Eric's Blog

A Washington restaurant is using the history of its address to provide a matchless meal.

The Denhart Baking Company and Restaurant is a work of art on many levels.

Eric Shangraw is there for dinner in this week's You Gotta Eat.

On the north side of the square in Washington is a special business in what was a bank built in 1874. A local landmark. The Denhart Building has gone through multiple-makeovers. The latest is a taste of its original flavor.

"I worked in this town years back in the car business," said customer George Waller. "I used to bank here. And it just brings back a lot of memories," he said.

"I love the atmosphere," said customer Becky Kregar. "The decor is very fun. The old bank. And the food is excellent," she said.

"I like the old virgin pine floors. The knotting," pointed out customer Paul Kregar. "What they've done here with this building overall on the square in Washington is just fantastic," he said.

The original bank teller windows are still in place. And now they leave the vault wide open for anyone to explore. Its a miniature gift shop.

In the Denhart kitchen, almost every item is made by hand.

"We pride ourselves on fresh quality food," said manager Mark O'Connell. "We make just about everything from scratch. We make our own pies here. We make our own chicken salad from scratch," he said.

Photographer Doug Smith and I started with salads. They're hearty starters with freshly diced green pepper, tomato, onion and cucumber.

Doug had pork chops. They give you twins. Six-once bone is babies he had flame-broiled. Nice and juicy. I had Henry's Special. This is a working man's pick. Hot fresh roast beef piled high on bread with mashed potatoes suffocated by gravy. A colorful vegetable of the day along the side. I couldn't finish the roast beast. -needed to save room for pie. We added coconut cream and chocolate cream to our accounts. The bank puts out a gold standard dessert.

Our bill; $36.71 plus tip.

The Denhart has a banquet room featuring old photos with a visual lesson on Washington's downtown history.

To continue the adventure, the bank's basement is the C-Note Pub. Open in the evenings. No children allowed. This quiet get away allows you to sip a micro brew from Boulder, Colorado and forget the days worries. More therapy is out the door on the square. After its winter slumber, the fountain is again helping sooth anyone who overeats.

The Denhart Baking Company is open seven days a week.

The C-Note Pub is open Tuesday through Saturday starting at four.

Denhart Baking Co. & Restaurant
101 Washington Square
Washington, IL
Tuesday-Thursday 7am-8pm
Friday-Saturday 7am-9pm
Sunday 9am-2pm
Monday 7am-2pm

The C-Note Pub
Tuesday-Thursday 4pm-10pm
Friday-Saturday 4pm-midnight

You can order from either the pub menu or restaurant menu downstairs.
Downtown Peoria has seen its share of corporate workers leave their big office buildings for a more suburban view.

Despite the white collar migration, one locally owned restaurant keeps thriving.

Eric Shangraw explains the magic ingredients for the formula at the Adam's Street Café and Catering.

The Adams Street Café is a downtown Peoria institution. In business since 1983, the atmosphere is tantamount to mounting moms couch with a "snuggy" for your midday snack.

"I'm just coming in here to get a coffee to kind of warm up from the weather," said customer Hugh Billingsley.

"Well, it is just convenient when we have any errands to run downtown," said customer Matt Gilinsky.

"It is a nice and quiet atmosphere and good food for a good price," said customer Nicole Gilinsky.

The fair price point, fresh cooked meals, and service with a smile are the tenants to owner Joe Slyman's philosophy for success.

"And if you keep those three ingredients in your business plan, I can't see failing," said Slyman.

Even the cook with 17 years of experience over a grill knows what draws customers.

"I always like to show the ingredients on top to make it more appealing," she said.

Photographer Dave Janssen and I ordered the Breakfast Skillet Special. Your choice of meat. I had sausage. DJ ham. It includes two eggs (anyway you want them) with onion, pepper, tomato, topped with gravy and cheddar cheese with your choice of toast.

This is a top-notch morning meal.

With drinks, our bill; $17.96.

The Adams Street café is much more than just a reliable River City eatery.

The Adams Street café is open Monday through Friday seven am to two in the afternoon.

They're open for special events in downtown Peoria on Saturdays.

Adams Street Cafe & Catering
107 SW Adams St.


Mason City has a population of 2700, and one nice restaurant.

P-J's Featuring Jack & Jo's is small town culinary excellence.

