1970s It was 1970 when Jim Jumer changed the name of Kramer’s to Jumer’s Castle Lodge. Just blocks from campus on Western Avenue, Jumer’s holds special memories for thousands of students. After all, how many establishments boast a black bear towering over the entrance to the lounge? Some ’70s-era students recall walking to the Bavarian-style hotel on chilly Friday afternoons. By ordering a happy hour drink, they could help themselves to a buffet of bread and cheese. Even better was the hearty soup that simmered in a black kettle in the fireplace.
Salads came of age in the ’70s. Discriminating diners wanted more than a bowl of iceberg lettuce served with thousand island or French dressing. Salad bars popped up in restaurants and in the dorms.
Lum’s featured a salad bar, plus a menu of sandwiches and entrees. Encouraged by TV commercials featuring owners Dave and Ernie, students could take a break from campus life by walking over to the Lum’s on Western Avenue. The last Lum’s in Peoria closed about four years ago.
A favorite establishment known primarily to alumni from the ’70s was L’s, located at Bradley and University. Bob Kirshenbaum ’74 of Bellevue, Washington, still claims that he could reach L’s from his freshman dorm room in a mere 12 seconds. An Omaha native, Kirshenbaum usually had two steak sandwiches a day. He enjoyed playing pinball at L’s and eventually worked at the restaurant. On Sundays, a trip to Agatucci’s for pizza with a few fraternity brothers was often on the agenda. Dorm dwellers were likely to order pizza from nearby Country Villa.
Dunlap resident Laura Wilson Kolb ’80 and her U-Hall friends counted themselves as L’s fans, too. The physical education teacher recalls nightly orders to L’s for a tuna sandwich on toast. The “twisty” soft-serve cones were another favorite.
1980s Known for a thick layer of deli meat, the grinders served at Mr. Chips (on University just off Main) are still a topic of conversation for some ’80s alumni. The meat was blanketed with tomatoes and shredded lettuce, but a seasoned vinegar and oil dressing gave the hearty subs their unique flavor.
Around the corner on Main were a couple of Chinese restaurants. For Karen Fairfield Warner ’87 of Peoria, the best choice was Hunan’s, and the favorite menu item was the moo goo gai pan. “It was a really good Chinese restaurant. I wish it was still there,” says the stay-at-home mother of five.
When Main Street was widened in 1989, Avanti’s had to give up its location of more than 20 years, just steps from Harper and Geisert Halls. Fortunately for the next generation of Bradley students, Avanti’s moved to larger quarters on the northwest corner of Main and University. Students didn’t mind crossing the street to pick up their carryout orders, but because of the new spacious dining room, were more inclined to sit down to enjoy their sandwich or spaghetti.
Also in 1989, the newly expanded and renovated Student Center became a reality. It was the result of a $26 million fundraising effort. Its new dining facility was called the Yankee Inn.
1990s The new decade brought a major facelift for Main Street, and with it came more eateries for students. In 1991, the Campustown shopping center on the south side of Main offered several restaurants and a Thompson’s supermarket that simplified food shopping for off-campus students. The Maid-Rite ’50s Diner served the same recipe of loose-meat sandwiches that students had purchased down the street in the late ’40s. Donnelly’s was a treat when they wanted a break from the dorm food.
Across the street on the busy corner of Main and University, One World Coffee & Cargo opened in 1993 and quickly became a local favorite. It introduced a new type of cuisine to the area. Now known as One World Eats & Drinks, the extensive menu offers everything from a Greek breakfast pizza to an array of creative sandwiches. Some students order an appetizer for dinner, such as homemade hummus or a spinach and artichoke dip. During finals last spring, One World stayed open all night.
During the mid ’90s, Erin Reid ’98 and Jennifer Zipp Tyre ’96 were regulars at Fedora’s (at Bradley Avenue and Duryea). The restaurant’s gourmet sandwiches featured a special sauce—so special that the Peoria cousins admit to trying to decipher its ingredients. Spinach pizza was another customer favorite. Fedora’s now operates at University and McClure, and Jester’s has taken its spot next to campus.
