Sports bar opens in CampusTown

College students, faculty members, business professionals and neighborhood families have a new watering hole.

The space in Campustown previously occupied by Gorman’s Pub is now the Fieldhouse Bar & Grill, a joint venture between three Peoria natives.

In a nod to the fallen Robertson Memorial Field House, demolished last year to make way for the Athletic Performance Arena, the Fieldhouse Bar & Grill feels like a long-established Peoria icon, despite being open for slightly more than two weeks.

“We had a soft opening to get our staff up to speed,” said owner Molly Hughes. “But we’ve had very good business and a good mix of people.”

Hughes, along with friends Mark Donohue and Neil Erson, grew up in the area and attended Saint Mark Catholic School, a block from Bradley’s campus.

“We’ve been talking about doing this for a long time,” Hughes said.

Combined, Hughes, Donohue and Erson have 35 years of restaurant experience. When Gorman’s closed in early July, the three friends saw an opportunity.

“The opportunity came upon us and we had a really good idea of the atmosphere we wanted,” she said.

That atmosphere is what seems to draw different types of people to the Fieldhouse, Hughes said. Warm, rust-colored walls, coupled with exposed brick, lend a homey, comfortable feel. Huge flat-screen televisions hang from the walls, contrasting with rough-hewn wooden floors and tables.

“There’s kind of a Chicago feel to it,” Hughes said. “We wanted it to be comfortable and inviting and reasonable.”

With prices comparable to those of Gorman’s, the Fieldhouse is reasonable. Most entrees and appetizers range from about $5 to $9, and all meals include salt and pepper chips and a pickle.

Burgers, wings and sandwiches are menu staples, but with a twist. The UAB is a standard 1/3-pound burger, but topped with peanut butter and bacon.

Adventurous diners can try the Buffalo Burger, made with lean buffalo meat.

Hughes said the menu is “unique, but not crazy.”

“There’s some different things you can’t get at just any other place,” she said, maybe referring to The Thang: a burger with a grilled cheese sandwich as the bun, filled with grilled onions, more cheese, a fried egg and bacon.

Gorman’s favorites, such as cheeseballs with ranch dressing and the horseshoe (Texas toast topped with meat, fries and nacho cheese) are still available. An extensive salad section is a new addition, as well as some gourmet-sounding appetizers, such as the Spinach & Artichoke Crispers.

Hughes said the Fieldhouse is filling a need on this side of town.

“It’s not just for Bradley, but for the neighborhoods too,” she said. “If we could have picked any place in Peoria [for the restaurant], it would have been here.”

The Fieldhouse Bar & Grill is located between Starbucks and Reflections in Campustown. To view the menu, visit www.thefieldhouse.net.