Friday, December 3, 2010

Ron Santo February 25, 1940 - December 2, 2010

Cubs legend Ron Santo, one of the greatest third-basemen of all time and without a doubt the Heart and Soul of the Chicago Cubs dies last night at age 70. I wish I had more time to write a longer post about Ronnie and maybe I will later but for right now I'll provide you with some links of what other writers are saying about This Old Cub.

R.I.P Ronnie

The Trib

Desipio - So long, Big Boy

Aisle 424

Hire Jim Essian

Rob Neyer - Why Isn't Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame?

LA Times

Kent Sterling - Shame on the Hall of Fame Veteran's Comittee

ESPN - Santo Remembered, the Playing Days

"This Old Cub" theatrical trailer, this one makes me cry

I can't even imagine how different next year's radio broadcasts will be. I loved listening to Ron and Pat on WGN, it will never be the same. I've never met Ron Santo but I feel like I've known him my whole life.

Cheers Ronnie, you will be missed, Go Cubs

Monday, November 29, 2010

News Around Town/Kouri's is Now Officially on the Shitlist

A couple quick bits of news. First, in case you've been living under a rock, an awesomely bad robbery took place last week at Agatucci's. The owners pulled out their pieces, chased the would-be robber into the street, where shots were fired and (in my mind's eye) the owners said something bad ass like "the next time you pull that shit, I'll stick my gun up your ass and pull the trigger till it goes click," or something like that.

Secondly, I heard a rumor that the owners of the Elbo Room (and now, apparently, the Sports Page) will close the Elbo and move their operations to Sports Page. Also, a friend of the PBR recently admitted to drunkenly ripping the toilet in the men's bathroom at Elbo Room from its moorings several years ago. This could explain why every time I go in there, it looks like the Great Deluge and not the kind Raoul Duke would approve of. Despite the fact that the facilities at Elbo Room resemble a public restroom in NYC, I always have a good time at that place and get quick and friendly service. The same cannot be said for a certain north Peoria bar called Kouri's.

If you weren't aware, Kouri's (formerly Mulligan's) has been reviewed by the PBR before and the results weren't that great. Now, I can officially put Kouri's on the shitlist for several reasons.

1. Douchebags
The place was filled with them, no more needs to be said on this topic.

2. Crappy service
Upon entering Kouri's I stepped up to the outside bar where I was ignored by several members of the wait-staff until finally the bartender gave me (half) his attention. While he looked over the top of my head, I ordered a pitcher and some shots. The drinks came and he blurted out the total. No, "did you want to run a tab?" just the total. He may as well have said "give me your fucking money and don't bother me until you're out of booze and I can get more of your money." That's exactly the way I felt. The best part? He didn't even give me glasses to go with the pitcher, I had to ask for them. How in The Fuck am I supposed to drink a pitcher without a glass? It would be one thing if it were just me but apparently people don't like to drink out of the same  receptacle.

3. Ridiculously expensive drinks
$8.50 for a pitcher, 'nuff said

That's all for now folks! Be sure to leave your hate in the comments section, it's the only thing that keeps this site going.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Irish Villa

Holy shit it's hot out there! Is this September 20th or August 20th? Anyway, before I hand over the reigns to the newest PBR staff member, Fontana, I just wanted share a couple of things with our readers.

In case you didn't notice, there's a new poll up on the top right hand side of the page. I encourage you to vote early and often just like they do in Chicago. The Peoria Bar Review's one year anniversary is fast approaching and we would really like to know how you are going to celebrate. As for myself, well, I'll figure that out when the day comes. I'll do a full post on this subject later but for now you've got a review to read.

And now, what you've all been waiting for, the long awaited premiere of the newest PBR staffer. Fontana, take it away..........

Thank you! Thank you! This feels like home already. While I know I can't compare to the talented and eloquent Chief, hopefully you will enjoy my stay here at the PBR as much as I do. My first trip into the world of bars (as a reviewer that is) was almost so good it was bad. We had such a great time and good food that it will be hard for the other places to match up. Which locale set the bar so high you ask?

The Irish Villa!

Located at 3333 Northeast Adams Street in Peoria, I was at first worried about entering. The parking lot was deserted and the windows seemed dark. I thought the chances of a shanking were good. But upon entering, the atmosphere was warm and inviting. Game machines lined the wall to your left and a well stocked bar (complete with rotating Budweiser Clydesdale lights) to your right. We had a few beers and ordered some food. The owner gladly put the football game on t.v. and we made small talk from across the bar.

I am a sucker for festivals and games that will take my money - so you can imagine my delight when my eye caught the Claw Machine! Heaven! It was in a back room with a number of great bar games - Golden Tee, Darts, Pool Table, and a really badass pinball machine called "Fire." So we played some games and won some prizes.

Our group didn't dine on the most traditional Irish fare, but the food was delicious! The Chief had a steak which I believe he is going to tell you all about, and I ordered a BBQ sandwich and fries. The BBQ was seasoned to perfection and the bun soft and moist. When given the choice between regular french fries and river fries, I went with the former, but have no doubt that the latter would have been great as well. Eitak had a salad and the accompanying garlic breadsticks would put any pizza or Italian place to shame. 

