One of Middle America’s oldest European settlements, Peoria, Illinois is a picturesque city with a small town ambience, nestled on the banks of the Illinois River. Its dining scene ranges from hip coffee shops and traditional steakhouses to upscale modern American eateries and with our guide to the city’s culinary offerings, we check out ten of Peoria’s best restaurants.
Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro and Gourmet Treats
Bistro, American, Italian, $$$
Sugar: Wood-Fired Bistro | Image courtesy of Sugar: Wood-Fired Bistro
A venture from local restaurateur and owner Travis Mohlenbrink and executive chef Vince Swanson, Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro and Gourmet Treats is a casual dining experience located in the heart of downtown Peoria’s Warehouse District. Chef Swanson oversees a menu full of delicious gourmet pizzas, like the smoky pork chipotle with braised pork, smoked gouda, peach, bacon, chipotle BBQ sauce and pineapple, and mouth-watering entrées like bourbon marinated steak, alongside a number of salads and sandwiches. At the same time, Sugar’s interior, which incorporates reclaimed materials, has a full view of its open kitchen.
Serving succulent dry aged steaks and delicious fresh seafood to hungry locals since it opened in 1960, Jim’s Steakhouse is a Peoria culinary institution and a must try when dining in the city. Inside, Jim’s Steakhouse is exactly what you would expect from a traditional steakhouse, sumptuous dark woods, comfy leather chairs and a low-lit ambience complete its dining room, while the restaurant’s bar features live piano music nightly. Typical but tasty steakhouse fare dominates the menu, with appetizers like fried calamari and oysters on the half shell and steaks that include Cajun rib eye, New York strip and porterhouse. Chicken, lamb and pork dishes also feature alongside standout seafood dishes such as Alaskan halibut with blue cheese butter.
Simple, modern American fare made with local flavors and seasonal produce at an outstanding location in the newly renovated historic Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette Hotel in downtown Peoria, Table 19 is a favorite haunt for local diners and foodies. Built in 1926, the hotel exudes historical elegance, while Table 19’s warm ambience and chic design adds a touch of upscale contemporary flair to the local landmark. Its delicious dishes, which include entrées such as roasted venison with mashed potatoes and blueberry demi glace and sweet tea brined Duroc pork chop with apple, bacon, brandy, sage and pork jus, keep guests coming back for more.
Based within the Mark Twain Boutique Hotel in downtown Peoria, Two25 offers guests casual fine dining, classic handcrafted American dishes and a comprehensive wine list. Inside Two25, sleek woods paired with exposed redbrick create a pared-back, stylish ambience, while the restaurant’s signature entrée of Dijon-crusted Atlantic salmon with roasted red pepper aioli and its other dishes like pan-seared duck breast from Maple Leaf Farms in neighboring Indiana with crispy polenta simply must be tried.
Noted for its tasty, unique and varied dishes, One World Café not only offers diners a menu brimming with adventurous global influences but also stays open from early ‘til late every day. It is the ideal spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner, while the Green Dragon Bar and Lounge is perfect for a drink. Go for breakfast and start your day with hearty homemade Belgian waffles or biscuits and gravy accompanied by One World Café’s delicious coffee, or go for dinner and choose from dishes like spicy Cajun fettuccine available with char-grilled chicken, herb-roasted tofu or shrimp.
A definite must try for lovers of fine ales, The Fox Pub and Café has eleven beers on draft and an extensive selection of imported and craft beers. In case the name of the pub wasn’t enough of a hint, it was originally established by an Englishman, Mike Cheesman, who settled in the area in the late 1970s. Despite new ownership, his influence can still be felt in typical English pub dishes like bangers and mash, curry and chips and cottage pie. If British food doesn’t take your fancy, plenty of American-style pub fare is available too like beef brisket, burgers and wraps, perfect washed down with a few of The Fox’s ales.
Located on Peoria’s revitalized and vibrant River Front, the Rhythm Kitchen Music Café was opened in 1999 by owner and Chef Shelley Lenzini, who wanted to celebrate her love of great music and tasty, home cooked fare. With its urban warehouse style interior, hip, bohemian décor, open kitchen and relaxed lounge area, Rhythm Kitchen Music Café is the perfect spot in which to enjoy eclectic dishes such as Jamaican jerk chicken with red beans and rice, or grilled salmon with garlic smashed potatoes or gourmet meatloaf with friends. While sampling a craft beer or two, you can hear live music every Friday and Saturday.
Opened in 2009 by Chef Troy Ummel, a graduate of New York’s Culinary Institute of America with over 25 years experience cooking at top restaurants under his belt, Connected is a classy, fine-dining affair. With a beautiful dining room lit by elegant chandeliers and twinkling side lights, the space is overlooked by a mezzanine balcony where live music is often played on the impressive grand piano. Connected’s menu is a pleasing mix of Italian and American, with standout dishes including the jumbo gulf shrimp cocktail appetizer and the house specialty, entrée costata di vitello, bone in broiled veal chop with fresh sage and calvados applesauce. These delicious dishes are all complemented by an extensive wine list.
Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or simply can’t start the day without a hearty caffeine kick, a trip to Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co , one of downtown Peoria’s best-loved independent and locally owned coffee shops, is a must. Located on Peoria’s increasingly artsy Main Street, Thirty-Thirty sources its gourmet coffee beans from the best equatorial coffee producing countries, creating unique and interesting blends like the Southey espresso, with hints of dark chocolate, tart cherry, pear and lime zest , and the Ethiopian gelana abaya, flavored with blueberry, caramel and butter. At the same time, the hip and laidback vibe make it a popular spot for both socializing, studying or working. Coffee can also be complemented with one of Thirty-Thirty’s delicious pastries.
Across the Illinois River in East Peoria is Jonah’s Seafood House, a pescatarian’s paradise, and a beautiful place to dine. Located on the waterfront, the restaurant features a simple, elegant dining room full of natural weathered woods. High quality dishes are guaranteed with Jonah’s Seafood House flying in fresh fish on a daily basis. Guests can dine on appetizers like crab stuffed mushrooms and flash fried calamari, and entrees including delights such as Hawaiian ahi tuna and Lake Superior jumbo whitefish. The more adventurous among you may want to sample the restaurant’s oyster bar which includes varieties from Kachemak Bay in Alaska and Chesapeake Bay.