Greater Peoria Area Classics


Amelia Odom, Guest Writer


New to the community, or looking to take a walk down memory lane? These Peoria area classics are staples to the community and help to make the Peoria area special regardless of where you’re from. Learn a little bit of history about the places that make the Peoria area feel like home.

Agatucchi’s  {Peoria}   //   Same location, same family since 1926. Agatucci’s is entering into their 10th decade of operations and holds the oldest, continually-owned liquor license in Peoria. With ventures into frozen pizza and spaghetti sauce and small renovations, Agatucchi’s continues to improve on their high quality services and products solidifying their status in the community as a Peoria staple.

Avanti’s  {Peoria, Pekin, East Peoria}   //   After learning the art of cheese making as a child in Switzerland, Albert Zeller purchased Lardano’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street in Peoria, in 1966. Soon after, he changed the name to Avanti’s. After the  success of the famous Gondola sandwich in Peoria, he decided to open a second restaurant in Normal with his brother Guido. Avanti’s has continued to grow into the iconic dine-in, carry out and catering we know today.

Bradley University  {Peoria}   //   The determination of Lydia Moss Bradley transformed what had been a prairie-land cornfield into Bradley Hall in 1897. Becoming a four-year college offering bachelor’s degrees in 1920 and a full university with graduate programs in 1946, when it was renamed Bradley University. Today they offer more than 185 academic programs, 240 student organizations, 15 varsity sports teams and are housed in 77 buildings just a mile from downtown Peoria, making Bradley University a lively hub for student life!

Bremer Jewelry  {Peoria}   //   Founded by Ernie and Jane Bremer in 1953 and first opened in downtown Peoria, Bremer Jewelry once carried grandfather clocks and had a clockmaker on staff. Now located on University, Bremer is known as being the largest bridal destination in central Illinois. They pride themselves on having knowledgeable and caring staff committed to carrying on the legacy created over the last 70 years.

Bushwhacker  {Peoria}   //   Owned and operated by Rich Pestien since 1976, and originally located at the corner of Main and University, Bushwhacker is Peoria’s go-to for outdoor outdoor supplies. The business continues to evolve, becoming a top 120 bike dealer in the country and staying on top of trends. Interested in learning how to kayak or need new patio furniture? Bushwhacker is your place.

Caterpillar Inc.   {Peoria}   //   In February 1910, American manufacturing inventor, Benjamin Holt, opened a plant in East Peoria, led by his nephew Pliny Holt. There, Pliny met farm implement dealer Murray Baker, who knew of an empty factory newly built to manufacture farm implements and steam traction engines. And that was the humble beginnings of Caterpillar Tractor Company. Ever since, Peoria has become known as the hometown of Caterpillar, Inc.

Emo’s Dairy Mart  {Peoria}   //   Entering their 40th season in the Summer of 2024, Emo’s is a seasonal favorite for the Peoria community of ice cream lovers. You can’t miss the iconic clown sign! Whether you’re looking to cool off on a hot day, grab lunch with friends or need somewhere for a casual date night, Emo’s has all of your summer food needs covered!

Festival of Lights  {East Peoria}   //   What began as a one-time event in 1984 has grown into one of the largest nighttime holiday celebrations in the Midwest. The Festival of Lights was named Heavyweights Champion on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2020. The Winter Wonderland drive-through display hosts an average of 25,000 vehicles annually making it a must-see winter attraction!

Fred’s Shoe Repair  {Peoria}   //   While not at the original location, Fred’s Shoe Repair has been in business since 1971, repairing more than just shoes! Shoe repair is their specialty, but you can bring in luggage and travel bags, clothing and utility items to give them a second chance before getting rid of them. 

George’s Shoeshine + Hatter’s  {Peoria}   //   George Manias is legendary in the Peoria area as a shoe shiner for over 75 years. He started shining shoes when he was just 15 years old, and saved up enough money to purchase his own business by 20. Give him a visit downtown Peoria to walk away with more than just shiny shoes, but also a new friend.

Heart of Illinois Fair  {Peoria}   //   Since the first fair in 1950, the Heart of Illinois Fair has been a place to celebrate the Peoria area community and its citizens. Gather at the Expo Gardens in July for good old-fashioned fun with carnival rides, motor sports, live performances, competitive exhibits and agricultural shows, along with some of the best fair food around! 

Jimmy’s Bar  {West Peoria}   //   With eclectic Irish decor and staff that makes you feel like family, Jimmy’s is a staple in the community. They’ve been going strong since 1982, with customers who keep coming back for more. Stop in for a drink and an appetizer and you’re sure to stay for the company!

Jones Bros. Jewelers  {Peoria}   //   Providing beautiful engagement rings and wedding bands, in-style fashion jewelry, and quality watches since 1939 when they opened in Pekin. Now located on Grand Prairie, Jones Bros. Jewelers bring the same individual care and quality service to each customer and each piece of jewelry.

Kelly Seed  {Peoria}   //   With roots in Peoria since 1905, Kelly Seed is the go-to business for gardening, farming and even the average homeowner. The family-owned store was originally a popular spot for farmers to purchase seasonal agricultural seed. The store has evolved to meet the needs of its customers, selling bulk garden and grass seed, fertilizer and bird feeders and seed. 

LaGondola Spaghetti House  {Peoria, Creve Coeur, Bartonville, Morton, Pekin, Chillicothe, East Peoria}   //   After seeing the growing interest in fast-food in the 1980s, Dick LaHood decided to get spaghetti into the competition. He opened six LaGondola restaurants in 1982, with twelve running today. With fresh bread and sauce made in each individual store and affordable prices for the whole family, you’re always going to enjoy your meal from LaGondola.

