One World Cafe, Peoria, Ill.
Of all the major cities I’ve been through, Peoria might be the one that I’ve been through the most, yet visited the least. The reasons are twofold. Interstate 74, one of the main roads used to get anywhere east of the Quad-Cities that isn’t Chicago, goes right through Peoria and over the Illinois River. Since a lot of my trips have led to east of the Q-C, that’s meant a lot of trips over the river.
The second, as you might have guessed, involves the love of my life. Because the airport in the Q-C never flies on the days we need it to, Amy often flies into Peoria when she comes to visit, which has led me to drive to the airport on three separate occasions, each time worrying that I’d oversleep and be late. Of course, this has never happened, I’m just paranoid on these kinds of things. However, the one constant is that up until this past weekend, I’d never stopped in Peoria.
Well, with Amy making her final trip into the Peoria airport, now was the time to get it done, and we couldn’t have picked a much better place to make our first real visit to Peoria than One World Cafe, located just outside the campus of Bradley University. What sets One World apart is that it literally tries to live up to its name, becoming a melting pot of restaurant styles, and it manages to pull it off. Instead of just focusing on one specific style of cuisine like most places do, One World offers entrees inspired by places across the world, putting their own spin on each one.
That’s a desperately tricky move to pull off, because attempting to specialize in everything can often lead to doing nothing particularly well. Instead, One World goes the opposite direction and manages to get its multitude of styles correct. Personally, I think it’s because of their commitment to fresh ingredients and a small, intimate atmosphere. One World’s founders started out by running a simple one-room coffee place, and they haven’t forgotten those early roots, keeping the place small and paying close attention to quality in the ingredients they use.
What that means is that you can combine several different styles, similar to Chino Bandido’s combination of Chinese and Mexican. One World doesn’t go quite that crazy, but it does offer choices from seemingly every continent on its menu. From its appetizers alone, you can find a choice from India (Samosa), the Mediterranean (hummus), Mexico (salsa and nachos) and America (spinach artichoke dip). What’s more, all of these are made with the best ingredients, often using high-brow options. The hummus, which Amy and I both sampled, is exceptional, using a family recipe of pureed chickpeas, lemon, garlic, salt, tahini, olive oil and paprika. There might be a few secrets in there, but the only thing I know for sure is that whatever is in there, it’s really, really good.
The worldliness continues with the entree, regardless of whether it’s breakfast or lunch. At breakfast, scrambles dominate the menu, as does the Bungle sandwich, a bagel with an egg souffle and either vegetables or meat between it. You can also opt for one of One World’s six specialty coffees, served either hot or cold and with or without caffeine.
While all of that sounds tempting, the fact was that it wasn’t breakfast, and besides, there was something else that caught my eye. Any time you get a chance to try an entree called “Bacon and Mushroom Chicken”, you pretty much have to take advantage of the opportunity, and that’s exactly what I did. Of course, this being One World, this was no ordinary bacon and chicken creation. This sandwich is topped with ranch and served on a tomato-basil focaccia bun, making for a high-brow taste with high expectations.
There was no disappointment here. The mushrooms are sauteed perfectly, the Swiss melts well on the chicken and the ranch dressing pulls it all together. Then there’s the bun, which does what a good bun should by actually imparting flavor and improving the quality of what it holds. The tastes of tomato and basil really take this sandwich to another level over the garden variety chicken bacon ranch that many restaurants have done a thousand times. Throw in some mashed redskin potatoes, and you have quite a meal here.
Amy chose to go for another One World signature, the tomato melt, featuring diced tomatoes mixed with spices to create something good. The main star on her dish was actually her pureed hummus, but the melt was a pretty solid backup. All in all, a strong food day.
Turned out, it was too strong, because our meals were so good that we missed out on One World’s huge desserts. All of their desserts cost $6, and looking at them through the display case as we walked out, these things look legitimate. The Reese’s peanut butter pie in particular looked heavenly and huge, and I had to promise the guy behind the counter that next time, I’d grab a slice.
That’s not a promise I would mind keeping whatsoever. Variety and a lot of choices might not always work well in the restaurant industry, but One World has found a way to perfectly blend the cuisines of several cultures into one menu that’s sure to please anyone who walks through the cafe’s doors, no matter what part of the world they’re from.
Time to go: Breakfast or lunch. Either one is good, as One World specializes in both. Do attempt to avoid the college crowd.
Wait during my visit: None. Coming in at 11:30 meant that Amy and I successfully avoided the lunch rushers and the college crowd, making us able to grab a quick table.
Location: One World is at 1245 West Main Street in Peoria, Ill.
Parking: Not good, but it can be done. There’s a small city-owned lot a little bit past One World, which is incredibly helpful. Without that, it would all be street parking, which suits nobody.
Cost: Most entrees are about $10-15. You should be fine with that, unless you throw dessert or a drink on the order.
Seating arrangement: Tables and chairs.
Website: One World Cafe
Specialty items: One cuisine across the globe.