PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. — If the pork chop sandwiches at the Greater Peoria Farm Show taste familiar, it’s because showgoers in and around — and passing through — Peoria Heights may have stopped at Alwan and Sons Meat Co. before.
Or they may have followed grilling tips and cooking help provided by Brian, Joe Jr. or Pat Alwan for a successful event themselves.
If it’s not cooking and grilling for their customers, it’s helping those customers make meat magic at home.
“What we like to do is to get people to cook things they’re not used to, like prime rib,” said Brian Alwan, one of the three third-generation owners of Alwan and Sons.
“Being able to be there and offer that service, walk them through it, give them a basic recipe and then having them come back in and say ‘I knocked it out of the park with that recipe you gave me,’ that’s what’s really nice. Getting them to cook or grill something they don’t normally cook that’s a little bit out of their comfort zone and having that turn out wonderfully for them is wonderful,” Alwan said.
His great-uncle, Oscar Alwan, an immigrant from Lebanon, started the family food business as Alwan’s Market, southwest Adams Street in Peoria with a small grocery store. Brian Alwan’s grandfather Mason joined him.
Brian Alwan’s father, William, and uncle, Joe Alwan Sr., came from Itoo, Lebanon, in the 1940s as children.
Move To Meats
Oscar started supplying local restaurants with specialty cuts of meat. Local restaurant owners liked the product so well that gradually he moved from groceries to being a specialty meat and butcher shop. In 1957, William and Joe Sr. bought property along War Memorial Drive in Peoria Heights.
“They opened this location in 1957, and in 1962, they built a new store to handle the meat processing,” Brian said.
Brian and his cousins, Joe Jr. and Pat, who now are partners in Alwan and Sons, grew up in the family business.
“We worked our way to simple meat cutting, things like stew meat. We were working summers and holidays,” Brian said.
In 2001, William and Joe Sr. retired, and their sons took over the business.
The business had grown by then to multiple stores, but the three wanted to focus their efforts.
“We knew the future was to expand our location here,” Brian said.
In the fall of 2005, they started construction on a new building, on the same lot along War Memorial Drive.
“We opened in April 2006. The new facility expanded our retail operation,” Brian said.
They kept the outside appearance that Oscar Alwan might recognize — the brick exterior looks like the brick grocery store building that Oscar Alwan started.
He also might recognize what’s going on inside.
“We’re a full-service deli and meat shop. We sell everything, beef, pork, poultry, lamb, goat, veal,” Brian said.
The deli offers homemade specialties such as hummus and tabouli, along with homemade salads, such as chicken salad, pasta salad, and a daily lunch special that includes dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, homemade Italian beef and, in the colder months, an array of soups.
But the grill outside is what brings the vehicles — and the customers — to the parking lot.
Brian mans the grill from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., cooking pork chops, sausages and burgers.
“We serve a lot of business people, construction workers, municipal workers. It’s a busy intersection, and we sell hundreds of sandwiches a day,” he said.
Pat Alwan oversees the catering part of the business that can include grilling either at the store or at the customer’s location.
Whether it’s greeting and feeding customers at their store or cooking for the Greater Peoria Farm Show, Brian said one of the best things about the business is being a part of the community.
“We love being involved with the community and doing different functions, whether it’s for charities or business, to be a part of that and to deal with our customers every day is great. Where we get our pleasure is in knowing we helped make something special for our customers,” he said.