Saturday, March 19, 2011

Champs West

Located at 515 N. Western Ave., Champs West is the little brother of the former Champs bar which was located somewhere downtown. Sorry, I don't know where, that was before my time. Pay attention to your side streets heading south on Western because it's easy to drive right past the small bar, trust me, I've done it a million times. You'll need to take a right into the parking lot just before Kellogg Ave. to get to your destination.

It's interesting that I put this review off for about a month and in the mean time, Luciano wrote his own...weird. Anyway, a few weeks back I had the pleasure of attending a poetry open mic night at this small West Peoria tavern and it was one of the more unique things I've ever experienced in a bar here, or anywhere else or that matter.

First off, let me just say that Champs has the look and feel of a real old school neighborhood tavern, despite the fact that it's located in a strip mall. By this, I mean that the bar has the number one requirement of a no-frills, solid boozer. It's dark as fuck. This is what bars used to and should still be like; dark, small, and friendly. There's other bars in the Peoria area that meet the PBR's "Dark Bar" requirements, but I can't think of any that fit it as well as Champs. It probably has something to do with the tinted windows that face Western Ave. and block out the garish neon lights of the liqour store and fast food joints surrounding the bar. Seriously, if you drop a quarter to pay for your beer, don't bother trying to find it, just grab another one and let that one be your sacrifice to the beer gods.

Besides, being dark, Champs has another characteristic of the classic neighborhood tavern; a weird mix of people from the neighborhood and all walks of life. Obviously, on my trip there, the crowd was made up mostly of poets, writers, and other artsy types but there were still some working class drinkers hanging out and exposing themselves to some local talent. This is cool because a lot of places that are after-work-beer-joints for the working men of Peoria wouldn't necessarily put up with a situation like a poetry open mic. As a matter of fact, I can think of quite a few places where people get their pubes caught up in a zipper because there happens to be a band at their bar, thereby making the jukebox unavailable. Cough Last Chance Cough!

Only, two "regular" looking type guys seemed a little out of place. They stayed for a few beers and exchanged "what the fuck?" looks toward each other before leaving.

Champs also hosts the occasional music acts in its back room (the poetry takes place front and center and, sometimes right on the fucking bar.) According to friend of the PBR Izzy, Champs used to be a haven for the Peoria punk scene back in the "punk rock days." I've heard this from quite a few other folks so, it's probably true.

Luciano mentioned the fact that Champs is one of the few taverns around where you can stop in and grab a quick lunch. Being a fan of lunch-time beers, I am in support of this forgotten concept and encourage other taverns to do the same. I've never eaten at Champs but will provide a review A.S.A.P.

Drinks are relatively cheap at Champs. On the night I went there (Monday) PBR cans were $2 0r $2.50. Sorry I can't remember the actual price, I've kind of fallen out of habit with my bar-reviewing skills in the past couple months. I'll get the weekly specials to you soon.

If you've never been to Champs, you really should go check it out. The small bar can get overshadowed by the Big Three of West Peoria (Mike's, Owl's Nest, Tartan Inn) but is a great bar in its own right and its uniqueness is added to by their support of artistic endeavors. Champs is a classic Peoria bar and is held in the highest esteem here at the PBR.

Cheers to Champs and cheers to the poets, writers, musicians, and artists of all kind here in the River City!

P.S. Special thanks go out to friend of the PBR, David Von Behren for extending the invitation to Fontana and I so we could experience one of the more unique nights out I've had in a while. Thanks DVB!

I recorded several videos of poet and bartender at Champs, Will Ankrum's poems but couldn't get them to upload, I know I suck. But then I realized that it's probably something you need to experience in person. The poetry open mic takes place on the second Monday of every month. In the meantime, check out this video shot six months ago from


  1. Beautiful review bro and what a pleasure it was to imbibe with you once again..

  2. ..The first time I was in tina's coach stop the bartender mentioned that he always stopped at champs for lunch before work...lately I've been frequenting champs on (taco) TUES...around 11 a few retired journalists from the JSTAR from way back (we're talkin 60's) stop in and imbibe and I always feel like I'm I'm having a beer with studs Turkel and Mike royko as I relish in the draught of their alcoholic anecdotes....

  3. Great review! I need to check out Champs next time I'm home.

  4. Click here to read a poem about champs west, scribed for my loveable ex-girlfriend, teh carousel, since everyone has saddled her like a plastic mare going around in a circle to nowhere at all...