The Woodcutter in North Peoria, Illinois Offers Rural Dining and a City Menu

The Woodcutter is a perfect place to take in lunch on a blistery late October day. I wandered into the place on Tuesday afternoon when I was in the Lake of the Woods shopping center way out on North Knoxville (technically in rural Dunlap).
It’s a combination bar and eatery. The problem with these kinds of places is that they usually are more of one than the other. If the place is more restaurant than bar … well, that’s no problem for me. But sometimes, if it tilts the other direction, you can end up eating appetizers while sitting on a barstool, watching a rerun of a college football game on ESPN as some lush hits on the lady bartender.

At the Woodcutter, they have the good sense to maintain two separate dining areas. That way, people who want to nosh on appetizers while they down beers or mixed drinks can do so. People who are there mostly to enjoy the diverse menu can do so without the television and bar chatter in the background. It’s a nice dining experience, and I imagine a nice place to meet friends for drinks after work or on a Saturday night.

My waitperson was owner/manager Bo Sutherland. He says his family opened the place about three years earlier. The place has become popular with Caterpillar workers, who often fax in their orders, then drive over via Mossville Road.

The menu was large and diverse. I could have ordered from a long list of appetizers: “killer corn fritters,” buffalo wings, onion rings, nachos, stuffed mushrooms, chick strips and cheese quesadillas, or a “cutter combo” that includes all of the above for $6.25. Among the sandwiches was that Central Illinois favorite, the pork tenderloin.

I’m a huge fan of ribs, and I could have ordered a half slab of baby back ribs for $12.95 or a full slab for $18.95. I could have ordered a pizza, friend chicken, seafood or fajitas. I was intrigued by one of their dinner offerings – a peanut butter chicken sandwich, which was described in the menu as a coated chicken breast, grilled and covered with smoked bacon and American cheese, for $5.95.

On Bo’s recommendation, I ordered their special, a patty melt sandwich with fries ($5.95) and a cup of cheese soup ($2.25).
In short order, the meal arrived. The soup was thick and sharp, with plenty of bacon bits, just the way I like it. The sandwich was served on rye bread – which disappointed me, because I had the odd idea this sandwich was traditionally served on sourdough bread. My mistake. Still, the sandwich and fries satisfied even if it didn’t thrill me.

I liked the ambiance. There was a noticeable shortage of tacky nicknacks. Their chairs are manufactured to look like they’ve been hand-carved. I did get a chuckle of the bank of clocks on the wall set to show the times in Dunlap, Princeville, Chillicothe and Wyoming, four communities within 15 minutes driving distance.

It’s the kind of place where the foyer is plastered with flyers for various community events and fundraisers. With drink and taxes, my order came to $10.33.

The Woodcutter is a decent, friendly place with good food that I’m certain has many fans in the Dunlap area. Peorians out visiting in that area might consider stopping in some chilly day and warming up to their wide menu that will have something for everyone in your family of group of friends.

The Woodcutter: 12200 N. Brentfield Drive, Lake of the Woods Plaza. Phone: 243-9745.

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