Lariat Steakhouse  {Peoria}   //   Serving up hand-cut steaks, home-made soups and fresh seafood since 1948. Lou Kouri purchased the Lariat in 1970, later being awarded the Illinois Hospitality Association lifetime achievement award, and the local favorite has been in the family ever since. The perfect spot for a cozy, intimate and delicious dinner!

Lindy’s Downtown Market  {Washington}   //   Originally just two aisles in a small front store, Lindy’s has grown quite a bit since 1958, while continuing to have the same quality of service. Ensuring that quality products are available in all departments allows Lindy’s to cater to people who love food and love to cook. Local sources provide unique goods that you just can’t find at other chain grocery stores, setting Lindy’s apart from the competition and making it a chef’s paradise. 

Metro Centre  {Peoria}   //   Owned and operated by the Goodman family since 1971, and full of stores, restaurants and services. The Metro Centre has a unique variety of locally owned businesses that create a bustling hub of activity and is also home to Peoria’s largest mural. Perfect for a photo-op!

Mona’s Italian Foods  {Toluca}   //   Nildo “Mona” Arthur Bernardi founded Mona’s Italian Restaurant as a bustling beer parlor in Toluca, Illinois in 1933. Many Italians had immigrated to Toluca to work the coal mines prevalent during the early 1930s in Central Illinois. Since, this Italian empire has expanded to Capponi’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1965 in Toluca and then Bernardi’s opened in Washington in 2001. The same family heritage continues through all three restaurants, however, each features their own distinctive Italian specialties. For over 85 years people from all over the state have converged in these small towns for great food, resulting in Bernardi’s Restaurants famous reputation.

Monical’s Pizza  {Peoria, Washington, Pekin, El Paso, Canton}   //   Bringing people together, with pizza, since 1959! The Monical family started making their one-of-a-kind, thin crust pizzas in Tolono, Illinois and quickly became a household name. Now with over 60 locations, Monical’s is a family favorite all across the Midwest.

Peoria Riverfront Museum  {Peoria}   //   Formally known as Lakeview Museum of Arts + Sciences, founded in 1965, the Peoria Riverfront Museum opened in 2012 and provides lifelong learning opportunities for all ages. With more than 20 exhibitions and a 40 foot dome planetarium all housed in a one of a kind building overlooking the Illinois River,, there is plenty of opportunity for entertainment and learning.

Pere Marquette  {Peoria}   //   Nearly 16,000 people attended the grand opening gala for the Pere Marquette in 1926. Designed by nationally recognized architect Horace Trumbauer, and with two murals from famous muralist George Harding inside, Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, you’ll find the conveniently located Pere Marquette elegant and timeless. 

Pizza Works  {Peoria Heights}   //   Pizza, appetizers, live music, drinks and more! Pizza Works is one of the oldest pizza parlors in Peoria, dishing out pizzas since 1974. Eclectic antique decor lines the walls along with lighting original to the building located in Peoria Heights. 

Pottstown Meat + Deli  {Peoria}   //   The Barth family has had four generations and over 100 years to provide the community with quality customer service and quality meats. Located in the Metro Centre, Pottstown Meat + Deli is a premier spot for beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and veal products raised right here in the midwest. 

Presley’s Outdoors  {Bartonville}   //   Offering high-quality outdoor gear since 1946. Originally named South Side Worm Ranch, and housed in a humble trailer, the business has grown into one of the biggest outdoor supply stores in the Midwest with a well-equipped facility with online shopping options. Presley’s is the kind of place where employees stick around and you’ll always run into a familiar friendly face.

Pumpkin Festival  {Morton}   //   Celebrating the beginning of the pumpkin harvest since 1967. Due to Morton’s title of “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” due to 85% of all canned pumpkin being processed at the Libby’s Pumpkin plant in town, there’s no better place for the annual Pumpkin Festival. Welcoming an estimated 75,000 visitors each year, the festival brings locals and visiting pumpkin lovers to town for unique events, delicious fall treats and a sense of community.

Santa Claus Parade  {Peoria}   //   The oldest continuously running parade in the nation. In 1887, the start of construction on the Upper Free bridge (replaced by the Murray Baker Bridge in 1958) over the Illinois River spurred the first Santa Claus Parade. Boats and derricks with 50 stone masons formed the parade which came down the river from Chillicothe. In 1888, the opening of the new bridge was celebrated with a procession of decorated business wagons—businesses along the downtown parade route were also decorated. An instant success, it  soon evolved into an annual celebration marking the opening of the Christmas Season. 

St. Jude Run  {Peoria > Memphis}   //   Began 1982. The run from Peoria, IL to Memphis, TN, which took place from July 30 to August 2, 1982, put 170 runners on a grueling 465-mile journey to help raise money for kids fighting  cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude. Peoria is also home to St. Jude’s first affiliate clinic, which opened in 1972. The St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run was initiated in 1982 by Washington Chief of Police Michael D. McCoy and Gene Pratt to raise funds for St. Jude.

The Fish House  {Peoria}   //   Specializing in fresh seafood dishes from around the globe with plenty of other dishes to choose from for all different appetites, since 1976.  The Fish House makes each and every guest feel special, on both regular and celebratory occasions. And, check out The Lounge if you’re looking for amazing drinks, appetizers and great company!

Trefzger’s Bakery  {Peoria Heights}   //   Established in 1861, Trefzger’s Bakery is Central Illinois’ oldest bakery with a tradition of creating quality products for quality people, balancing the fine line between traditional and contemporary. The award-winning bakery in Peoria Heights offers a full line of baked goods from breakfast pastries and cookies to cream pies to wedding and special party cakes. Fresh eggs, real butter, pure cane sugar and the finest flours combine to give you sights, smells and tastes that will leave you craving more.

Amelia Odom, Guest Writer
Discover Peoria, IL