A little over a month ago I started a new series here on MBIP that’s going to be spotlighting different luncheon buffets around town. One buffet I’ve always wanted to go to is the one featured at Jim’s Steakhouse downtown. I’ve heard it’s really great and so that’s the grazing destination today. And we’ve got two special guests coming along for the ride, so let’s get grazing!
Here we are at Jim's Steakhouse, definitely an iconic downtown Peoria restaurant. I've been here many times for dinner, but never for lunch.
Wow, check out the board in front of Jim's, looks like we've got plenty of items to choose from at today's buffet, let's get inside, it's freezing out here. How did winter return so quickly?
As soon as I hit the lobby I'm greeted by the first of today's special guest stars, Ken Zurski! Ken's a reporter and writer for WMBD radio and is also a two-time book author. His latest book, "Peoria Stories," has just been released and you can read more about that below in the bonus Q. and A. section at the bottom of this post.
We made our way into the elegant dining room and chose a table. This is definitely an upscale place for a buffet!
Here's our pretty waitress Caitlin delivering our drinks. Caitlin's worked at Jim's for two years and she told us her boyfriend Ky Brown is in the local funk band, Steady Flow, which I've heard good things about. You can check them out on facecrack and here's their website. I asked Caitlin if there was any luncheon specials in addition to the buffet and she said this was the special of the day...
"Peoria Stories!" Ha! Okay Ken, how much did you tip her to do that?
Here's the third member of our buffet luncheon party, Thomas Bruch, who's the entertainment reporter for the PJ Star. We've tweeted back and forth on Twitter and decided we should finally meet up in real life. Thomas writes The Buzz blog and recently wrote a feature on MBIP pal and Contributing Writer, Craig Moore. Great to meet Thomas and now I must abandon the table to take some shots around Jim's Steakhouse before we have lunch.
Here's the entrance to my favorite place at Jim's...
This is a great bar, but sadly I can't have a beer here today as I have to go to work in a little bit. So sad!
The walls of Jim's are plastered with framed photos and I took pictures of them in this post, so no sense in taking any more...well, I have to get a shot of my favorite photo in here...
An autographed photo of Warren Zevon from 1994. Wish I was in here that night!
And so with Ken and Thomas leading the way, it's off to the buffet we go!
When I go to a buffet, I like to have three courses and I always start off with a salad and the choices here are more than ample as you can see! Time to build the first green course.
Sometimes lettuce at buffets are wilted from sitting out but not at Jim's. The lettuce and vegetables were crisp, fresh and tasty. A nice start for sure!
Ken and Thomas went for the soup instead of salad and Cailin took a shot of us enjoying our first course.
And now we move on to the second course of the meal, which is the main course. There's lots to choose from here as we saw on the sign as we entered the building.
The turkey tetrazini looks really good...
There's also catfish, pork stir fry and liver and onions in this section, but wait, there's more...
Here's the prime rib and roast beef in a mushroom gravy. So many delicious choices!
And all your selections are made under the watchful eye of Tom Brokaw, which freaked me out a little bit. He looks so judgmental. It's just lunch, Tom, lighten up for God's sake!
I got a couple of slabs of the prime rib, a portion of the turkey tetrazini and a bakery fresh roll for my main course. It looks and smells fantastic!
Everything was great and the prime rib was definitely a highlight!
Time for the third course and check out this dessert table! All of the items are baked in-house and this is quite a stunning selection!
These desserts in glasses look tasty...
So does this caramel nut pie!
But I had to go with this chocolate cream pie, can you blame me?
As you can see, I think I made the right choice!
As lunch wound down, Ken presented me with a limited edition black "Peoria Stories" t-shirt, very cool! Thanks to Ken and Thomas for joining me on this second edition of Grazing The Buffet, it was a great lunch! We'll see you all tomorrow!
Four Jimmy Buffets—This is a world class buffet in a four star setting, you should definitely check it out!
Bonus Q. and A. With Ken Zurski About His New Book, “Peoria Stories”
Ken Zurski’s second book has just been released. His first book, The Wreck of the Columbia, was a well-received novel about a tragic steamboat wreck that happened in 1918 here in Central Illinois. “Peoria Stories” continues in this historical vein and it contains anecdotal stories that revolve around Peoria. Here’s Ken fielding some questions about his latest book that delves into interesting and fun history about the River City.
MBIP: “Peoria Stories”, so this is a book about Peoria?
Ken Zurski: This is actually a book about stories with Peoria in them. I didn’t want to write a book just about Peoria history. There are many good writers and local historians like Jerry Klein, Bill Adams and Norman Kelly who have done just that. My objective was to take famous and powerful people and events and show how Peoria and the Central Illinois region in general fit in historically to a certain time or place or significant person’s life.
Like Abraham Lincoln for example?
Exactly. Lincoln didn’t come to Peoria very often but he is known for one speech here. He was also a lawyer in a very interesting murder case in nearby Metamora.
And both stories are in the book?
Yes. But there’s so much more to the story. Lincoln wasn’t even nationally known when he gave his famous slavery speech in Peoria, but afterwards he became a spokesman for a contentious debate. The Peoria speech is considered his first great speech and one that took him to the White House. And he was just a traveling lawyer on the circuit when he came to Metamora to defend an old woman against a murder charge. But that story too is told from several different perspectives.
Tell us about the Grand Centennial. How does Peoria relate?
Well, nearly every town in America celebrated the 100th birthday of our nation, thanks to the government insistence and approval. Peoria had a lavish affair full of parades, games, races and speeches, including an orator who would become one of Peoria’s famous citizens. But 1876 was also a fascinating year, coming at the end of the Civil War Reconstruction and during a heated presidential election year. The country was in flux, so to speak. What better time to celebrate, right? Peoria, was growing, building new buildings, and expanding, so it was a pretty good year overall and the Fourth of July celebrations reflected that. The nation itself however was dealing with some really deep issues.
And you get into all that in the story?
Yes. I feel history whether it’s local or national is all connected in some way.
Teddy Roosevelt is on the cover. Is that when he came to town to proclaim Grand View Drive the “World’s Most Beautiful Drive “?
Yes, that’s the day in 1910 when he took a drive up the hill.
And he really did say those words?
That’s the story, yes. But again, there is so much more to the story. I always heard about his words and the now lasting tribute to the city, but always wondered why he was here, what he was doing on the hill, and how the local press at the time covered the event? When did he say those words and what exactly did he mean by “most beautiful drive?” We get into all that, but much more. Let’s just say he truly enjoyed the ride.
What’s your favorite story in the book?
That changes almost every day. Usually I'm reminded of a certain chapter and that’s the one I like the best at the time. For example, I was up on the Main Street hill and couldn’t help but reminisce about “Church Build in a Day.” Next day, I was walking down Hamilton Street in downtown Peoria and I thought about “A Plotters Tale.”
So there’s a connection with Hamilton Street in the story?
Yes. But you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Of, course! And you can find the answer to that last question by purchasing “Peoria Stories” by clicking right here and check out Ken's facecrack page for book readings and personal appearances. If you have a Peoria history buff on your Christmas list, this is the present for that person!