My name is Shreya, and I came to the United States in 2011 with my better half—who, like me, is also a “foodaholic,” or food enthusiast. Over the past 10 years, I had the opportunity to experience exquisite and exotic cuisines that epitomize the cultural diversity that is deeply rooted in the foundation of this great nation. A simple and elegant meal blends in the place, the community and the people represented in that community. I consider food a form of art that speaks a universal language which strengthens communal bonds.
Recently, I moved to Peoria. As a midsized midwestern city, it is blessed with many fabulous family-owned restaurants and cafes. These places offer a calm and serene environment where people can spend their leisure time with their loved ones. I decided to document my experiences at these establishments on Instagram (@myfoodjournaling), and will be highlighting some of my favorites in a series of articles. I hope you enjoy reading more… and perhaps even discover a hidden gem or two that will become your new favorite!
Café Santa Rosa
Junction City Shopping Center
Café Santa Rosa is located in the heart of Junction City and is the only café in the shopping complex. Their menu features a wide range of flavorful coffees, lattes and teas. If you love tea, then you must try their chai tea latte. There are very few places in the Peoria area where you can experience one quite like this. The baristas also love customizing drinks to suit your palate. Stop by and get to know them—including Rafael and Jazz, who are extremely welcoming! My favorites: Chai Tea Latte, Winter Spice Cappuccino
El Gordo Mexican Bakery
841 West Main Street, Suite E
El Gordo Mexican Bakery, located close to Bradley University, is a small establishment that serves authentic bakery items. You must try their pan dulce (“sweet bread”)! They reminded me of a baked item called “fancy biscuits” that I grew up enjoying as a kid in my home country of India. It is the perfect complement to a morning coffee or tea. In addition to the bakery, they have very recently started serving flavorful lunch meals, including yellow rice, beans, chicken verde and pork mole. Be warned—their lunches are extremely addicting! My favorites: Pan Dulce, Pork Chili Verde
Dang Banh MI & Poke
1215 West Main Street
If you ask me about my favorite cuisine, it undoubtedly would be Asian. When Dang popped up last year on Main Street, I was ecstatic. Set your expectations high, because they will deliver! From the poke bowls and grilled pork banh mi to the shumai (traditional dumpling), everything is on point. If you are a fan of boba tea, this is the best place to get it in Peoria. It is also worth noting that they opened the restaurant in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and are still performing gloriously. My favorites: Hokey Poke Bowl, Lychee Flavored Tea
Cyd’s in the Park
5805 North Knoxville Road
Whether you need to pick up some breakfast items to share with colleagues (You will make an impression, I assure you!) or meet family for brunch, if you are in need of an afternoon cocktail session with close pals or a dinner date with your partner… Cyd’s has you covered! The ambiance is incredible, and the staff are welcoming and informative. During the warmer months, you can enjoy a unique outdoor dining experience surrounded by trees in the beautiful Donovan Park. Check out their calendar for fun events, including happy hours and live music. I also love their Market. The selections are so good that you will have a hard time choosing what to take home! My favorites: Soy-Glazed Salmon Skewers, Crab Cakes, Quiche, Blackened Shrimp, Scallops Over Potato Grits, Lemon Bar
To follow Shreya’s food journey in Peoria, follow her on Instagram @myfoodjournaling.