When the University initiated its Quick Cash program in 1997, budget-conscious students were able to venture out more freely to campus-area restaurants. With Quick Cash, a portion of the students’ room-and-board payment is placed in an account that allows them to charge food, products, and services from participating merchants.
2000s In 2000, a new food court became part of the remodeled Robert H. Michel Student Center. Students could buy sandwiches, bagels, smoothies, or Taco Bell Express.
Although the taco chain is no longer there, the millennial generation at Bradley continues to have more food options than any alumni before them. The University Dining Services works hard to present students with choices. For example, Famous Famiglia, the pizza served at New York Yankee games, is new at the food court.
Cafeteria hours are resident-friendly to students who want to sleep in on weekends. They can make their own smoothie or order a customized omelet until 1 p.m. The Center Court, housed in Williams Hall, is a favorite place to stop for a carryout pizza or to have a panini sandwich made to order.
At Campustown, Bellacino’s and Gorman’s Pub are popular places to grab a sandwich. La Bamba has huge burritos and a faithful late-night following. Many students cross Main Street at least weekly to use their Quick Cash at Avanti’s Ristoranté. The subtle name change seems to hint at the restaurant’s expanded menu. Gourmet specialties, such as asiago cheese ravioli, are dishes that never would have been found on the 1966 menu. And what do current Bradley students say about the cuisine near campus? The chicken alfredo pizza at One World Eats & Drinks gets a thumbs-up review from Andy Reising ’07 of Naperville.
Californian Amanda Lyn Bacon ’07 recommends a few Peoria eateries east of campus. The elementary education major likes Mr. G’s for Chicago-style hotdogs, Papa John’s for cheese pizza with dipping sauce, and Jimmy John’s for sandwiches. “At Jimmy John’s you can get avocados and sprouts on most sandwiches. That’s a huge draw for me,” says the San Diego resident.
Reising’s preference is something of a hidden gem near Woodruff High School, a place where customers sit outside at tables or in their cars. “The Ice Cream Shack is definitely my favorite place,” the mechanical engineering major reports. He and a carload of friends go weekly for ice cream and cheese fries.
Over the years, a few of the more popular menu items may have changed—students today don’t have a clue what a phosphate is, while offerings like wraps and quesadillas would have puzzled any coed in the ’30s. There’s one point, however, on which college students of any generation would agree: Sometimes the smart thing to do is to take a break from the books, order something great to eat, and hang out with your friends.
Special occasions call for a night on the town, or at least a restaurant meal away from campus. Whether the occasion was Parents’ Weekend, graduation, Homecoming, a holiday dance, or a Greek banquet, Bradley students have flocked to a handful of popular restaurants and hotels.
The stately Pere Marquette, a downtown landmark since 1927, has been one of the favorites. Thousands remember dancing and enjoying award-winning cuisine in the beautiful Cotillion Room. Some alumni from the ’60s recall dancing to the New Colony Six at Homecoming ’68. This past February, Sigma Nu alumni and actives celebrated the fraternity’s 50-year milestone at Bradley with a banquet at the “Pere.” The hotel is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.
When it was time to rent a tuxedo, put on a leisure suit, or slip into a Nehru jacket (depending on the decade), the Jefferson Hotel was another popular venue for dining and dancing. The hotel was imploded in 1978 to make room for the Peoria Civic Center.
The most memorable fine dining spot for decades of alumni may be a Bavarian hotel near campus that served German cuisine and a delicious bread basket. There wasn’t a bad roll in the bunch, but one was a true standout. The bite-sized cinnamon rolls were typically first to disappear from the basket that was always lined with a red cloth napkin. Jumer’s Castle Lodge servers were happy to bring more. And it was a good thing. Hungry roommates were most likely waiting back at the dorm or apartment, counting on sharing some of the “leftover” morsels. Jumer’s restaurant is now called Flagstones.
Other upscale restaurants cited by alumni include the River Station and Continental Regency, both downtown, and the Boar’s Head in north Peoria. While those establishments are no longer in business, the city currently enjoys a wealth of fine restaurants where Bradley students and families can continue to make memories.