Kelleher’s Irish Pub & Eatery
Things were different when I lived in Peoria. For the majority of my five years there I was single. I was a lot younger. It was my first time really living on my own (outside of a college dorm room). All of my friends were young and single too. That meant Friday and Saturday nights (and a lot of weeks Wednesday and Thursday as well) were spent at a bar somewhere.
One of our favorite hangouts in Peoria was a little Irish pub down by the river. A lot of the people I worked with knew the owner and it was just a great spot to meet up on a Friday night and have a few beers.
When J and I decided we were going to stop in Peoria, we asked if any of our friends still living there wanted to meet up for lunch. Only one person took us up on the offer and asked to meet for lunch. She works right down the street from the bar we spent so much time at as 20-somethings, so I suggested meeting there for lunch.
Kelleher’s Irish Pub & Eatery is on Water Street right near the banks of the Illinois River. The pub is in a complex of buildings known as Le Vieux Carre. Part of it, if I remember correctly, is an old horse barn for the post office. Now, it’s just used as business space, the pub, and some high end apartments among other things.
Parking for Kelleher’s is across the street and across the train tracks. It’s a short walk up to the multi-level beer garden that leads you to the front door and a very hot sun room. The hostess station is here and for some reason, it took her a long time to find a table for us….even though it was a Monday lunch and the place wasn’t that full….that really should have been a sign.
Eventually we were taken to a large six top in the back part of the space near the kitchen door. I actually remember spending a lot of time at that particular table just because of it’s size and proximity to the bar. Weird, right?
Our friend was running a little wait and we had to get the kids settled in. We tried B in a high chair for the first time and we had a little melt down from L because she wanted to sit by our friend whom she had never met. We had a little chat outside and passed our friend (I’m just gonna call her M from here on out) so by the time we got back, it was time to order drinks.
Being an Irish pub, they have the usual Irish beers on tap. I wasn’t in to craft beer at all when I lived there so I don’t know if they had some of the craft stuff when I was there or not. I doubt it because that wasn’t really a thing. You were drinking some fine beer if you got a Half and Half back in those days.
J ordered an Angry Orchard but I wasn’t in the mood for a beer for some reason. I stuck to a Coke and M did a Diet seeing as how she had to go back to work.
I never ate at Kelleher’s much when we lived there. We’d do appetizers or every now and then I’d get a burger if I had to work late before meeting everyone there, so I wasn’t super familiar with the menu. Of course, they have the usual Irish fare, but there is a large selection of typical pub food as well.
We put in our order immediately after we got our drinks….and we waited…and waited…and waited…and started to get frustrated when people who got to the restaurant twenty minutes after we did got there….then people who got there a half hour after us got our food. Our waitress was well aware of the length of time and apologized a few times unprompted, but it didn’t get our food any faster. Finally, after over an hour, she burst out of the kitchen with all four plates still apologizing for the wait. It gave us time to catch up and the conversation was good, but we had two kids who were at their limits on this trip and we were with someone who was on a lunch break. Luckily they were OK with her taking closer to an hour and a half break…..
Anyway, I was very intrigued by a big box on the sandwich page that contained the Kelleher’s Half and Half. This is a burger, served on toasted Brioche bun, that is made of 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. I added on cheese and a fried egg for a little extra. I was about to add bacon and realized that was dumb. The burger is half bacon. I’m going to preface by saying it was a delicious sandwich, but it was truly unlike anything I had ever eaten before. The bacon made the beef really salty. It took me a second at first to realize what I was tasting. I’m ok with salty. I like salty, but this may be too salty for some people. I found the cheese and the greasy fried egg mellowed things out a little bit. What it really tasted like was a very well seasoned hamburger cooked on a very well seasoned flat top. The sandwich came with seasoned thick-cut wedge potatoes. They must have been cooked well ahead of the sandwich because they were a little cold. Not too bad, but definitely fresh either. By that point, I was so hungry from the wait I probably would have eaten day old fries. They were good..just could have been a little warmer.
J and M both ordered the same thing. They got the Chicken Tender Wrap. I know they both special ordered with something being left off, but I don’t remember what it was. The wrap is a large garlic and herb tortilla filled with lettuce, tomato, honey mustard and either grilled or fried chicken. I believe both went with fried. I don’t remember either one of them saying anything about the wrap one way or the other, so I’ll take that as good. Their sandwich also came with the potato wedges. Again, we were talking about other things and how the food was didn’t come up.
L was forced to order a grilled cheese. It’s the only thing she’s been eating at restaurants lately so it’s the only thing she’s going to be able to get. She was hungry this time too. She ate the first half pretty quickly and a few fries then sort of nibbled on the rest.
Our bill was around $30 and I can’t tell you how much I want to keep the old memories of Kelleher’s and just forget this one. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to throw a fit and demand something be given to me for free because of a long wait, but I was really hoping they’d try to make it right and take off one of the sandwiches. An hour and a half for lunch is ridiculous and completely unacceptable. I have so many great memories of Kelleher’s and had so many great nights there. The place really is a jewel in Peoria. The food was really good and the atmosphere can’t be beat. I’m just sad this is how I will remember one of my favorite Central Illinois bars from here on out. Don’t be discouraged by this blog. Give it a try yourself. When they get it right (and they do most of the time), it’s one of the best places in town.