It was clear however, that the time to dine there is St. Patrick's Day. When talking to owner, Bob Buchanan he said they order in 900 lbs of corned beef, serve 400 lbs of Irish Stew, and bake 100 lbs of soda bread. People line up down the block to get in and the rooms are packed with people. Talking to Bob was really enjoyable and before we left we all shared a drink. I don't recall if it had a name, but it was whiskey and a brand of Irish Cream that Bob has sworn by for years called St. Brendan's. 

That claw machine didn't stand a chance
We had a great time at the Irish Villa and will definitely be back again. Bob said he was the man who brought the Lemon Drop shot to Peoria and judging by the rest of the menu I know it will not disappoint. 

Current hours are Thursday - Saturday from 4:30 PM until about 10 PM. For more photos and information, check out their Facebook page at The Irish Villa Pub.

Great job Fontana! And yes you are right, that claw machine didn't have a Glenn Beck's chance at a scholarly debate! I will say that the steak I had was certainly a great deal and more importantly cooked to perfection, which is not an easy task with a thin 10 inch ribeye.

I also fully understand Fontana's misgivings about the Villa, especially considering we had the place to ourselves on a Friday night at 7:00. But, as you can tell we were all pleasantly surprised by the service, quality of food and atmosphere of the Villa.

If I may, I must make a quick editorial comment. Places like the Villa are often overlooked because of their appearnce or location. This is just a shame, too many people from Peoria ignore places like the Villa because they're stuck up or just plain stupid. I'm here to tell you right now, I don't care what the place looks like, good food is good food.

The same can be said for people and atmosphere. If I had a choice between the Irish Villa and 309 I would definitely pick the Villa. Don't worry I'll explain why in a future review, let me just say that I will not be kind to the new restaurant, unless a return trip provides a better experience.

Once again thanks to Fontana for her hard work. I know you're all looking forward to more post from her.

Cheers to the Irish Villa and cheers to Fontana!

Friday, September 10, 2010


We've covered a lot of dive bars here at the PBR. Almost without fail, every bathroom in these taverns has hook locks. In some cases, the door has been there long enough to have survived several generations of locks.

I did my best to take note of which lock goes with which bar, but there are some that have fallen through the cracks (pun or no pun, your choice). Some of the pictures included in this post I am absolutely sure I have matched the right bar with the right lock. Others, are up to debate and still others, I just have no idea where they came from. 

If you see an error or want to make a correction, give us a shout-out. You should also know the pictures of the women's bathroom locks were taken by an actual woman, pervs.
I'm almost positive this is the lock on the men's bathroom of Dome Tap (now C-Roc's or something else).
I honestly have no clue about this one.
Men's lock at the Hillside

Men's lock at Jan's Tap
Women's lock at the Hillside
Men's lock at Roger's Place
Women's lock at Red Barn
I'm not sure about this one either. If I had to guess I'd say it's the women's lock at Roger's Place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And Now, Time For Something Completely Different: Hick'ry Stick Catering and Cafe

First off, I must inform you that I've found someone to do some guest posts here at the PBR but I'll elaborate on that in a later post. I think I've found a way to keep things moving here and step out of the "bar box" I've been in since the start of this blog. During the semester I can't drink as much as I'd like. What this means is that when I do drink I tend to stay close to home, in other words I can't get out to new and different places. Even when the weekend comes around, I'm usually so burnt out I just hit up one of my locals like Last Chance or Recovery Room or the occasional trip to Katie McButt's.

However there is one thing I do a lot of during the school months, eat! So, I've decided to leave the bar reviews to the newest member of the PBR staff and I'll handle the restaurant reviews, starting right now. Here we go!

Hick'ry Stick Catering has been serving the Peoria area for 15 years. It was only recently though, that they opened their doors to carry-out and dine in customers. The business, located at 1122 E. McClure just a block off of Prospect. Mary Foster and her children run the business and provide a bright spot of entreprenuership in an otherwise dim neighborhood. Not only do they provide a badly needed business investment in the East Bluff but they themselves are invested in the neighborhood's progress. On opening day for the cafe, the Foster family donated 80% of its profits to charities and neighborhood associations. This is the kind of community involvement that is truly appreciated here at the PBR. If you want to know how the cafe came to be, check out this article by John Sharp of the Journal Star.

I stopped in yesterday for lunch. I was going to go to McDonald's (I know baaaaaad Chief!) but they were packed when it dawned on me...Hick'ry Stick! I couldn't remember exactly where it was so I figured I'd just drive around on the East Bluf for a bit. I took a right off Prospect and there it was, staring me right in the face. The parking lot is small, so it would probably be best to find a spot on the street.

From what it sounds like, the building that houses the new cafe was more or less abandoned when the Foster family purchased it in a foreclosure sale. Now, the building has been given a new life and quite a facelift. The decor is clean and tasteful, complete with a small electronic fireplace and a flame influenced, painted wall.
The Fosters did a nice job of providing some fresh landscaping and a new concrete ramp for handicapped customers. The dining area is small, with only three tables, so carry out is probably your best bet. I opted to sit down. No matter what decision you make, your food will be served in carry-out boxes but with food this good, I don't think you'll mind.