Eric Shangraw makes the 45 minute drive from East Peoria to Mason County for this week's You Gotta Eat.

"P-J's Featuring Jack & Jo's" occupies 130-year old twin buildings in downtown Mason City. The owners bought one building for $5,000 a few years back. They gutted the Mason City Old Man's Club, and turned it into something special.

The warm decor features a pressed tin ceilings, and unique artwork. The regulars testify to the food.

"I'd say it is five-star quality. They got good meats. They season it well," said customer Nancy Leesman.

"They got the best pizza you ever ate," said customer Beth Leesman.

"I think (customers from out of town) expect the diner or bar food. And it is definitely not that," said owner Peggy Means, who runs the place with her son and husband.

Photographer Larry Faulk started with a Quiche Soup. The cream base holds scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach, and cheese. Larry said it didn't taste like breakfast. -just tasted good. I had a fresh salad with dried cranberry's and a house vinaigrette dressing.

Because we're celebrating our own version of steak month in February steak month, Larry had a Rib Eye; medium rare. P-J's steaks are hand-cut. Larry also had Haricot Verts; a.k.a Baby French Green Beans and a baked potato.

After four weeks of steaks, I went with New Orleans Pasta and Chicken. You'll detect a hint of hot sauce and custom Cajun seasoning. It was a table of terrific flavor. Our bill with drinks, $42.50 plus tip. The price alone is worthy of a Mason City road trip.

P-J's Featuring Jack & Jo's is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and five nights a week for dinner. You won't miss it if you can find downtown Mason City.

PJ's Featuring Jack & Jo's
120 E. Chestnut
Mason City, IL

Phone: (217)482-3616
Reservations Recommended on Weekends

Tuesday-Friday 11am-1pm

Tuesday-Saturday Open 5pm

A restaurant in Canton has split-personalities. On one side of Ari's Place, you'll find an old school diner.

On the other side, fine dinning, Luigi's Pasta House.

On the square in downtown Canton is Luigi's Pasta House. Luigi's is adjacent to Ari's Place, which is a Chicago-style diner where you find home cooked grub. Ari's and Lugi's are really one in the same. Luigi's is a little more upscale. Ari's a little more small town café. Both are run by the cook, Ari Lleshi, who's a man on a mission when he's in the kitchen.

"We prepare everything here. And it is like you are racing against time. And I am in my own element back there because I know I am my own boss," said Ari Lleshi.

Doesn't matter where you sit. You get treated the same on either side of the wall. Chuck and Kathy Franklin are on a date in Luigi's place.

"He said I'll take you anywhere I want. Want to go to Peoria? No. That's an hour each way. It is just nice to be able to be close to home," said Kathy Franklin.

"It is just a nice quiet atmosphere. A little nicer than your average Mom and Pop place. Something a little more special," said customer Gene Stanko.

Photographer Doug Smith and I started with a pasta appetizer. The Chicken Di Gornio is panned seared chicken. Onion. Mushrooms. And a white wine mixed with heavy cream. Ari uses a heavy pasta noodle in place of a bow-tie pasta to make it unique.

Ari's steaks are hand cut. Doug had a ribeye. Tender to the touch and melt in his mouth good. I had the parmesan encrusted sirloin. Its pared with a fettucinni noodle topped with roasted garlic tomato cream sauce.

Finally, the gut busting dessert. Doug had chocolate lava cake. Its diet busting badness, in a very good way. I had blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

We'll start those spring diets another day.

Our bill with drinks, $44.43 plus tip. A fine meal for a real deal.

Ari's Place and Luigi's Pasta House seven days a week. The diner opens at seven am daily. Luigi's dining room opens at lunch. They're both on the east side of the Canton Square.

Ari's Place and Luigi's Pasta House
29 East Side Square
(309) 647-0526

If you want to fee like a small-town movie star, check out the Palm. The owners are friendly. The service is prompt. The food is fantastic. And the price is reasonable. As one customer said, this is a great value.

This price was similar to what we paid last week at Jim's Steakhouse. Don't get me wrong. Jim's is a first class operation. But this is a first class country operation. And they pass on the lower overhead being in a small community.

For 90 dollars we ordered, an appetizer, two steaks, sides, and two rich desserts. The Palm is a big bang for the buck.