Life is kind of weird these days. One minute I’m exchanging Tweets with writer/photographer, Matt Buedel and then the next minute I’m having lunch with him at a Mexican restaurant that just opened (on April Fool’s day, no less) on Western Avenue. Here, I’ll show you how it happened.
Three Tweets, a couple of emails and baboom! Lunch was arranged at El Zarape restaurant. See how things can happen on any certain day? I knew that you could! Let’s go meet Matt!
Okay, here we are at El Zarape on Western Avenue right where it meets Main Street on the curve. Matt suggested the place, so let's go see what's going on inside.
It's very nice inside of here. Nothing too fancy, but you get a nice cozy feeling entering the restaurant.
Alma's folding silverware into napkins up at the front counter.
Here's Alma's brother Edgar with his girlfriend Patty who also works here. It's a family affair! Edgar is the owner of El Zarape and said that business has been good since they first opened on April Fool's day.
And here's all three of them, they're all super friendly and really make you feel at home in here. As always, I'm early so let's take a look around here before Matt arrives.
The wall behind the front counter has some Spanish styled art and a hat hanging on it.
Here's the first dollar that was spent in here and a piece of art done by Edgar's niece hanging below it.
A Spanish warrior and princess guard the coffee machine in the corner of the restaurant.
This painting hangs above one of the light fixtures on the side wall.
Vroom, vroom! A tiny motorcycle revs it up in the window box in the rear of the restaurant.
John was enjoying lunch and posed for the MBIP camera. It was his first time here and he said he'd definitely be coming back.
Here's the table I chose to sit at. I take great pride in my ability to pick out tables and feel this is a good spot to sit at.
And just as I get situated at the table, look who shows up...
Matt Buedel, today's guest of honor. Matt's been a crime reporter for the Peoria Journal star for 13 years. He's also a photographer and has a cool photo journal project going on with fellow photographer Scott Cavanah called "Every Other." They take turns posting photos from words that the other has thrown out for a photo opportunity. This is a year long photo essay that will have an exhibit at the Peoria Public Library on Main Street from July 1st to July 30th. There's a reception celebrating the event on July 20th from 10AM to 11:30AM where you can meet Matt and Scott and look at the photos. I'll be there and so should you! It's going to be in the Main Gallery at the library.
Here's Jewells, a pretty acquaintance of Matt's stopped by our table for a chat. Nice to meet you Jewells.
And, if by magic, chips and salsa arrive at our table. The green salsa is the hottest salsa I have ever had. If you need your sinuses cleared out, try a chip dip of this stuff!
And here come the main courses, I can't remember what Matt ordered, but it sure looks good!
I got the El Zarape, the signature burrito at the restaurant. I ordered it with beef filling. As you can see it's a huge portion...
And it's very delicious. All the food here is cooked fresh to order and it's authentic Mexican cuisine. It's just a couple months old, but I rate it as one of the best in Peoria. You should definitely stop by and try it out.
It was a great lunch with Matt and we had a nice chat about writing, the Peoria Journal Star, blogs, other restaurants in and around Peoria, photography and before we knew it...
Alma brought us over a complimentary dessert!
Wow, is this a thing of beauty or what? The perfect way to end a perfect lunch! Thanks to Alma, Edgar and Patty for such great hospitality and to Matt for meeting up for a great lunch and conversation! See you all tomorrow.
Thoughts For Food
Favorite pizza in Peoria (or nearby, this appiies to all questions): Mud Puddle Pizza in East Peoria.
Recommendation for Saturday Night Cheeseburger: Kaydee Kats.
Best local ice cream and favorite flavor: Emack and Bolio's, bananna.
If you could take a trip back in time, where would you eat a meal in Peoria? Kaffee Haus.
Even though you should try to eat local, the one chain restaurant in Peoria I would recommend is: Famous Dave's.
Favorite local sandwich: The Omnivorian at One World.
Best little out of the way joint I know is: Magic Kitchen in Springfield.
Someplace that has really good pub grub is: Pizza Works.
My favorite spot for breakfast is: Harvest Cafe in Delavan.
One of my favorite lunch spots is: El Zarape!
If you had to choose a last meal in Peoria, what would it be (feel free to use items from different restaurants): Morel mushrooms, straight from the woods.