Thirty years in, One World Café is a mainstay at University and Main, and not just for the college kids next door
One World Café, 1245 W. Main St., has stayed with a good thing even as changes have been made along the way.
The corner of Main and University served as a drugstore and an outlet for comic books before Bob Eid and his brothers George and Sam brought coffee and couches to the Bradley University neighborhood in 1993.
Speaking with Bob and wife Amy Eid at a table on the restaurant’s second floor recently was a chance to reflect on some history with the present co-owners.
“This was the theater,” said Eid, pointing to a part of the room that served as the stage for live acts that included improv comedy and music back in the late 1990s. “There was a little ticket booth here,” he said, laughing. “It’s hard to believe the theater only lasted four years.”
But change is part of the One World story.
Bob Eid defined three eras, the first as a coffeehouse that accommodated late-night studying and smoking. He had always thought of the operation as a gathering place more than anything else, but it wasn’t long before customers wanted more than soup and bagels, setting up phase two, said Eid. Amy, who joined the family business in 2011, interjected that the one thing One World has always done is listen to its customers.
‘We had gluten-free options before it was cool’
The third act in the One World play came with the arrival of Joel Brooks as executive chef 19 years ago, said Eid. Brooks was soon joined by another chef, Todd Spurgeon. Both had worked previously at Mt. Hawley Country Club.
One World is a place that leads rather than follows. “We had gluten-free options before it was cool,” said Eid, adding that hummus was a One World staple long before it caught on nationally. A psychedelic salad has been part of the One World menu since the ‘90s.
The pandemic brought changes across the board but One World responded, said Amy Eid. “We switched to carryout and curbside,” she recalled. “We were always able to stay open. We opened the patio just before COVID hit. That gave us some outdoor dining space.”
But dealing with the pandemic wasn’t easy for a gathering place. Mask use had to be enforced. “We followed the rules,” said Amy, crediting One World’s staff with making the necessary adjustments without complaint.
The place suffered more when the city made changes to the corner at Main and University in 2014, said Bob. “We had a hard time. For six weeks, nobody was coming in here,” he said.
Today, One World closes earlier than it used to. Amy Eid noted that business had fallen off noticeably in the late evening. Hours are now Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Friday/Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Another change is the volume of takeout at the restaurant. It used to be about 10%, said Bob. Now it’s about 40%.
That adjustment required seeing to it that some One World staples — like the Elvis waffle or gyro platter — travel properly, said Bob Eid. Again, it’s what customers wanted, said Amy. “We embrace it,” she said.
One World presently deals with three delivery services: Door Dash, Grub Hub and Uber. “Sometimes there might be 50 deliveries in a single day,” said Bob.
Busy times don’t bother the One World kitchen, said Spurgeon, recalling that, while working at Peoria’s River Station restaurant in Downtown Peoria in the 1980s, as many as 1,000 meals were sometimes served on a Saturday night.
Amy Eid said she’s thankful to work in such a positive atmosphere. “People generally are happy to be here,” she said. “It’s a good environment to work in.”
For Jacob White, a resident of the nearby Uplands neighborhood and a regular customer, one of the most noteworthy changes One World made was to offer the Cuban pork sandwich as a wrap. “It’s one of the best things in all of Peoria,” he said.
Debbie Fifield lives in Washington with husband Carl. They consider One World their breakfast place. “The food’s awesome. I think I’ve tried everything on the menu,” she said.
Speaking of change, some things may be coming full circle, said Amy Eid. “Bradley students have become a more important part of our business lately. We’re noticing more students coming in for iced coffee and a salad.”
With a management team now in place to handle the restaurant, Bob Eid said his focus tends to be on maintenance issues, something that’s important in a building over 100 years old.
The Eid brothers are a little more spread out than before. George now spends time between Paris and New York, while Sam lives in Orland Park near Chicago, still close enough to drop in on the Peoria bistro he helped develop.
Looking at a menu from the early days, Bob Eid reflected on his time on the corner:
“The 30 years went fast. I’m so grateful to our customers.”