And just like that, it’s fall. And just like the leaves changing outside, local restaurants are changing their menus for some cozy, heartier options. Forget the summer bod and just throw on those loose sweaters, because after sampling what I did for this article, I’m glad it’s sweater weather. I've put together a list of places you can find some seasonal sustenance.
The Apple Dumplin'
Since it’s fall, it’s time for some darn cozy food. That’s where the Apple Dumplin’ in Urbana comes in. I went on a Sunday when they just do a lunch buffet, this way I could get a little bit of everything. The lunch buffet changes weekly and for adults it’s $15.25. This Sunday it was all-you-can-eat fried chicken, sauerkraut polish sausage (and regular), chicken and noodles, and the classic sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, and carrots. Plus, don’t forget the rolls, biscuits, and cornbread. And did I mention the salad bar? Oh, yes, friends. It was carbo time. Look, if you go to a buffet, you have to leave all judgement at the door. It’s a gluttonous journey.
So, I loaded up on some chicken and noodles, fried chicken, a roll, some cornbread, and mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s what my family calls a “yellow dinner” and they are the best. Oh, I also had a salad. There wasn’t anything I ate that wasn’t delicious and worth every precious carb. Those chicken and noodles were definitely made with love and the fried chicken was deliciously crispy. It’s all deliciously homemade. I am definitely a Midwest gal, so I would recommend layering it all on top of each other for a sort of country lasagna, if you will. (And if you think that’s gross then you’re not Midwestern.)
Let us not forget the apple butter. Yes, the apple butter. Homemade apple butter sits at every table for all those biscuits and rolls you’ll douse all over with it. With the beautiful trees aflame with all the fall colors outside, I enjoyed sitting back and indulging in a warm, cozy meal. Places like the Apple Dumplin’ make you feel welcome and at home, and if you leave there hungry you did it wrong.You can enjoy their staples like their chicken and noodles and fried chicken any time, but I recommend a Sunday afternoon visit so you can have a little bit of everything. And a piece of advice: try to leave some room for an apple dumpling.
The Apple Dumplin’
2014 N High Cross Road
T-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For a nice seasonal treat I went to Art Mart for a pumpkin cookie and pumpkin spice latte.The pumpkin cookie ($1.73) is a famous staple of Art Mart’s, only appearing September through Thanksgiving. It’s a signature for good reason, too. The soft, thick, and chewy cookie is a little piece of fall heaven. It’s not overly sweet and doesn’t taste like artificial pumpkin. In fact, it’s so simple that you could easily rationalize having the cookie as a breakfast item, but it also comes dolloped with a small topping of icing which gives it a more dessert-y boost. A fresh tray was being put in the case when I got to Art Mart, and if I had any less self-control I could have asked for the whole tray. So while you can, go grab yourself a pumpkin cookie as a treat at lunch, or to pair with your coffee.
That brings me to the pumpkin spice latte ($4.28 for a 16oz). I know what you might be thinking about upon mention of the PSL, but stay with me! If you’re like me, you hear “pumpkin spice latte” and automatically, and rather involuntarily, roll your eyes. Popular culture has taken the fall beverage and made a mockery of it, so much so that I felt a little sheepish ordering it at Art Mart. I thought, “Would this cool barista think I’m lame?” Well, too bad. Because, frankly, PSLs are delicious — when they’re done right, and this one was. Like the pumpkin cookie, the latte wasn’t too sweet or full of artificial syrup flavors that you encounter a lot at other cafes. It was still a coffee drink not overpowered by all that gunk and was actually a tasty drink, not something you feel obligated to order because of its name or only to post it on Instagram (although I still did that). The pumpkin spice latte was a perfect complement to the pumpkin cookie and made for a great afternoon treat. Motion to make fika a regular thing here in the U.S., too.
It’s those big chain coffee shops (not naming names here) that smear the pumpkin spice name, but don’t let them! Make it over to Art Mart and treat yourself to an autumnal treat.
1705 S Prospect Ave
M-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Just Bee Açaí
Just Bee Açai isn’t exactly brand new to the C-U area; you might have had some of their delicious goodness at Bossa Nova Cafe before they got their own mobile flagship in the form of the most delightful cream and yellow ‘63 Shasta camper. But now the Shasta has taken C-U by storm, popping up all over, from local special events, Urbana’s Market at the Square, to even weekly visits to the UIUC campus. Just Bee dishes out 100% organic acai bowls, loaded oats, and fatty toasts. Basically, it’s a sunny Pinterest board come to life.
