Nature is finally allowing us to enjoy life outside our beloved homes! I am sure we all are ecstatic to sit at a café or restaurant to enjoy our favorite food and drinks. It is the perfect time to engage in people-watching or light conversation—and call it a day! I know where I am heading this week to enjoy delicious, locally crafted masterpieces… do you? Consider one of these fine establishments!
Zion Coffee Bar
803 SW Adams Street, Peoria
If you are an outgoing person and love to hang out at an Instagram-worthy establishment with coffee and exotic drinks, then head to Zion Coffee Bar. Located in Peoria’s Warehouse District, Zion is just a short distance from the riverfront area, where you can stroll with your favorite beverage. Their menu is populated with extraordinary items, including a wide range of flavored lattes, teas, baked snacks and cocktails. I love their avocado and hummus toasts—both will fill your palate with wonderfully unexpected flavors. Co-owner Banu Hatfield and her dynamic team always *wow* with their exciting, one-of-a-kind seasonal menus.
My favorites: Seasonal specials like the Ube Latte (made from a bright purple yam—it is extremely “Instagrammable,” if that excites you!) and Strawberry Shrub, or traditional favorites like The Peggy (black tea, milk and vanilla)
ARDOR Breads & Provisions
301 SW Water Street, Peoria
Without a doubt, this is downtown Peoria’s hippest place for breakfast. Their brioche bread is incredible, and I like to make my own avocado toast with it. In addition to a variety of breads and pastries, their menu offers a range of delectable tartines, pizzas and more. It is always difficult for me to choose just one!
My favorites: Morning muffin (pull-apart pastry, cinnamon and orange zest), Krispykouign (maple kouign-amann pastry, fried egg and cheddar cheese), Ham & Cheese croissant
7815 N Knoxville Avenue, Peoria
If you were hoping for my recommendation as an Indian of my favorite Indian restaurant, I can tell you that Indian Tadka is the place! If you are up for a spicy (note: not synonymous with hot), flavorful, carb-heavy indulgence, do not give it a second thought. Trust me—I know my food! Because the portions are so generous, you will be set for next-day leftovers. And let me tell you a secret: Indian food tastes even better the next day as it continues to marinate. Now, what to order?
For appetizers, I recommend the Chili Babycorn (vegetarian) and Crispy Masala Pepper Corn (vegetarian and dine-in only, as it loses its crispiness quickly), as well as Chicken 65 and Goat Pepper Fry (order with white rice). Finally, Tandoori Chicken is a must—warm it up in the oven if needed.
And now for the main course! Whether you are a vegetarian or a carnivore, you should definitely give the Malai Mutter Paneer with Naan a try. It is a five-and-a-half-star dish! I also recommend the Gongura Chicken and Hyderabadi Boneless Chicken 65 Biriyani (Warning: you may want to request a lower spice level.)
I am intentionally not including traditional favorites, like samosas or chicken tikka masala. Those are delicious, but there are many more options and I hope you will branch out. You won’t regret it, I promise! You may just find your new favorite food, and your new favorite restaurant.
My favorites: Goat Sukka, Chicken 65 Biryani, Malai Mutter Paneer
Riley’s Vegan Sweets and Eats
1233 W Brons Avenue, Peoria
I love this incredibly special bakery and its lively owner and baker, Riley Greenwood! Like myself, there are many people in central Illinois with dietary restrictions—but who still crave good food and delicious desserts. Riley offers a variety of vegan and gluten-free options. She makes killer cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, cupcakes, cheesecake, donuts and more. You can order ahead to pick up curbside. I also suggest following her Instagram account (@rileysvegansweetsandeats).
My favorites: Gluten-free Vegan Cinnamon Roll, Vegan Coffeecake
To follow Shreya’s food journey in Peoria, follow her on Instagram @myfoodjournaling. PM