Live from Peoria, Illinois, it’s Saturday Night starring this week’s host, Tannins & Hops Speakeasy with special guest stars, Bryan, Nick, Lucas, Abbie, Kylie and Thomas. And now please welcome from Water Street in downtown Peoria, this week’s host, Tannins & Hops Speakeasy!
Tannins & Hops Speakeasy just opened up a little over a week ago. It’s the only bar and restaurant I know of in Peoria modeled on a Speakeasy and I’m anxious to check it out. It’s located right down here on Water Street in the building that used to house the Rhodell Brewery. The entrance is over on the side of the building now. if the curtains are shut in the front windows, that means the Speakeasy is open for business. There’s the door, let’s go inside and see what’s going on!
You don’t just walk in here, in true Speakeasy fashion you need to know a secret password to get inside. What you do is you walk over and pull the rope in the corner. Then you lift the metal plate on the window and you tell the password to that smiling face behind the window. I’m going to tell you the password, but keep it to yourself, it’s a secret! The password to gain entrance to the Speakeasy is: “i hear this plays in Peoria.” Once you’ve said the password...
The door opens and you’re granted and entrance to Tannins & Hops Speakeasy! That’s Bryan Harlan who owns Tannins & Hops along with his wife, Magan. Bryan has been working on this concept for over a year now and he told me that this building was used to smuggle in whiskey between 1926 and 1932. The operation was run byh the O’Neil brothers and Al Capone. So it’s the perfect building for a modern Speakeasy! Let’s go inside and see what it looks like in here.
As you walk in, the first thing you see is this 1870’s era jail cell where you have to sit for a few minutes if you don’t know the password. Wow, there’s a big crowd in here tonight, looks like I wasn’t the only one curious about this place! The bar is pretty well full, but I spy one seat that I can squeeze into.
I took a shot of the people at the bar and then settled in as bartender Nick delivered a beer. He’s a friendly guy and even though they were very busy, he took some time to explain some things on the menu to me. One thing I love in here is that there are no TV sets anywhere. The only screens are those two behind the bar that have information on the beer on tap and what wine is available by glass. Bare bulbs hang from the rustic wooden ceiling. The wood and brick in here certainly give a nice 1920’s era vibe.
I placed my dinner order with Nick and got up to take a stroll around the place. The tables in here are large communal tables that promote conversation and socializing with other people in the Speakeasy. There’s a framed Hiram Walker poster which goes along with the bar that is made from wood from the original Hiram Walker plant here in Peoria. And that’s not the only repurposed item in the bar from Peoria, the chairs are from the Jumer’s Black Bear lounge and the tables are made from wood from lanes in the old Town and Country bowling alley. That wooden wine barrel is from Bordeaux, France. The design and repurposed materials were found by Isaiah and Matt Faugh from Whiskey City Design who helped Bryan with the design and building of the Speakeasy.
There’s a group enjoying themselves at one of the large communal tables and check out that prohibition mural on the back wall. That was done by Devin McGlone, Peoria’s famous chalk artist. This is done in a little different style than what he usually does and it’s really a cool piece of original Prohibition art!
The kitchen is in full view back here and Bryan told me that there’s no freezer, fryers or microwaves in the kitchen to ensure fresh food every night. There’s a view of the bar from the other end and I love how everyone working here is dressed in 1920’s style garb. That’s Abbie and Kyley looking cute while posing for the MBIP Camera!
In addition to a very large wine selection, there’s also twenty beers on tap. The bullet style handles are very cool and the drawings of beer glasses below them add a nice bit of kitsch.
The antique tools on the wall were more repurposed items found by Whiskey City Design and the Whitney Baby Grand Piano was bought from Costume Trunk owner and MBIP pal, Steve Spain. It had been in his family for decades and they’re remodeling their house, so Bryan acquired the piano for Tannins & Hops. There’s some of the large wine inventory housed in the brick wall back here.
Here’s a shot of the Speakeasy from the back of the room. One thing Bryan told me was that he’s noticed very few people using their cell phones in here. He said he thinks it’s because of the communal design and how that encourages people to talk and socialize rather than just staring at your phone like a zombie.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, it looks like our Saturday Night dinner is just about to be served!
One of the items that Tannins & Hops specialize in are gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and they have different specialty tomato soups to compliment them. I didn’t get the grilled cheese but I did want to try the soup, which was a spicy San Marzano Bisque. The soup is really thick and rich and packs a little punch with the spices! I’ve never had soup with this thick consistency and it was so tasty, I love soup and this was really different and delicious!
Here’s the Executive Chef of Tannins & Hops, Lucas with our main course.
These are alligator sliders. I’ve never had alligator and had to try them. Chef Lucas told me that they add some pork to the ground gator sausage to add some juiciness and they’re topped with melted provolone cheese and a Creole tomato sauce. They’re served on toasted French bread. These open-face sliders really have a unique taste and I really enjoyed them. The alligator has a savory flavor all of it’s own and it’s sharpness blends well with the creamy provolone and the rich Creole tomato sauce. The French bread adds a nice crispness to the mix and these were delicious!
For dessert, Thomas told me he was going to make me a special drink and I took pictures of him preparing it. That drink not only looks tasty, it’s also got a special name attached to it...
Bryan told me they’ve decided to name this drink, The Wombacher Sour! Yes, I now have a drink named after me in Peoria! Bryan said it’s based on the recipe for a New York Sour which was a popular Prohibition drink and it also celebrates the 19 years I lived in New York! This is a true honor and it’ll be on the menu soon. In about a month we’re going to come back and celebrate The Wombacher Sour when it’s on the menu! This was a fun night in a new drinking establishment that’s like no other in Peoria! You need to come and check it out and support this fun new Speakeasy! Thanks to Bryan and everyone at Tannins & Hops for a wonderful evening, a tasty meal and for The Wombacher Sour! We’ll see you all tomorrori
Just like the Speakeasy itself, the menu at Tannins & Hops is unlike anything else in Peoria. They specialize in shareable plates and Charcuterie where you can pick from large selection of meats and cheeses. If you’re a solo diner like I was last Saturday there’s also selections for one including four different gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, a signature burger and specialty 1920’s styled salads.
I chose to start with the tomato soup of the week and that was the Spicy San Marzano Bisque. As I mentioned earlier I’ve never had a soup with this thick consistency, it was almost like a warm custard. The soup had a nice rich tomato flavor with some heat from the spices and it was really a taste treat. The homemade croutons took it over the top and it’s one of the most flavorful and unique soups I’ve ever had!
For my main course I had to try the open-face alligator sliders. These, like so much on the menu, are really unique and it’s a taste unlike anything I’ve ever had. The ground alligator has a savory sharp flavor and it’s mixed with pork which gave the sausage some juiciness and a little bit of a familiar flavor. The provolone cheese and Creole tomato sauce added creaminess and more flavor. I really enjoyed these and I look forward to trying more of the items on this unique menu.
Four Galloping Gourmets—My meal was tasty and unique and I’m definitely coming back to try those grilled cheese sandwiches!
619 Southwest Water Street