Have you herd of the Spotted Cow? Make no moo-steak, it’s a place like none udder.
What began as a pushcart on the Bradley University campus in the early 1980s grew to a brick-and-mortar business in 1987. Current owner Shane Fisher took over the restaurant from its longtime owner in Nov. 2016.
“The Spotted Cow is a Peoria icon,” Fisher said.
Located on Glen Avenue, this icon is only a few miles plus a moon jump from campus.
In the restaurant entrance stands a traitor to its species: a sizeable pig sculpture painted like a cow. This cow-pig hybrid greets guests and almost serves as a warning; once you walk through the doors, you cannot escape the spots. An opened door leads to…
Floor-to-ceiling cows. Bovine collectibles crowd shelves. A heifer trinket here, calf clock there, and black chairs against white floor. Cow-related news clippings, posters, paintings, photographs and more hang throughout the restaurant. Black paint is splattered on the white walls themselves.
“Most of the decorations were given to us by customers,” said Fisher. “I still have people come in with cow stuff they find at antique shops and such.”
Deep tubs of homemade ice cream sit in rows beneath a long glass display. Cow-shaped labels over each tub identify the ever-changing flavors.
“We have hundreds of flavors and keep coming up with more,” Fisher said.
From light sorbet, sugar-free or frozen yogurt varieties to heavier chocolate ice creams and everything in-between, the Spotted Cow “veal-ly” aims to please all palates. Specialty flavors like “Heifer-mint,” “Mooberry,” “Watusi” and “Moo-newer” are offered. Ice cream can also be transformed into a sundae, shake, malt or float in-store.
Additionally, the staff creates new flavors for special events. Fisher says they typically ask customers about their preferences and concoct new flavors based on what is requested. For example, in 2016, The Spotted Cow created a red velvet “Mrs. Bradley’s Birthday Blend” flavor to celebrate Lydia Moss Bradley’s 200th birthday.
“As an independent store, everything is completely customizable. We don’t have to jump through corporate hoops,” said Fisher. “We can do basically anything our customers request.”
Fisher hopes to eventually hire a professional to create new menu items and offer “beautiful, above-and-beyond desserts” to add to their current “cowlection.”
The extensive cafe food menu features burgers, hot dogs, salads, chicken tenders and various other sandwiches and wraps such as a BBQ pulled pork, tuna melt, black bean wrap and grilled chicken. The “Frank’s Famous Italian Beef” is self-declared the “best Italian Beef in Peoria.” Entrees can be eaten alone or paired with a side like tater tots, fried mushrooms, onion rings, loaded fries or soup.
“Peoria was built on independent restaurants,” Fisher said. “I’d encourage students to support local, mom-and-pop businesses.”
In black-and-white terms? Get moo-ving and try the Spotted Cow – you’re sure to be udderly delighted.