 E. Washington St. East Peoria (309) 694 9023

Tartan Inn 428 N. Waverly Ave. West Peoria (309) 676 1533

Owl's Nest 2128 W. Callender Ave. West Peoria (309) 676 0853

Dome Tap 2305 W. Lincoln Ave. Peoria (309) 637 6851

Tina's Coach Stop 3522 W. Lincoln Ave. Peoria

Garden Gate Tap 1313 W. Garden St. Peoria (309) 637-4826

Double A's Pizza

Double A's Pizza is located on Willow Knolls Rd. at the corner of Radnor Rd. It is a brand new building that opened up a couple of months ago. I never visited their old location off Pioneer Parkway but I have little doubt that their new digs are an improvement. Upon entering the new Double A's the first thing I noticed is that they have a shitload of flatscreens. I counted twenty, with ten above the bar. Just about every time I drive by this place at night it is packed, especially on the weekends which means over a hundred people. The bar seats about twenty and they have about five or six large booths with probably twenty tables in the middle.

They have decently priced drink specials including four different versions of Hurricanes which sound like they would get you pretty smashed (especially the category four). The food is good but a little over priced, a large Deluxe pizza (basically a supreme) will cost a little under twenty bucks, even though it is only 16 inches across. The pizza is served on a super thin crust (no deep dish here) and cut into squares. It was good but nothing spectacular. They do have some specialty pizzas like Hawaiian and Barbeque Chicken as well as burgers, sandwiches, and a ton of appetizers. They have good wings (get the bone in ones though) but their hottest sauce really isn't that hot.

The fact that this a new location for Double A's probably has a lot to do with their success, as it is in a location where their isn't much else around. Double A's is a great place to take the family to eat or to watch a game with your buddies. However, if you don't like crowded restaurants I would suggest going early and on a weeknight.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Last Hurrah

The Last Hurrah is located in the Northpoint shopping center off N. Knoxville. It's a couple doors down from Firehouse Pizza. As far as I know this bar has been there for quite some time (at least 20 years). I've been told that during the 80's and 90's the Last Hurrah was "the place to be". Since then I think they've seen a drop-off in attendance which (I think) makes it an even better place to go.

The bartender who works there the most is known as Tex (I think it has something to do with his last name). He's a big dude who looks like he might have spent some time in a boxing ring. The guy is an absolute pro. Tex has been tending bar at the Last Hurrah for 15 years or so. He's a laid back guy with a good sense of humor. I say he has a good sense of humor because he usually wears a Cubs shirt which means he has to laugh off many a (usually bad) Cubs joke, coming from some Cardinals fan. If you patron the Last Hurrah 3 times in a two week period, Tex will most likely remember your name, or at least, your drink.

Beyond Tex there are plenty of other reasons to make the Last Hurrah one of your regular stops. First they have dollar drafts EVERY DAY. Obviously they are served in the smaller 8 oz. glasses but this is still a good deal. They also have cheap shots and good mixed drinks, you know, the ones where you can actually taste the booze!

Second, they have a nice new crackbox with tons of trivia and other games (not quite sure what is all on there, my girlfriend usually plays the machine while I watch baseball) as well as Silver Strike, Golden Tee and darts. There is only one pool table but it's really not that hard to get a game in, except for Thursday nights when the Pool League holds the table from 8ish to 10ish. There's usually this middle aged guy in there who is an amazing pool player and tries to shark people. He's cool but can be annoying, he's got a calling card though so you'll know who he is. So, if you are at the Last Hurrah and a 40 something guy wearing glasses says "I'll buy you a beer if you play me", what he means is "I'll buy you a beer if you play me, then you'll win because I'll let you, then I'll try to get you to play me for another beer, if you do I'll let you win again then I'll start trying to play for money". In other words, if you wanna play a couple games and get some beers cool, but once he starts saying "Awwww c'mon lets play for a buck" prepare to lose some cash.

Beyond the entertainment and cheap drinks, the Last Hurrah has another thing going for it; the TV's! They've got two 40 inch LCD's two slightly smaller ones, and an old rear projection in the corner near the pool table. Now, this might not seem like alot but when you take into account that the bar is only twenty feet long, it is. Not only do they have a good amount of TV's for the size of the bar but the bartender will actually ask you want you want to watch! I've been in there before when the place was almost empty and Tex went ahead and turned every TV on the Cubs game, he even put the sound on, awesome.

So, if you've never been to the Last Hurrah before I'd advise you to check it out. That is, if you like laid back, neighborhood taverns where you can get your drinks quickly and cheaply and watch the game. Obviously, the place must be doing something right, it's been there for a long time, even when the Northpoint shopping center did not have much, there was always the Last Hurrah.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bananas Alehouse and Eatery

First of all let me just say that when this bar opened my friends and I went there all the time. It is located on Willow Knolls Rd. between Allen and Radnor which is very close to where most of my friends (boozehounds) live. We used to go up there every Thursday because they have $2 U Call - Its. We were the regulars and could pretty much do whatever we want. Some examples would be: smoking pot/cigarettes in the bathroom (post smoking ban) being loud and unruly, and generally obstructing normal people (non boozehounds) who were trying to enjoy their pinot noir or whatever stupid fucking drink they were drinking that costed more than 2 bucks. It was fun and sadly now it is just lame.

