Eats, Drinks & Special Nights Out

Friends toasting their drinks on the rooftop at The 12 Bar Lounge in Peoria Heights

Some nights, you want nothing fancier than a juicy burger, Thai or Vietnamese takeout, or some chips and salsa to munch while sipping a margarita. Thanks to Greater Peoria’s wealth of dining options — covering practically every type of cuisine — you’ll have no trouble finding exactly what you crave.

Looking for Middle Eastern, Asian or Indian food? In Greater Peoria, there are a multitude of international options.

In the mood for pizza or barbecue? From deep dish to thin crust, from dry rub to spicy Carolina Gold, we’ve got you covered.

From hometown favorites like Avanti’s and One World, to Spice Hospitality Group’s group of local eateries, to your favorite national chains, there’s no shortage of options for casual dining. And from Bearded Owl Brewing to Black Band Distillery and beyond, our lineup of local breweries, wineries, distilleries and coffee shops is constantly growing.

But what about a special night out — when you want to impress a date, your boss or your in-laws? Good news: There’s no shortage of fine dining choices in Greater Peoria, either. Here are five standouts that combine delicious fare, exceptional service and unique atmospheres to create a memorable dining experience.

1. 2 Chez

Old World meets New World at 2 Chez, creation of Chef Todd Hohulin and a Greater Peoria fine dining staple since 2006. Everything on the menu — food and cocktails — is hand-crafted from scratch with carefully selected ingredients.

Selections range from veal au poivre to New Zealand rack of lamb to a Hawaiian poke bowl. Diners rave about the calamari, pomme frites and ribeye. 2 Chez’s space is small and intimate, so be sure to call for a reservation to secure your spot.

2. Connected

This Distinguished Restaurant of North America award winner is tucked in an out-of-the-way location that may have you questioning if you’re in the right place. Don’t worry — you definitely are. Chef Troy Ummel has 35-plus years of experience in the restaurant business and it shows at Connected.

Favorites on the Italian-inspired menu include the pan-seared Chilean sea bass, Australian lobster tail and the house specialty: wild boar tenderloin. Save room for dessert and a glass of limoncello! Reservations are definitely recommended.

3. Edge

Farm-to-table, farm-to-fork, farmer-focused — whatever you call it, you’re sure to call any meal at Edge outstanding. The team of chefs works with trusted local farm partners to find the best produce and livestock for the restaurant’s constantly rotating menus.

Don’t overlook the wine list, either, as Edge earned the prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. Whether before or after your meal, it’s fun to grab a rooftop drink at the 12 Bar Lounge on the third floor.

4. Hearth

Owner Hugh Higgins spent his career in the wine and spirits industry — don’t sleep on the whiskey list here! — and worked closely with restaurateurs around the country as they planned their menus. All that knowledge culminated in his dream-come-true restaurant, Hearth, which he opened in 2013.

“Local Farms First” is this eatery’s motto, and the menu changes frequently based on seasonal ingredients. Vegetarians will love the “grits and rooms” entrée, while meat-eaters can feast on everything from duck to rack of lamb. Book your spot at this popular destination in advance.

5. Cyd’s in the Park

For a more casual (but no less special) evening out, head to Cyd’s in the Park. Here in Donovan Park, a gourmet takeaway market meets full-service restaurant meets bar. There’s indoor seating along with a beautifully lit patio for dining al fresco in what may be Greater Peoria’s most unique and tranquil setting.

The truffle mac and cheese is always a hit, as is the bourbon-glazed meatloaf. Insider tip: Don’t skip dessert. If you forgot to reserve in advance, you can enjoy a craft cocktail, beer or wine at the bar or next to one of the outdoor fire pits while you wait for a table.

NEW! Ardor Breads & Provisions started in 2020 as an artisan bakery and cafe in Peoria’s Riverfront District, opening its doors during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now owner Cody Scogin and his team are taking their passion for preservation, fermentation and local ingredients to a whole new level. It started with “Ardor After Dark,” a series of elegant pop-up dinners for small groups, and soon, the space will expand into a full-service restaurant, showcasing unique flavors of the Midwest, past and present.