I had a pulled pork sandwich which was small but filling, with an order of fries. With tax, the meal was $9.34, a tad expensive but I'm willing to pay a little more to support a local business. The fries were fresh cut and fried to perfection with no grease. The sandwich was amazing! It was on good bread, you know, the kind that doesn't turn to mush by the time your done eating! The pork was perfect, not too greasy and not too dry. What really hit the spot was the sauce. At first, I thought it tasted a lot like Big John's; a not too thick, vinegar based barbecue sauce. While there are similarities there is one thing that sets Hick'ry River's sauce apart from any I've ever had. I noticed that the sauce had a purplish hue to it and by the end of my finger licking session I'm pretty sure I found the culprit. I'm almost positive that the barbecue sauce has a hint of cinnamon! Maybe this is something that is quite popular but I've never heard of it before and it was delicious.

There are a lot of other things on the menu at Hick'ry Stick, two that I'm interested in are the Porky Fries and the Beefy Fries, two appetizers that intrigue me. They also have beef brisket which grabbed third place for best entree at this year's Taste of Peoria, an avocado vegetarian sandwich, desserts, and even some homemade pinapple lemonade.

If you are interested in having Hick'ry Stick cater your event stop by their website, For coupons and event information go to their facebook page. To place orders or call in for carry out call Hick'ry River at 309-685-7600.

Cheers to local businesses and cheers to Hick'ry Stick Catering and Cafe!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hoops Pub and Pizza

This picture is old, Adam's Apple is now Gin Joint. My encyclopedic knowledge of Peoria area bars knows no bounds.

Hoops is located at 516 Main St. in downtown Peoria. That last sentence was such a waste, if you don't know where Hoops is, you just haven't been paying attention. Hoops has been a mainstay in downtown Peoria for the last fourteen years. Pryor* to this, the building that houses Hoops was a small restaurant known as Pepperoni's.

*For an explanation of this error see Things Unique To Peoria: Richard Pryor

Speaking of this building, it is fucking old, probably one of the oldest in Peoria. Technically the entire building that holds Hoops, Judge's Chamber, Club Ice, Gin Joint, and Whammy Bar is all part of the Madison Theatre. Hoops is the only one of these establishments that isn't owned in some way by Big Al. All of the other bars in this building are in some way, leased or rented from King Douche Al himself. It is my hope that Al never gets his greedy hands on Hoops, lest he turn into a sleazy nightclub complete with ostrich skinned booths and $8 beers.

Hoops is known for its pizza. According to a recent poll at the PBR, Hoops was voted as having the best pizza in Peoria. I was listening to Rush I Love Oxycontin Limbaugh the other day and he utilized a low rent tactic whereby he questioned the manhood of anyone who called themselves a liberal much less anyone who voted for one. Well, I am about to use that tactic right now. There is only one way to eat a slice of pizza at Hoops if you are a "real" man. This munching method is known as "pinch and fold" (copyright 2010 Peoria Bar Review). When you order a slice at Hoops you will be equipped with the following; a plate, a knife, a fork, parmesan cheese, hot sauce and red pepper flakes. The first thing you should do put a generous amount of parmesan on your slice to soak up the grease. Then, top it with red pepper. Next, pick up your slice with your thumb and middle fingers. Place your first finger in the middle of the crust, then pinch and fold until the crust cracks. This will result in a doubled-over slice of pizza that is one of the greatest culinary treats in Peoria. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER USE A KNIFE AND/FORK TO EAT YOUR SLICE OF PIZZA! This is an act of blasphemy that greatly offends the pizza gods. If you do use a knife and fork you must eat three Papa John's and one Domino's as your penance. There is a lot more than just pizza on the menu but you'll just have to take my word for it because the menu is enormous. Off the top of my head, I can tell you that the nachos are amazing. They're topped with Italian beef and jalapenos and are a cheesy, delicious mess.

There are more tables than seats at the bar at Hoops but no matter where you are, there is a tv in sight. Behind the bar is a giant bookcase-looking thing that holds the massive selection of booze available for your drankin pleasure. The walls are adorned with local sports memorabilia. The items include two Bradley basketball jerseys from the days when blue was part of the school's colors. The jerseys belong to former NBA-er Hersey Hawkins and Hoops owner Kerry Cook. Another great piece of history on the walls of Hoops is hockey sweater* from the Peoria Blades. Logo seen below.

*Sweater is hockey slang for jersey. DO NOT call a hockey sweater a jersey, it offends the hockey gods. You're welcome for teaching you something new.

In case you didn't notice, the goalie's legs are Caterpillar tractor tracks. The actual logo uses a white, blue, and yellow color scheme. The Blades were Peoria's hockey team from 1972-82. For two years the Blades became the Prancers and rocked this awesome fucking logo.