Just Bee has an extensive menu with something that’s sure to suit everyone’s tastes: fruits, nuts, chocolate — you name it, it can be in a bowl. Plus they’ve created some autumn offerings for the season: Bee-yond Basic, Açai Crisp, and Harvest Moon, all of which you can have either on frozen açai or warm oats. I’ve had the Bee-yond Basic bowl and the Harvest Moon already. For this particular review, however, I chose the Harvest Moon (8 oz bowl, $8. The autumn bowls are $1 more than the regulars). I went for the Harvest Moon bowl on a chilly, overcast day and was set on getting it with warm oats, but the frozen açai is just so yummy that I changed my mind at the last second. The frozen açai is like berry ice cream that I don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in; quite the opposite, really, since the bowls are filled with homemade granola, fruit, local honey, and all that good stuff. The Harvest Moon bowl comes with clementines, chocolate sea salt granola, cacao nibs, bee pollen, and barley drizzle (I also asked for a drizzle of honey as well). A delicious and guilt-free treat, I would definitely recommend giving it a try. The crunchy granola mixture and cacao nibs were perfect mixed in with the frozen açai and the clementines added a bright, sweet flavor.
Some other seasonal offerings at Just Bee include toasts like Pumpkin Smash and Perfectly Peared, as well as drinks like spiced apple cider vinegar and Golden Shasta Milk.
If I haven’t sold you a visit to Just Bee yet, they also sell local goodies like candles and jewelry, sell coconut shells and mason jars to reduce the use of plastic bowls (plus you get a discount when you use them), and all the tips go to local charitable organizations. The Just Bee Acai autumn offerings are well worth a trip to wherever they are located.
Just Bee Acai
Check social media for hours & locations
Silvercreek is typically, for me, a place to go for a celebration or a nice, more formal meal, and I’ve always been pleased with their food. Well, this visit was no different as I had one incredibly delicious meal. After debating about ordering one of their daily specials, a halibut with fall squash and vegetables, I actually just settled on something as autumnal as possible based on the name on the menu: The fall salad ($10). Consisting of butter lettuce, almonds, walnuts, sweet potatoes, grapes, burrata, dried cranberries, apples, and tossed in a maple vinaigrette, the fall salad was a tart, crisp, and delicious dinner (this salad is only available at dinner time). For some added heartiness I added chicken for an additional $7, which is a bit on the pricier side for adding a protein, but it’s worth it to make the salad feel like a meal instead of an appetizer.
Upon receiving it I thought the fall salad was relatively small, but I will say, it really filled me up. It’s a dish I wanted to savor in order to experience all the flavors, as you’ll notice there are quite a few ingredients in it. I really couldn’t get enough of the lovely acidity the apples provided.
But wait, there’s more! Honorable mention goes to the toffee apple bread pudding ($9). I saw this on the menu when I was scoping it out before my visit and was almost tempted to skip the salad and just go straight for the dessert. But, like a real adult I ate a sensible meal before going to town on an entire dessert (probably) meant for two. If you consult my notes, I really only have one phrase to describe the toffee apple bread pudding: “Oh, my god.” It was two small scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of a warm square of bread pudding with a toffee caramel sauce. It was cozy, amazing dessert I had no qualms about finishing. There are many great seasonal offerings at Silvercreek, but I won’t blame you if you go only for the bread pudding.
402 N Race Street
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
It’s not just restaurants that create some seasonal samplings. C-U’s bustling craft beer scene also mixes it up with fall flavors, and I’m not evening talking about just hard ciders. I went to Triptcyh’s taproom to check out some of their options, particularly the Bandito and Dirty Hippy brews (the hefeweizen is also pictured).
Fall is for the stouts and dark brews, and Dirty Hippy (3.3% ABV) is the darkest beer Triptych has on tap right now. It’s an English brown ale and has an oaky, smoky, and rich taste. With definitely noticeable notes of toffee it’s very tasty and easy to drink. Coming from someone who doesn’t drink a ton of craft beer, Triptych really nailed it with this one. Its malty and nutty taste was really pleasant and perfect for autumn. You can sample it ($1.25 for 4oz) or get a full serving ($5) at the taproom, or even pick up some to-go cans (4-pack for $7.99) to enjoy it at home cozied up.
I tried another beer — you know, for the sake of research — and went with Bandito (5.5% ABV; $1.50 for 4oz, $5 for full serving). This particular brew is an amber lager aged on oak. It’s a lighter, more sour beer than the Dirty Hippy but was just as tasty. These two crafts are very different from one another but both contain oaky, autumn flavors. Plus, when I found out that Bandito was brewed for the winner of the Champaign County Humane Society’s annual Mutt Strutt it basically became my favorite beer ever...because dogs. You can also grab cans of this to-go (4-pack for $8.99), and I would recommend it as well. And if you need any reason to celebrate beer, National Stout Day is November 7th.
1703 Woodfield Drive
M-W 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Th & F 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sa 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Photos by Remington Rock