A few weeks ago I was driving around town happening to recall of the long gone steakhouses in Peoria. Some were national chains and others locally owned, I made a brief list to share with you today.
Of course the big two national chains were Bonanza and Ponderosa. The first Bonanza was on University about where Blockbuster last resided. It opened in the mid-60's and I recall long lines when it opened. I walked up the wooden plank exterior flooring and received a string tie and a sheriff's badge on my first visit. We dined occasionally there with me getting cowboy themed coloring books. Not a bad haul and a steak dinner.
Ponderosa opened soon on Knoxville near Armstrong. Another opened on Glen next door to Paul's Liquors, it closed about 10 years ago. I don't remember going here much as a kid as I do remember the frenzied following it had due to it's salad bar in the 80's. That was the era when a restaurant was measured by it's salad bar credentials.
I always wondered about the fascination with the Bonanza TV show of both steak chains. Why not "Have Steak will Travel" or "Rawhide?" The reason was Dan Blocker who portrayed "Hoss" on Bonanza actually started the chain. After three restaurant openings he sold out and the rest is history with growing to over 600 locations. Like any successful enterprise, a copycat will work, thus Ponderosa was born.
Later in the 70's another national chain came to Peoria, Mr Steak which was located by Northwoods Mall, McDonald's is currently there. They did offer sit-down ordering with low price meals.
One location that was home to numerous "fast food" steakhouses is the current Culver's on University. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the order was Western Sizzlin", Sirloin Stockade, Eric's Great Steaks, and lastly Maverick. Eric's was a chain based out of Rockford, only growing to a handful of Illinois restaurants until closing. Another multi-steak site was the Sho-gun on Brandywine Drive. I swear that location was home to about a half a dozen steakhouses everyone banking on it's castle-like exterior. It never worked and the ill-fated castle was demolished a few years ago.
Peoria has welcomed many renowned locally owned steakhouses, Black Angus on Detweiller Drive, Stephanies on Knoxville, Downtown Steakhouse (I think on Jefferson?) and Boar's Head on north Knoxville near Giles Lane. I can't remember the name of the place late 70's/early 80's on Washington Street near the stockyards. Their hook was the bread was served in a ceramic flower pot.
Ned Kelly's was a central Illinois Australian themed chain run by one of the former owners of Lum's. Wild Berries is at their former location on Brandywine.
Other chains that haven't lasted in Peoria include Outback, Lone Star, and Johnny's. All still exist in other markets with Johnny's now in East Peoria. Longhorn near Shoppes at Grand Prairie is one chain still operating.
Nice to know with all the comings and going of chain steakhouses in the past 50 years Peoria has kept more locally owned restaurants going. Lariat on Glen, Jim's Steakhouse, once at Junction City, now downtown and Sky Harbor near Farmington Road are all still going strong. For those of you longing for the steak and salad bar days, Alexander's, at Adams and Alexander, still serves steaks and you can cook them yourself too.
Bonus Picture From Jaws the Cabbie!
Jaws the Cabbie found this photo on the interwebs showing that Hoss wasn't the only one from the Ponderosa to have a steak house. Hop Sing had one too and he was proud of the fact that, "You Can't Beat His Meat!" Ha! Thanks, Jaws!