110 SW. Jefferson St.
Peoria Illinois 61602United States
Midwest Living Recommends
A classy yet homey tradition in downtown Peoria promises friendly service, a date-night atmosphere and good steaks.
Owned since 1960 by the same family, Jim's has a special-occasion reputation throughout Peoria, and we understand that. It's a classy but quirky place, and we can understand how both sides of it would feel endearing to longtime Peoria residents. Our first encounter came over the phone, when we called ahead to ask if we'd need reservations for dinner. The man who answered the phone sounded a little spacey and took our name, but we didn't feel convinced that he'd actually written it down, and sure enough, when we arrived, the woman at the hostess stand looked at us quizzically. But the dining room was only half full on this night before New Year's Eve, so we were able to get a table easily. White twinkle lights deck the bar and the dining room, and coffered ceilings in this below-ground restaurant (you take an elevator down one level from the ground floor atrium) set a luxurious date-night tone. We had a 5-year-old in tow, and the staff thankfully sat us in an alcove where only one other couple was seated. The menu includes a list of Italian-influenced appetizers, dry-aged steaks, chops and seafood. We started with a Wisconsin cheese soup that lacked a sharpness we'd hoped for and had several chunks of indescribable white matter in it. (When we inquired, the server asked the chef and told us it was a thickening agent that hadn't dissolved. Yik.) We ordered a filet mignon with blue cheese ($29.95 for an 8-ounce steak) that came perfectly cooked and appropriately slathered in blue cheese. The dessert cart tempted with a turtle cheesecake that reminded us of a Sara Lee version we'd buy from a grocery store freezer case. A diet Coke came in a plastic bottle, and the salt and pepper shakers on the table looked like they'd been rescued from a diner. All of that aside, we enjoyed the warm service, the violinist playing in the adjacent dining room, and the dozens of framed photographs in the entrance signed by the celebrities who'd dined there (Elton John had been in just a few days before our visit). As it turns out, the spacey-sounding man who'd answered the phone earlier was the owner, who warmly thanked us for coming in. We left being Jim's believers because the whole experience was more memorable than the food itself.