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Peoria’s doughnut hole in the wall

Carl’s Bakery & Restaurant is located at 819 E. Camp St. in East Peoria. Photo by William Craine.

It’s not very often that you drive past a giant plastic chicken in Peoria. It’s also not very often that you come across homemade food from a restaurant. However, East Peoria has a hidden gem that provides hungry students and locals with both of these things and more: Carl’s Bakery and Restaurant.

The restaurant’s story began 60 years ago when Carl Weber first opened the bakery. The menu was just as modest as the bakery itself.

“My dad started with the doughnuts, chicken and pizza,” said Carla Armstrong, Weber’s daughter.

Armstrong has worked at the bakery since seventh grade. In the 55 years since then, she has expanded the menu with new items such as cheeseburgers and tenderloins. She’s also become the new owner. Her husband, Dave Armstrong, retired from his full-time job 20 years ago and is now the co-owner.

“My husband does all the baking,” Armstrong mentioned.

While there are plenty of breakfast chains around East Peoria, Carl’s Bakery and Restaurant is something different. The freshness of the food at the bakery is a trait that Armstrong is especially proud of.

“Everything is made from scratch. We don’t bring the donuts in frozen, we make them here,” Armstrong said.

Carl’s isn’t only home to some of the best doughnuts and apple fritters

in Peoria. They also have a small, affordable lunch menu.

“Our homemade tenderloin is very good,” Armstrong said.

The homemade concept is hard to come by nowadays, making Carl’s Bakery a popular place to stop by for comfort food. Although people don’t always stay for more than a couple of hours, Armstrong is confident when it comes to the loyalty of her customers.

“We have a lot of regulars,” she said. “[But] every day we’ll have someone come in that says ‘I’ve never been here before.’”

Armstrong said after over half a century of serving people doughnuts, she feels it never gets old.

“It’s rewarding when people come in and they love the doughnuts homemade because you can’t get them anywhere else like that,” Armstrong said.

As if the farmhouse isn’t easy enough to spot, Carl’s Bakery and Restaurant is home to an eye-catching, giant, plastic chicken that proudly guards the local joint.

“The big chicken is our trademark,” Armstrong said. “My dad bought [the chicken] at a restaurant show and it’s been here for over 50 years.”

The Armstrongs carry on Weber’s throwback bakery, starting their days before the sun rises. The restaurant is open 5:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, located at 819 E. Camp St. in East Peoria.

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