Eventually, the Prancers became the Peoria Rivermen and went on to win the IHL's Turner Cup, serve as the IHL home of such hockey greats as Tony Twist, Dominic Lavoie, and my childhood hero, Ricky Pion. There is also a fair amount of Bradley basketball paraphernalia, which is probably part of why it is so popular among the Hilltopper alumni. Before and after Bradley games, Hoops is always packed with Braves fans getting their pizza fix. So, the next time you are at Hoops, make sure you take some time to admire all the local sports history that adorns the bar.

While the bar downstairs is decorated with a local flair, the upstairs bar has a much more tropical feel. There's a tiki bar and picnic tables to eat and drink at. Hoops is the only tavern in Peoria that I can think of that has two bars in the same building that vary so much in decor. The upstairs isn't always open but during the wee hours of the morning, both bars are almost always operating at full capacity. Draft and bottled beers are available upstairs and downstairs.

Hoops is a place that holds a certain distinction among several groups of people. My Bradley alumni friends always talk fondly of late nights at Hoops, as well as most anyone who has ever worked at a bar downtown. Whilst googling Hoops, I came across several reviews of Hoops from out-of-towners who had nothing but praise for the bar and their food. The third group is made up of those of us like the PBR staff, that still enjoy spending a night downtown. Sometimes it can get a little Weird when Club Ice is packed but really, since the closing of Fourplay, Main St. has become a much more enjoyable place to be. Read: less douchebags. This is especially true now that Whammy Bar is going strong with their diverse group of bands cycling through.

Before I forget, I have to mention Steve, or as he is more often called "Nappy". Steve has been working at Hoops since its founding and is a true pro. Not to mention he has one of the most bad ass mullets I've ever seen. Steve's mullet could kick the shit out of Jared Allen's mullet* with one hand tied behind its back. Yah, you read that right, Steve's mullet actually has its own fucking hands. You can not fuck with that shit.

*Ha! Are you kidding me? When did you start growing that, yesterday? My dick has a better mullet than that!
I can't imagine there are many people reading this that live in the Peoria area and have never been to Hoops. It seems that this bar is one of those places that just about everyone has been to at least once. So, for those of you reading this who have found yourself in our Fair City, make sure you stop by Hoops for a slice, or ten. Hoops has booze and food till 4 AM everyday of the week, so no matter what time you get into town, Hoops is there to serve you!

Cheers to great pizza and cheers to Hoops!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Red Barn

The Red Barn is located at 621 W. Glen Ave. in North Peoria near Sheridan Rd. The Red Barn, like the Hole in the Wall in Pekin is an extremely aptly named tavern. Whether or not this building ever served as a barn is beyond me but if I had to guess, I'd say no. In lieu of providing livestock, this barn provides live music. Fuck I'm clever! As a matter of fact there really is only two things to do at the Red Barn; drink and play or listen to music.

There is a small group of regulars that show up around 5 to watch the news and shoot the shit, but really this place is all about the music. There are only two (2) tv's and no games.That's right, no pool, no shuffleboard, no crackbox, Golden Tee, or Silver Strike. The Barn might be the only place in Peoria that doesn't have at least one of these entertainment options available. That's fine with me because the Red Barn is always booking bands (many from the Peoria area) to play. Tuesdays and Fridays are open mic nights with drums and a PA.

This is really why the Red Barn is so important to Peoria. It is one of many taverns like Pizza Works and the Whammy Bar that do their absolute best to support local and non-local original music. Sure, lots of bars book cover bands and lots of people pack Crusens and the like every weekend to see them. But for a bar owner to take a chance on a local, unsigned act to play in his/her bar takes a certain amount of courage. In short, this means that the owner is more commited to supporting upcoming musicians than packing their bar in order to make money. This kind of thing just doesn't happen that often anymore. If you can't appreciate that, than have fun at some other bar where the owner is more busy finding out ways to make money than trying to keep their patrons happy. I realize that not everyone is willing to take a chance on a band that they've never heard of but sometimes, it is necessary to step outside your comfort zone. You never know, you might stumble upon a gem like Tina Sparkle, the Yorktown Prophet, or Derrick Hart.

When you walk into the barn you'll see a small and extremely worn bar that, if you look closely used to be red. Years of elbows and beer spills have made the paint all but non-existent. The bar seats only about ten but there are several booths on the wall to sit at. As you walk towards the back, the bathrooms are on the left. Both the women's and the men's are covered with graffiti from folks all over the country who have either played with or watched a band at the Barn. The only maxim that comes to mind is; "Remember it is usually better to pissed off than pissed on!" Usually!? I would think it is always better to pissed off than pissed on but apparently this individual does not subscribe to that idea. You could spend an hour in each bathroom and still not finish reading all signatures, quotes, and words of wisdom inscribed in every corner.

Past the bathroom is the stage. It is only a few inches high but the tall ceiling makes it seem bigger. This is the part of the building that most resembles a barn. There are exposed rafters and a tall ceiling and the walls are bare wood. Other than the stage lights shining on the performers, the only illumination in the back room are small red candles that dot each table. I can attest that when you are on stage these candles stick out more than faces surrounding them. The contrast in atmosphere from the front bar area to the stage in back is staggering. It's like walking from a hole-in-the-wall in Peoria straight into a beatnik-era club in Greenwich Village. It is definitely one of my (and many others) favorite places to play. There is even an old church pew to relax on while enjoying music. A friend of the PBR made the observation that it is "surely not a Catholic pew, because it's much to comfortable." He's got a good point.

