I’ve had a lot of people tell me I should check out Mud Puddle Pizza in East Peoria. I’ve heard that their brick oven pizza is really a unique treat, but I usually go out for the pizza on either Friday nights or Sunday afternoon or evenings. Mud Puddle Pizza closes on Friday at 9PM, while I’m still working and they’re closed on Sunday. Well, recently I had some facecrack correspondence with Scott Allen, who’s friends with the owner Jeff Hickerson and Jeff agreed to open the restaurant for a private MBIP Pizza Party. And you’re invited, so come on, we have to be the first ones there or my OCD will go into overdrive!
We have arrived at Mud Puddle Pizza at 222 Meadows Avenue in East Peoria. The building is a lot bigger than I thought it would be.
As I stated earlier, Jeff, the owner is opening up on his day off and I'm about a half an hour early, so the door is locked.
This door is marked, "Employees Only," but I peered into the window and I saw someone inside who opened the door up...
This is Dani, she opened up the door and let me in and told me she's been working and making pizzas here for two years. She told me to make myself at home and that the owner Jeff would be here momentarily.
So I made myself at home by taking out the MBIP camera and took a photo of Dani starting to prepare the freshly made pizza dough for one of today's pizza pies. This is what I do folks.
Three minutes after that photo was taken, the man himself showed up and introductions were made. This is the owner of Mud Puddle Pizza, Jeff Hickerson. Jeff also owns and operates a computer business from this building called, Horizon Computers. He got into the pizza business when his son Evan got laid off from Caterpillar. It's an interesting story and you can read all about it in this article written by MBIP pal, Jeanette Kendall for the East Peoria Times-Courier.
When Jeff and Evan started looking into buying pizza ovens, they found they were pretty expensive, so Jeff went online and found out how to build his own brick wood-burning oven. Here's the oven and it gets fired up to an impressive 1,000 degrees!
Jeff then built a second oven which fires up to 500 degrees and he cooks the deep dish pan pizzas in this one.
After a tour of the ovens, Scott, who I met on facecrack showed up with his pretty girlfriend, Jen. Both Scott and Jen work in labs and Scott also plays in a band called, Four Leaf Rovers. They're an Irish/Celtic/Punk band and Scott sings and plays guitar and mandolin. There's a video of the band at the bottom of the post to check out. It turns out that Scott knows, MBIP Contributor and pal, Jeff Putnam. I think you all know what needs to be done here.
Jeff took us into the main dining room, which you can see is an eclectic mix of chairs and tables, giving it a fun clubhouse feel.
There's a stage at the front of the dining room and music happens here frequently. Scott and his band are regular performers at Mud Puddle Pizza. Nice to see a place supporting the local music scene.
There's more tables and chairs over here in this side dining room. This place is huge!
There's a stage at the front of this room too. Jeff's a musician and those guitars on the wall are all his. Nice collection!
Comfortable booths line the far wall of this room.
We move back to the front dining room as two more guests to the pizza party arrive...
It's MBIP Contributing Writer and pal, Scott Turley with his lovely wife, Moonbaby. Okay, the party is all set and raring to go!
Mud Puddle Pizza is not only a wood-fired pizza parlor, it's also a brewpub and Jeff brews his own beer and root beer back in this room here.
Jeff explained the science and technology of brewing your own suds and root beer, but I have to admit it went a little over my head. I'm more familiar with things on the other side of the bar.
And so that's exactly where we headed to: The bar!
As we grabbed stools, Jeff went behind the bar and played bartender.
We sampled the four house brewed beers on tap and they were all very tasty. Jeff also has domestic and imported beer available as well as wine.
Dani said the pizzas were just about done, so out comes the hot sauce. I thought maybe they made their own hot sauce, but it turns out to be the ever-present, Franks's Hot Sauce. Time to cue this up.
Check this out, it's the Mud Puddle version of a deep dish pizza. They cook it in the brick oven in a skillet. There's over a half dozen varieties you can choose from on the menu. I've never seen a pizza like this in my life and I can't wait to try it!
Here's a more traditional looking pizza, it's the Meat Eater pizza.
And to counter-balance all that meat, Dani also prepared a veggie pizza. Okay, my mouth is watering, time to start sampling these pies!
We started with the Iron Skillet Deep Dish, we let Jeff cut this baby up, you need to be an expert to do it!
Okay, this was unbelievable! I'm not usually a big deep dish fan, but this was like nothing I've ever had. It's kind of like a pizza pot pie filled with fresh mozzarella cheese, onions, bell peppers and the in-house, freshly ground sausage. The crust is crispy and makes a nice counterpoint to all the oozy goodness inside. The sauce is their own recipe and it's really tangy and tasty. This is definitely the most unique pizza I've had on the tour so far.
Next up was the thin crust Meat Eater pizza. This is made with their homemade yeast dough and topped with the house ground sausage, bacon, pepperoni, ham and fresh mozzarella cheese. The crust is thin, but not cracker thin and it's got a nice chewiness to it. Really tasty!
Last but not least was the veggie pizza topped with black olives, onions, bell peppers, pepperocini, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. All the pizzas were fantastic and thanks to Dani for doing such a wonderful job of preparing and cooking them.
After the pizza we had more beer for dessert.
Thanks to Jeff and Dani for a wonderful and fun private pizza party at Mud Puddle Pizza, it was a blast and definitely a highlight of this MBIP Year Of Pizza Tour!
And now for the next day cold pizza challenge...and yes the MBIP craft beer corner is still empty, I"m hoping to fix that next week! But don't hold your breath.
It's delicious! Thanks again to Jeff and Dani for hosting us at Mud Puddle Pizza and to Scott, Moonbaby, Scott and Jen for coming along. It was a ton of fun and we'll see you all tomorrow!
Four Chef Boyardees—They were all great, but that Brick Oven Iron Skillet pizza blew my mind. You definitely need to try that out if you’re a pizza fan.
Related posts: MBIP YOP @ Khaki Jack’s, Hammer’s Bar & Restaurant, Budde's Pizza & American Craft Beer Bar, One World Cafe, Monical’s Pizza, Goodfellas, Two25 In The Mark Twain Hotel, McCritter’s Bar & Grill, Firehouse Pizza Pub, Grady’s Pizza, Castle’s Patio Inn, Aurelio’s Pizza, The Pour House, No Wake Zone, Farmington Pizza Company/Acme Saloon, Tobin’s Pizza, Joe’s Sports Grille, Broken Tree, Hoops Pub & Pizza, Oliver's Pizza & Pub North, Rizzi’s on State, Bacci Pizza, Veterans Pub and Pizza, Larry’s Driftwood Pizza, Norwood Pub ‘N’ Grub, Barrister’s Pizza and Pub, Mickie’s Pizzeria, Double A’s, Lucca Grill, Avanti’s, Leonardo’s, Lou’s La Grotto, Knuckles Pizza, Davis Bros. Pizza, Kenny’s Westside Pub, Dave’s Pizza, Peoria Pizza Works, Sugar and Agatucci’s.
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