When I think about all the places I’ve been, all the people I’ve met, all the friends I’ve made; one thing stands out in my mind as a common thread — and that’s food. Food, or cuisine, if you want to sound fancy, is something we as humans can all appreciate. Of course we all don’t eat the same thing, but if you look back at your beginning, you can probably describe a snapshot of your childhood in excruciating detail by discussing the things you ate with your family. Those dishes you seldom see at a restaurant, but your mom/dad or grandma/grandpa can make without a recipe, without much prep, and usually with items they can find in the house.

For me those meals, and memories, center on my grandma. A matriarch in the truest sense, she would always insist on feeding me, my friends, and anyone else within earshot for that matter. Her food is what I think about when someone asks what it means to be from the Midwest. I think about those meals my grandma would prepare; the flavors, the smells, the good times, and the bad… and when I see a sign that says “homemade,” or “country style,” I try not to get my hopes up for fear of total let down. But I’ve found something at Apple Dumplin’, something I hope to share with everyone.

Their equation is simple: make a few things, and make them well. The menu is uncomplicated, straight forward, and reminiscent of mid-twentieth century life on a farm. There are meat, vegetables, and potatoes all joined together with a simple spice palate. The menu has a few everyday specials, and a few revolving dailies, but one thing is for certain: You will not leave hungry.

Let’s begin with my favorite, a certainly underappreciated plate in modern cuisine but one that has unlimited options for flavor: Meatloaf ($9.95 + $2 for salad bar). The portions they serve are not for the feint at heart, realistically there are at least two meals worth on every plate. Complimented with a heaping serving of mashed potatoes, vegetable or optional salad bar, gravy, and monstrous yeast roll, this may be comfort food at its finest. Don’t forget to smear your roll with homemade apple butter.

Most of the specials are liken to a Sunday dinner with family, at least that’s the tone it strikes with me. One notable difference is the Friday cod special, a hearty fried affair with coleslaw and French fries…love those crinkle cuts (also $9.95 with optional $2 salad bar). It is perhaps worth mentioning that the entire special and daily entrée menu is priced to be around $10 with a $2 salad bar option.

The salad bar is quite ordinary with a few mixed salad items, spiral pasta and creamy pea salad. The selections were fresh and well maintained, but not too far afield. The selections were, however, limited — this is not the place to go build a chef salad as a meal unto itself, but simply as compliment to the main event…although for the light eaters, you can make the salad bar your main event; one trip ($5.95) or unlimited ($8.95).

Every day specials include fried chicken (two piece or half-bird plates), shrimp, chicken tenders, or my favorite, country fried steak. How can you go wrong with tenderized beef that is breaded and fried? If you aren't quite so hungry, don’t worry. They also have an assortment of sandwiches that would qualify as “light” dining. Choices include burgers, chicken filets, pork tenderloin, and other hot sandwiches with a whole compliment of homemade sides. And if by some rare chance you are still hungry after all that, there is the dessert and namesake — an apple dumpling.

A peeled and cored apple, well-seasoned with cinnamon and sugar, wrapped in a pastry and baked like your own personal apple pie. Served a la carte or a la mode, you may want to share this with friends…or suffer the impending sugar coma alone.

Whether you go for lunch or dinner, you will not leave hungry, so plan on at least an hour to recuperate before operating any heavy machinery or your computer at work, or you may find yourself drifting out of your lane or down some internet rabbit hole.

Last but not least, they have a full breakfast menu (until 11 a.m.) with all the favorites you would expect from a Midwestern, farm-centric establishment. Again, prices are very reasonable and servings are large. Bring your friends and enjoy home cooking at its finest.

Apple Dumplin’
2014 N Highcross Rd
Urbana
T-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 11a.m to 3 p.m.

Top photo by Sam Logan. All other photos by Rob Schaffer.