Sunday, February 04, 2007

South Bend Favorites

Farmers Market: We are officially regulars at the Farmers Market. A few weeks ago Bonnie gave us a dollar off on the price of a whole pecan pie we had preordered from the diner “because we are regulars.” This makes me feel, human.

We go to the Market every Saturday. Although it opens at the crack of dawn, we usually make our way there by 1:00 for a late lunch and shopping. We always eat in the diner first. We sit at the second horseshoe-shaped counter, where Sharon is our waitress. (I see Sharon more than I see my Mom.) Our two favorite dishes: The cheeseburger (see entry on best burger in South Bend) and the Market Omelet. The Market Omelet has it all: stuffed with fresh vegetables, cheese, and hash browns and smothered in sausage gravy. Oh yes. It is enough for us to share. I like to sprinkle a little Tabasco sauce on my half. Oh boy.

After lunch we make the rounds at the market stalls. We typically buy blue cheese, apples, and caramel corn (with nuts). We buy garlic and eggs from the Hungarian. The polish lady has the BEST pumpkin pies. We buy Christmas wreathes, pussy willows, and tulips as the seasons bloom. I salivate over the smell of fresh pretzels made by the Amish family. I buy a small container of freshly ground peanut butter (ground right before my eyes!). We pet the puppies up for sale. Once we even lucked into a batch of freshly prepared homemade tamales. We buy homemade candles and soap. We buy what we need and what the season has to offer. Concord grape season and asparagus season are always way too short for our taste buds.

Favorite Burger:
Each burger is unique and fulfills a particular burger-need. Yet I have to go with the Farmers Market Burger as my best. Here is why: while the beef is satisfactory, the vegetables win it. In my opinion, it is the whole package that counts. The Market Burger has a thick ring of white onion, a tomato slice, crisp lettuce, and pickles served with each burger. I add my smidgen of condiments (ketchup, mustard and a smear of mayonnaise), layer the veggies, stack the slightly toasted white bun on top, give a gentle squeeze to the architectural wonder, and bam. There it is. And the portion size matters too. I can eat my burger and feel like I have room to share a slice of cherry pie if I so desire. While CJ’s burgers are sublime, there is also enough meat there to satisfy my yearly quota. CJ’s is legendary. Don’t get me wrong, I love their beef and the onion rings are perfection in a world of fried-vegetable disappointment. But I can do CJ’s once a year. I could handle the Farmers Market burger weekly. There it is. Disagree if you wish. And, by the way, the famous Redamak burger, doesn’t turn me on (and it is not in South Bend). The burger needs its vegetables. And those sad misguided burgers served with (gasp) red onion, forget about it.

Best Ice Cream:
Hands down: Chicory Café in downtown South Bend. Trust me. They serve up handmade fresh gelato with a rainbow of flavors to entice and enchant you—deep chocolates and fruit concoctions that burst with flavor. Walk right past the Chocolate Factory (which has other strengths to be sure) and head to the Chicory Café for your dose of ice dream. Again, there might be some who swear by the Cold Stone Creamery. Their offerings appear voluptuous, but they always fall flat for me. They disappoint or, worse, leave me feeling bloated and guilty. The gelatos at Chicory are pure and simple and divine. No need for add-ins or sparkles or jaunty tunes sung by the underpaid teenage staff. Don’t be fooled by quantity. Go for flavor.

Favorite Café for Writing: This is a tough call. I have to go with The Victorian Pantry--locally owned business, real mugs, help yourself coffee canisters, free wireless, delectable food, wooden tables. But. It is bit too far to drive and technically not in South Bend (it must be Granger, I think.) Slightly closer, but still in Mishawaka, I have to go with Panera which has the coffee buffet, real mugs, tasty treats, wireless, etc., but it is a chain restaurant. In South Bend, you can pick between the Chocolate Cafe and Chicory Cafe, neither of which offer the endless help yourself mugs, although they have wireless. And the coffee at Chicory might just be the best in South Bend (plus they have that remarkable gelato).

Favorite Café:
Lula’s Café. It is the real thing. The house salad, the hummus, the sandwiches all satisfy. No wireless, but this is a good thing. I go there when I need to seclude myself from internet distractions. Coffee served in ceramic mugs, a stellar plus. (Plus I met the man I eventually married there. I was sitting next to the middle window and he was at the table next to me. Ah caffeine-induced romance.)

Best Brunch (and Beer): Fiddler's Hearth. We are regulars here for Sunday brunch. I love their beer, but we don’t get there very often during beer-drinking time. Menu favorites: Shepherd’s Pie and Fish-n-Chips. We go for the Sunday brunch: live music preformed by talented artists, delicious breakfast and lunch foods, and the Sunday papers read on wide wooden tables. Sunday, lovely Sundays.

What are your South Bend favorites?
Any hidden jewels or regular haunts?

1 comment:

awannabe said...

Say... are you saying there is a cafe for writers in the area?

I usually go buy a book at Barnes and Nobles, and buy an iced mocha frappuchino, go into the cafe and read all by my lonesome.