Beyond Thursdays the only good night to go there is Saturday when they have one dollar wells. By the way, I still feel like I'm getting ripped off by paying one dollar for a shot of Ten High. What, was Big Lots out of fucking Kessler? One good thing about Bananas is that they probably have the highest ratio of hot chicks to not hot chicks on Peoria's Northside. However, as many an experienced drinker will tell you wherever there are hot chicks getting plastered on dollar vodka tonics, there will inevetably be an inordinate number of sleazy douchebags in Affliction t-shirts. Six months ago you couldn't throw a rock in LA, NY, or Chicago without hitting some wanna-be trendsetter with one these shirts and fucking scarf (so your neck is cold but your arms aren't?) and now these hideous clothes have finally made their way to Peoria. The Affliction t-shirt fan club apparently meets every Saturday night at Bananas to discuss how awesome Seether is and drop crappy pickup lines on hot milfs and young up and comers in whore heels. Awesome.

Now, I will provide all you guys and girls out there with the real problem afflicting (see what I did there) this poor excuse for a bar. If your only goal for going out on a particular night is to pick up a piece of strange, or you wish you could afford more Ed Hardy shirts this place might be right for you. However if you have any intention of tracking more than one sporting event, you, my poor uninformed friend are shit out of luck. That is because Bananas has only one TV. That's right One. Fucking. Television.

On a recent Saturday, the majority of my friends (wastoids) were at Bananas and I was the Last Hurrah (a REAL bar) watching the ND Purdue game. I wanted to go there (you know 1TVBar) and join them but not until I was assured by one of my less drunk friends that he would make sure that Notre Dame football would be on. When I arrived, the 1TVBar was showing Texas Tech vs. Who Cares! It Texas Tech for fucks sake! Immediately I wanted to lace into this idiot, because on a Saturday night it takes approximately 1 hour to change the channel. He then informed me that someone had actually requested that the channel be changed to the Tech game. So I asked the bartender to change it back, which he did. In between the 3rd and 4th quarters I went outside to smoke and when I came back in I found myself watching Penn State vs. Iowa. Sigh. The two guys sitting next to me were the perpetrators of this act so I could not vent my frustration freely (was still too sober to start shit). So I did what any responsible fan would do and asked for the remote. So, for the next 30 minutes I dutifully switched back and forth between the two games, a task which I performed admirably due to years of armchair quarterbacking. Actually, I did it so well that a complete fucking stranger came up and congratulated me on my remote control prowess. So, ND won, Penn State lost and 1TVBar is officially on the shit list.

When this place first opened I understood that maybe it would take them a while to get a couple more LCD's but almost 3 years later it has not happened! This is an indefensible act.

Other notes on 1TVBar. The food sucks (except for Butch's pizza, which is always good) and you can only get it during the day. All they make is crappy sandwiches, chips and salsa and a buffet that has chili and some form of chicken tortilla soup that isn't as good as the retarded shit I put together after a night of hard drinking and usually involves noodles and leftover chicken wings. Another thing that drives me nuts about this shithole is the bathroom. There's a toilet and a urinal but for some reason whenever some D-Bag goes in there he locks the door like he has some embarassing medical condition that requires him to sit down when he pees. Whenever this would happen before I would just jiggle the handle until it unlocked itself (much to the dismay of Mr. Stage Fright) and went in there and pissed but now they have replaced that lock and it is no longer possible (trust me I've tried).

To sum up, if you just wanna go out, catch the game and get your drinks in a reasonable amount of time, don't go here on any Saturday or Thursday. The rest of the week is OK, except for the fact that the jukebox must be kept at the lowest level possible until 8:00 because of the fucking nail salon next door. Also Crazy Lady is there alot, I'll explain her later.

Update I: Monday nights are free pool and $4 domestic pitchers, Tuesdays are $2 Heineken and Shocktop and $3 Monster bombs

Update II: Banana's is under fire from the city liquor commision. Apparently they have a class 2 (I think) liquor license that requires them to have 25 or 30% of their profits be from food sales. Apparently, their lackluster menu wasn't quite cutting it because they've been using sales of things like orange juice and counting it as food. They'll probably get fined. Honestly I don't understand why they don't just pop for the class 1 liquor license. If they hadn't spent a bunch of money by having lawyers fight this thing, they might have had enough cash get the class 1 LL.

First Post

Hello there internet! Welcome to the Peoria Bar Review. The purpose of this blog will be to give visitors to and natives of Peoria insights into the goings on of many of our fine drinking establishments and offer tips to avoid the following: knife fights, getting mugged, being arrested, hanging out with douchbags, and many of the other dangers involved with participating in Peoria's lively Saloon Society.

I will offer unbiased reviews of bars and sometimes restaurants in the Peoria area so you can find the spot that is right for your nights out on the town. This blog will cover every bar from the friendly neighborhood tavern to the hole in the wall on the South End to the most obscenely douchebag filled, overpriced and overrated bars on the Northside. Sometimes this blog will be unkind and offensive. So if you don't like harsh language go to some bar/restaurant review website where you can find a small number of reviews (Peorians generally give/get their opinions by word of mouth) that aren't very helpful at all.

Outside of my reviews I will occasionally comment on goings on in and around Peoria. If you have a bar or restaurant that you have always wondered about feel free to contact to me and I will get to it as soon as I can. I will do my best to update this blog as often as possible.