Originally, I intended to talk to the owner, Buffalo Dan Solomon and get some history on the Barn. I still plan on doing this but a recent article from Phil Luciano kind of changed the direction of this review. I won't go through all the details, you can read them here. Basically, the owner of the Back Store owns everything surrounding the Red Barn, including a shared parking lot. After years of paying rent on the lot and paying for its upkeep every year, this gentleman decided he wasn't making enough money in rent. Buffalo Dan said he would not pay the jacked up price, so the owner of the Back Store, Ken Humphrey, put up barricades to block the Barn's patrons from parking. Illegal? No. Dick move? Yes.

He has also purchased the old gas station on the corner of Sheridan and Glen and plans on turning it into a restaurant. I'm not sure how well that will work and I hope he does well. I am in support of any and all local businesses succeeding no matter how much of an ass the owner is. What doesn't make sense is why he would piss off many of the people who go to the Red Barn and could possibly be patrons at his new restaurant. After all, this is a neighborhood tavern and the Barn was there first, so I think it would be safe to say that the neighborhood's loyalties would lie with their bar. The reason I say that this is a dick move is because Solomon was originally paying $250 a month for shared use of the lot. In reality, this is an incredibly cheap price. Humphrey told Solomon he wanted $600 and Dan said no. Humphrey than countered with an offer of $500. Dan again said no and that was the end of the discussion. Could these two businessmen not split the difference? I have a feeling Buffalo Dan would be willing to do so. Whether or not Humphrey would is something I doubt. Rant over.

So, if you've never been to the Barn or you've been there a hundred times, go in and show your support, if you're so inclined. I would have no problem parking across the street if necessary in order to show my support for Buffalo Dan and the Red Barn.

Cheers to the Red Barn and cheers to local music!                                                      Red Barn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shifter's Pub, formerly Whammy Bar

Update 7/8/12 - Went down to Shifter's Pub (as in a gear shifter, for some reason) last night and it was pretty packed. They opened a few months back and seem to be doing fairly well. The area in front of the stage was raised a bit, and new fake-wood flooring makes up a small dancing area. It's doubtful that any music there won't be coming from a DJ's laptop (does no one use vinyl anymore? I thought that's what made DJ's so cool). This sucks for lovers of live, original music, but it may be the best business model, for the stiletto-wearing YOLO chicks and cologne-soaked bros who populate the 500 block in the wee hours. We'll see.

Update - Unfortunately, the Whammy Bar has closed and continued the failure of bars in this particular location. This sucks because, the Whammy Bar was such a great place to hear local and non-local musical acts. According to the Journal Star, another tenant has already been lined up. No word on whether or not the new owner will incorporate live music into the new bar's format. See the original review below.

R.I.P Whammy Bar
Whammy Bar is located at 500 Main St. in downtown Peoria. This location has been many things over the years: Euro Jack's, The 5th Amendment, Babe's, and most notably the original S.O.P.'s. Back when it was Sully's Other Planet, this place really hopped with live music. The new version of S.O.P.'s (now closed, soon to be an extended section of Deisel) has done a decent job in living up to that legacy but it fails in providing as intimate of an environment as there is at the Whammy Bar. I had never actually been to any of the former incarnations of 500 Main St. but fellow PBR staffer Bobby Bolts informed me that the layout of the bar is basically the same. That is not to say that the owners of the Whammy Bar didn't do an admirable job in outfitting it with some great rock and blues memorabilia. Also, back by the men's bathroom there is an old payphone booth that now holds a Chief. I'll get the pic up as soon as I find my fucking memory card.

In case you didn't know a whammy bar (also known as a tremolo bar) is, it is a device attached the bridge of a guitar that allows the musician to manipulate pitch and tone. It was first made famous by Chet Atkins and the great surf music of Dick Dale and the Ventures. It's popularity spread to rock and was utilized heavily by Hendrix and Zepellin among many others. Later, the whammy bar was instrumental in popularizing the "shred metal" bands of the 80's and especially Van Halen.

Gone is the small bar just inside the main entrance on Main and Madison. There is a new Valley pool table just to the right inside. Hanging high above the table are several encased and autographed guitars. I can't remember who has autographed the axes but I do know (ok, I think) Sheryl Crow is one of them. There are high topped tables to the right of the granite, square bar. There is a small patio off Madison Ave. that is made up of a nice collection of antique Purington Pavers. At one time, many of the streets in downtown Peoria were made up completely of these bricks. The only problem is that you can't take your drinks outside after midnight. It's the same way at Hoops, I think it is some kind of city ordinance. What sucks about this, is that this rule makes sense for Club Ice, Gin Joint, and Judge's Chamber, none of which have any kind of patio furniture to set your drinks on. The Whammy Bar provides its patrons with nice high topped tables and chairs for your smoking and people-watching pleasure.

