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!