Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peoria Institution: Friendly Valley

Located at 3708 N. Meadowbrook Lane in Peoria, the Valley is one of the longest standing bars in the city and one of the most unique. The building is a Quonset hut which, if you don't know anything about has a pretty interesting history. According to Wikipedia...

Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. After the war, the U.S. military sold the surplus Quonset huts to the public for $1,000 each[citation needed]—this approached the cost of a small home.[citation needed] Many are still standing throughout the United States. 

A quick and lazy google search didn't turn up much for Quonset huts that have been turned into bars but I'm guessing that that number is pretty low, which only adds to the uniqueness of the Valley. Also, the fact that Peoria used to have two Quonset hut bars probably makes it the coolest city ever. Remember the Locus Point Tap? The hut still stands but the bar closed its doors about six years ago. I was there and remember patrons burning the roadside wooden sign that directed weary travelers on Route 8 to the old tavern, a sad sight indeed. By the way, the place is for sale if anyone is interested in returning the bar to its former glory. 

As for the Valley, it's still going strong after about 40 years with no sign of slowing down. The beers are cheap, the barflies are friendly, and the jukebox consistently cranks out some of the best tunes in town. This, despite the fact that the Valley recently made the transition from the old school flip-disc style juke to the fancy new internet jukebox that everyone agrees is a great thing  piece of shit internet juke that allows people to play whatever God-awful shit they can find. These things suck a big bag of dicks but fortunately for you dear reader, you won't have to worry about hearing shit music at the Valley because most of the folks here have pretty damn good taste. 

The bar is a straight shot from left to right with the right side wrapping into the wall to make a path towards the bathrooms. The bar seats about 15 and there's not a table to be found. Above the bar is the fire marshall's maximum capacity sign that reads 48. Are you fucking kidding me? If there were 48 people in this bar it would be so packed there's a good chance it would implode due to the pressure.

Speaking of the folks at the Valley, they are pretty friendly as long as you don't ruffle any feathers, which you wouldn't want to do anyway right? The average age here for patrons is certainly older than the norm but that's what makes it fun. On my last trip there, Zig-Zag (remember that asshole?) and I ordered shots of whiskey and were asked if we wanted them chilled only after the matronly bartender had poured them. Now normally, less than desirable service like this would be annoying but at the Valley it simply makes it more endearing. Not to mention the fact that chilling shots of whiskey is boozehound sacrilege. It's the drinking equivalent of ordering a filet mignon well done and with ketchup. 

Side note - On a recent trip to Crusen's (yes I actually go in to the belly of beast from time to time), I ordered a Jameson only to find that the bottle amongst others, is kept in the beer cooler. So, even if you wanted whiskey straight up you can't have it, they're automatically chilled. Yet another reason why that bar sucks monkey lungs (copyright Marty Wombacher 2010.)

The inside of the bar is adorned with vintage beer and booze paraphernalia, most of which are no newer than the mid 90's. Included in this collection is the world's sweetest Miller High Life sign, I'll let you find it for yourself. Behind the bar is a large collection of union stickers representing just about all locals, including the stagehands. There is a pool table and a dart board to mess around on but space is tight so you might want to think about your leaves to line up the best possible shot. 

Another unique thing about the Valley is that they have a backyard. Yes, a bar with its own back yard. It's a pretty big one too and a peaceful place to hang out. As a matter of fact, there aren't too many other better places to be than relaxing under the limbs of giant mulberry and pin oak trees with green grass beneath your feet on a cool summer night out behind the Valley. Everytime I think about back home, it's cool and breezy. And if you're in to trend sports that reached their peak in the late 80's there's a sand volleyball pit to keep you busy. I think it's more for looks though, as I've never seen anyone engaged in a game. Sometimes the Valley will have fires, something they must get a permit for so don't walk out back and just start burning stuff in the fire pit, not a good idea.

The owner is present most nights, either sitting at the bar or smoking a cancer stick on the deck attached to the right side of the building. If you look above the co-ed sink outside the bathrooms, there's a brilliant picture of him sitting on the toilet, drinking a Bud Light, and holding a Bible. The caption reads "the Lord works in mysterious ways." He certainly does.

I can't say with any certainty that the Valley is a neighborhood bar because there really isn't a neighborhood anywhere nearby. It's simply an oddity that folks driving to or from Landmark stop and have a few in just because it's there and it looks friendly, I guess. What the Valley most certainly is is an easy going place filled with folks just trying to have a good time. That, and it's a Peoria Institution.

So, if you've never been or been a thousand times, swing by the Valley and toss a few back because places like this are few and far between so let's enjoy them while we can.

Cheers to Friendly Valley and cheers to dives everywhere that are hanging on in these tough times.


  1. Good review, I love the valley. Never had a bad time in that place. I must encourage you to give Norma's in Kickapoo a look. I have heard that it holds the oldest liquor license in the State, plus it just a great dive. Its located on 150 just past Ludy's (another good bar with great burgers)on the right hand side if your traveling west towards Brimfield. I know its a little out of the way but its worth the drive.

  2. Great review Chief! And thanks for giving me the monkey lungs credit! We have to have a beer or 10 there next time I'm in town!

  3. Glad you made it there, I've always thought the valley was a good "under the radar" place. I had a crazy night one time at the valley. There was a one-legged lady there sitting at the bar. While she sat on her stool she detached her leg (with a sock and shoe on it) and sat it next to her on the floor. Apparently this was more comfortable for her. My friend decided it would be fun to try and sneak it away from her. Well, she was all wrapped up in a conversation with someone on her left (the leg was on the floor on her right) and my buddy managed to get it and get out in back without her noticing. We were hammered and made up a kick ball type game in the back yard using a volleyball and her leg. Eventually she noticed it was gone I guess and her old biker boyfriend (who had both legs) came out looking for the leg. He wasn't happy. We dropped the leg and had to run up through the woods and hide between cars at Neil Norton while he looked for us. Great night.

  4. Truby said "matronly" was the nicest thing anybody ever called her. And also, chilling whiskey is for pussies (her words).
    Offer stands again tonight, get down here and ill buy the beer.

  5. Haha that's great LJ! I would've referred to her by name had I remembered it..I'll see if I can make it down there tonight!