Side note: last week when I was down at the Whammy, I was sitting outside enjoying a pleasant conversation with a very drunken individual when four assholes on crotch rockets ripped their throttles open. It was so fucking loud I couldn't hear a thing my friend was saying. Note to motorcycle riders making a shitload of noise on Main Street: YOU ARE NOT COOL! Actually, you are quite lame. As a matter of fact, all you're doing is pissing people off. I understand if you want to rip it open on some back country road or the interstate but Main Street just isn't the place. Not to mention the fact that the noise bounces back and forth between the buildings that make up the canyon of Main Street, making it louder and last longer than normal -- like some kind exhaust noise Viagra. So, if you are one of those motorcycle riders reading this, let me just say that you are a douchebag and I hope you get pulled over and get a ticket for that shit. Rant over.

Back to the Whammy. One of the great things about this place is their stage. They've got lights, PA, sound board, the whole deal. They even give amateurs a chance to get up there on Wednesdays when local musician and friend of the PBR Derrick Hart, hosts an open mic night. The Whammy Bar also has plenty of bands booked on the weekends, go to their website, and check out their calendar of events. 

The Whammy Bar also has food, a lot of it. Their menu is extensive, running the gamut from burgers, to burritos, salads and a whole lot more. I'm not sure if they serve till 4 in the morning but I would guess they serve till at least 2.

So cheers to the Whammy Bar for providing an amazing venue for local musicians to play, and for giving Main Street a classy oasis for booze consumption.

No cheers to motorcycle riders who think they're being filmed for the Fast and Furious 4, you guys are assholes.

Things Unique to Peoria: Richard Pryor

I wasn't sure if I was going to do another one of these posts but this one just popped into my head this morning and I feel like a dumbass for not having thought of it before. Richard Pryor is without a doubt the most famous person to come from Peoria. The City of Peoria renamed a section of Sheridan Rd. near the River West Townhouses after him.

No, its Richard Motherfuckin Lennox Pryor III. Get your shit together Peoria!
If it were up to me, Main St. would be known as Richard Franklin Lennox Motherfuckin Pryor III Avenue. Pryor is considered by many to be the most influential comic of the 20th century. Jerry Seinfeld has called him "The Picasso of our profession." He is listed as number one on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand up comedians.

Richard grew up on the South Side of Peoria in his grandmother's brothel (somewhere on Washington St.)where his mother was a prostitute before she abandoned him. I would love to know what building this brothel was located in but chances are it no longer exists. He was pretty much raised by his grandmother. Pryor to moving to NYC (yah I misspelled that, get used to it, it will now be a permanent fixture here at the PBR) Richard had a short stint in the army and worked in a mafia owned night club. According to him, he was the MC and once tried to stick up the owners because they refused to pay a stripper the money they owed her. There was just one flaw in his plan, he used a cap pistol for his robbery. The owners thought it was a joke and Richard turned it into one of the greatest bits ever in his stand-up special "Live At the Sunset Strip." Seriously, click this link and go watch the clip. If you've never seen Pryor before or you've seen him a million times this bit never gets old. Rich didn't just have great jokes, he was a master story teller, impressionist, and social commentator. This bit shows off all these skills in one 8 minute segment. Pure brilliance. Ok, I've just gotten distracted watching this clip, I forgot how many great lines are in it, just give me a sec.


Ok, I'm back. Before his mainstream success, Rich made a name for himself doing material that was nowhere near as controversial as the stuff he would eventually become famous for. It was necesary though, as it helped him overcome his extreme stage fright. Consider this quote from Nina Simone on Richard's first few perfomances
                   "He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn't bear to watch him shiver, so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time."

Pretty intense stuff for a guy that ten years later would have such an incredible stage presence he invoked standing ovations at his concerts. Towards the end of the sixties Pryor had what he later called an "epiphany". He was working a show in Las Vegas and when he walked out on stage simply said "What the fuck am I doing here?" then walked off stage. This was the beginning of Rich's evolution into the brand of stand up comedy that would make him famous and inspire a generation of comics. During the seventies Rich wrote for several tv shows, released a shitload of albums and began starring in movies, many with Gene Wilder. Go to Rich's Wikipedia page and brush up, on your Pryor knowledge, I guarantee there will be things you have forgotten about.

I would be remiss if I didn't include the Freebasing Incident. Rich had such a good sense of humor about something that most people would never want to talk about. One of my favorite lines from "Live At the Sunset Strip" is when he is explaining the incident and he says; " thing I find out is that when you are running down the street on fire, people will get out of your way". First, you have to go here and watch this clip from the special. Secondly, since I'm lazy, I'm going to copy and paste Wikipedia's description of the event.

On June 9, 1980, during the making of the film Bustin' Loose, Pryor set himself on fire after freebasing cocaine while drinking 151-proof rum. He ran down Parthenia St. from his Northridge, California, home until subdued by police. He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for burns covering more than half of his body. Pryor spent six weeks in recovery at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital. His daughter, Rain Pryor, stated that Pryor poured high-proof rum over his body and set himself on fire in a bout of drug-induced psychosis.[27]

Pryor incorporated a description of the incident into his "final" comedy show Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip in 1982. He joked that the event was caused by dunking a cookie into a glass of low-fat and pasteurized milk, causing an explosion. At the end of the bit, he poked fun at people who told jokes about it by waving a lit match and saying, "What's this? It's Richard Pryor running down the street."

I fucking love that joke. Eventually, Rich would go on to sign a contract for 40 million bucks with Columbia Pictures, and starred in Superman III. The only movie from this period that was not related to his contract with Columbia was the semi-autobiographical "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling", parts of which were filmed right here in Peoria. Rich even co-wrote "Blazing Saddles" with Mel Brooks. After suffering a heart attack in 1977, Rich was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

In his lifetime Richard Pryor went from being a poor, abused kid from Peoria to one of the biggest movie stars of the 80's and arguably (not sure who you would pick other than Rich but you always have to say arguably) the greatest stand up comedian of all time. To me, Rich will always hold this distinction. Oh, and he starred in over 50 films, had 6 children, was married 7 times to 5 different women, made a shitload of money, donated a shitload of money to charity, influenced a generation of comics, and changed the way we deal with issues of race and social class. Not bad for a skinny, foul-mouthed, drug-addled kid from Peoria.

Richard Pryor died on December 10, 2005. In the last years of his life, Rich was humbled by the disease that had plagued him all his life, MS. I guarantee you though, that while he may have looked physically weak, his mind was as strong as ever. Unfortunately, Rich didn't get his wish when it came to the manner of his death;
"I'd like to die like my father died... My father died fucking. My father was 57 when he died. The woman was 18. My father came and went at the same time."

R.I.P. Rich

T.U.T.P Scale
Thingness - 0/10
Uniqueness - 10/10
Peorianess  - 10/10

Friday, July 2, 2010

Peoria Institution: Jan's Tap, the Best Cubs Bar in Peoria

Update May 20, 2012
I randomly found myself in the South End Wednesday night, and with the Cubs game on the radio and a few dollars in my pocket, I figured it would be best to stop in at Jan's.

First off, you should know that Jan's husband has been diagnosed with lung cancer. So, keep him in your prayers (if you do that sort of thing) or your thoughts (I think we all have those).

Wednesday provided a beautiful night for some late night scratch-offs and yet another devastating Cubs loss. When I walked in, there were only three people at the bar. One, I soon learned, was named Leland, who admitted he gambles "a lot."

"Not a winner, Leland," the bartender said.

"Damn. I've lost 60 dollars tonight."

Following that, Leland rambled on semi-incoherently about "notebooks" from "'47, '48 and '49" that he sold for $100 a pop. He told us they were actually worth $250 a piece. I'm still not sure what he was talking about but I think it was some kind of annual program for the Cubs. It didn't matter; ears were caught, and the bartender deftly slipped away.

I informed the bartender I won $4 on my $2 scratch-off.

"You sure?" she asked.

"The machine will tell you what it's made of," Leland chimed in.

Indeed, Jan's has a new machine that scans each scratch-off, ensuring that Leland-types can't pull any fast ones on whoever is behind the bar.

It's fitting that the most notorious Cubs bar in town also sells a ton of lottery tickets. The dream of winning is still alive and well at Jan's. And much like Cubs fans, these folks are in it for the love of the game.

Click below to read the original review.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Burger Barge

The Burger Barge is located at 1401 N. Main in East Peoria. If you go to Jonah's/Par-a-Dice casino, take the access road north. If you see a dilapidated boat on your left hand side you are on the right track. Marty Wombacher from 365 Beers stopped here a while back and you can find his review here.

Unfortunately, my camera died just as I was about to walk into the Barge so I was only able to get a couple of pictures of the outside. This is a damn shame because there are so many cool things to take pictures of inside the bar. There are napkins pinned to every wall that have patrons' depictions of the Burger Barge. The ceiling tiles are adorned with graffiti and jokes from hundreds of customers, not to mention all the boating and drinking paraphernalia that fights for space on every wall.

I love bars like this that are cluttered with stuff, it gives the place a unique atmosphere that is unlike any other. Before you even walk into the Barge you feel like you are on vacation. That is, unless you go there in the winter. Even then, the Barge is a tropical oasis in the wintery desolation that is our Illinois winter. The Burger Barge reminded me immediately of Key West. If Jimmy Buffett lived in Peoria, you would probably find him here every day of the week. Speaking of Jimmy, the old school jukebox is loaded with Buffet albums as well as other summer-ish music like the Beach Boys and Bob Marley. There is also a decent amount of country music on there to give it a midwest feel.

In case you haven't already heard, the Burger Barge has some of the best burgers around. I'm going to go ahead and say that I don't think there is another place in the Peoria are that has better burgers than the ones available at the Barge. These aren't just your typical hamburgers either. There are over a dozen different selections including the Tavern Burger which is topped with barbecue sauce and cole slaw!

There is even a burger that has the famed Luciano Cheese Blobs on it. There's a lot more than just burgers though. The Barge has pork and chicken sandwiches, plenty of appetizers, and an extensive cocktail list. There is also a burger buffet where you can build your own, I would just assume to leave it to the professionals and the staff at the Barge are definitely that. You can check out the full menu here.

Drinks are cheap at the Barge, unlike the tourist trap Key West bars that the place resembles. With the exception of the fancy cocktails (I had the Blue Curacao) you can get pretty well drunk at the Barge for about twenty bucks. Sundays are build your own Bloody Mary bar ($2), which seems to have become a popular thing the last couple of years. The Barge has great daily specials (except for Fridays) that I have listed below.

The bar is small but comfortable with a few TV's to watch the game. The indoor seating area seats about 50 and there are a couple nice new flatscreens to watch the World Cup. You are watching the World Cup AREN'T YOU?

Outside you can sit on concrete or in the sand. There is a patio with a tin roof over it with fish-shaped high top tables and some booths that look like they came from a Dairy Queen. The eclectic decor makes it's way outside too. Closer to the river there is a large sand box with several picnic tables to eat, drink, and smoke at. With all the Buffet and Marley playing, you might be tempted to smoke something other than cigarettes (har har).

Unfortunately the river is way too high to dock at the barge right now, but once it goes down you can dock your boat and walk up the hill to grab a bite to eat and a few drinks. This is one of the coolest parts about the barge. Every day, you get a nice mix of boaters, locals, and out-of-towners staying at the Par-a-Dice hotel just down the road. While peeking around, I noticed that the owner(s?) are constructing a bar outside that seats about 20. I'm not sure when it will be ready but it looks like it will be really nice out there.

This weekend the Burger Barge has lined up three days of entertainment for our Independence Day. Friday night Chicago Farmer will play from 5-9:30. Saturday the great band Rooster Alley will play from 6-10. In case you've never heard of them, check out their website, these guys seriously Rock the Fuck Out. Their lead singer/guitarist wears a guitar strap that has 6 or 7 harmonicas on it! If that doesn't get your Mojo Workin, nothing will. Sunday, Reverend Ed and the Sunday Drive will play from 2-6. I'm not sure what the view of the fireworks would be like from here but it should still be a fun place to hang out for the 4th of July festivities.

So, cheers to the Burger Barge for providing the Peoria area with a little slice of Key West mixed our
patented midwest hospitality!

Daily Specials
M $1.75 cans-o-beer
T $2 wells
W 6 for $5 8oz. Coors cans
T $2 build your own margarita bar
F/S None, it's Friday, if you can't get folks to come to your bar on Friday and Saturday, you're Fucked!
S $2 build your own Bloody Mary bar

Update - I went to the Burger Barge a few days ago and thourougly enjoyed it. I shot some photos and you can check them out below. But first a couple bits of news. The Tiki Bar outside has been completed and seats firfty (50). There's a new menu items as well, it's called the Loosy and it's basically just loose meat sandwiches and loose meat added to omelets, and barges (Burger Barge speak for sandwiches.) That's it for now, cheers and beers!

This is the bacon burger. Fucking. Amazing.
This is the napkin I drew on and hung near the front door. Pretty good huh? Yah I know, I'm awesome in so many ways. The Spirit of Peoria looks like shit though. Hi Marty! Cheers!

Crow's Nest

The Crow's Nest is located at 633 E. Lake Avenue in what is I believe technically Peoria Heights. This place has been a bar since I was still wandering around the playground at Rogi's and used to be called Ajay's. Located just next door is another tavern, the Stadium Club.

The Crow's Nest is a small and very red bar. The walls are all red and there are several lamps of the same color decorating the bar. Behind the bar is a fancy set of shelves packed with all kinds of booze. Not just your typical John, Jack, and Jose either, Crow's Nest has the extras like the various flavored Three Olives etc. Not my thing but some people like to mix it up with that stuff. They also have four beers on tap; Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light. One very unique thing about the Nest is that they have a modern pay phone, just next to the front door. I say it's modern because it has a card swipe thingy on it, I've never seen one anywhere else. There are daily specials at the Nest, Tuesdays are $2 domestic bottles, I didn't write down the rest, I will add an update to this post as soon as I get the chance.

The bar seats about 15 and there are a dozen or so stools opposite the bar with a shelf for your drinks. In between is one of the three pool tables. Now that I think about it, the fact that there are three tables in Crow's Nest might add to the allusion that this place is small. The two tables at either end will cost you 75 cents and the Valley table in the middle costs 50. This is pretty unique. I don't think I've ever been to a place where one table costs more than the other. Speaking of pool, if you want a challenge, the Crow's Nest is the place to go. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of good shooters at the Nest. They have a team that plays in the River City Billiards league and they are damn good. A word of warning though, these tables are FAST! The Nest has some of the fastest tables I have ever played on. So, grab a light cue (16 or 17) and take it easy on that cue ball!

There's only one TV at the Nest but it is a big one that is jammed tightly behind the bar. To the left of the bar are two computer monitors with internet available to browse. The bathrooms are right near the back door and are labelled Pimps and Hoes, which should be pretty easy to figure out. In between the Stadium Club and the Nest is a small smoking area for you twenty percenters out there. The Stadium Club is another place the PBR plans on checking out soon (hopefully) but you'll have to wait for that review.

So, cheers to the straight shooters of the River City and cheers to the Crow's Nest!