It is week six, and we have many problems. The loom of midterms slides with unfair ease into the terror of finals. It is mid-February, and still the dead of winter. John Schlaf has been forced to send this email: “Weather Alert — Extreme Cold (again).” And as if this was not enough cause for concern, the routine Valentine’s Day fervor has descended upon us.
There are a slew of problems associated with the 14th of February. A slow panic that insists upon the making of plans, some plans, any plans. The slow weeping of one’s bank account. The heart shaped cookie becomes ubiquitous. And then, of course, the mad rush to find non-cafeteria sustenance as couples close out The Landmark, Chez Willy’s, and all the usual suspects. When all is said and done, though, it’s just another Friday night, and plenty of Galesburg restaurants are happy to serve you and yours sans reservations. Below, a list of dining establishments that care not if you come with company or by your lovely self.
El Jarochito Mini Market & Taqueria / Quick Sam’s
Unless one finds themselves in the Southwest, good Mexican food is hard to come by. In Galesburg, Ill. it is nearly impossible. The best Mexican in Galesburg (and in a 50 mile radius, for that matter) is inconspicuously lodged in the would-be convenience store at 164 S. Academy St. The sign outside reads Quick Sam’s and advertises fried chicken and pizza, and while you can certainly still get fried chicken, you’ll also find El Jarochito inside. The place is small, with only three booths and a table for seating, but they’re happy to prepare takeout. El Jarochito uses the freshest ingredients in their fare — ingredients that they also sell in several glass cases along the restaurant’s right wall. From quesadillas to burritos to tacos to the enchilada in green sauce (which is especially good), the tortillas are all homemade, the vegetables fresh, and the cheese creamy. Also, chips and salsa to die for and a variety of Mexican sodas.
Cornucopia — Natural Food & Fine Cheese
The artisan cheese plate is the beloved of New American restaurants from coast to coast, and it tends to be priced as such. At Cornucopia, however, one has the potential to create their own cheese plate for a fraction of the cost. The selection is great, with cheeses ranging from Don Wine goat cheese, to a Moody Blue, to a whiskey cheddar.
Next door is Uncle Billy’s Bakery, where you’ll find fresh baked loaves of sourdough and a kalamata olive loaf that is out of this world. Pick up some tomatoes (Cornucopia often has them, as does El Jarochito’s mini market) some basil and make the grilled cheese that dreams are made of. There are also a slew of great options for vegans, including great tabbouleh and a potato salad that will make you rethink potato salads forever.
Mantra Indian Restaurant
Oh, the horror of living in a town that is void of Indian food. Happily, there’s a fantastic place an hour away in Davenport, Iowa. If you don’t have a car, entice your friends with the promise of vindaloo, tandoori and chutneys (if that doesn’t work, find better friends immediately). Mantra is great for the carnivore and the vegetarian alike, and there’s an entire page of the menu devoted to vegan offerings.
The sheer number of restaurants in downtown Davenport means that Mantra will be significantly less packed than a restaurant of its caliber in Galesburg, although you might want to make reservations here just in case, lest you spend the evening pining for garlic naan.
It seems hardly necessary to expound once again on the virtues of baked’s pizza. Suffice to say that it’s very, very good. Baked is the ideal means by which one might maneuver around a Valentine’s Day restaurant closeout; while you might not manage to secure one of the three vintage ironing boards that serve as tables, you’ll certainly have the option of take-out.
What’s more, baked is running a series of anti-Valentine’s Day pizzas throughout the week. Offerings include a roasted garlic and Moody Blue cheese pizza, the “Char Dog” with charred Thrushwood Farms beer franks, baked barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese; and the “Blackened Heart” with pig heart and blackened seasoning.
The Beanhive has a latte you might dream about, and its window tables have long been a coveted study spot. Last term, The Beanhive came under new ownership and has begun to sell a slew of pastries and soups as well as their coffees and teas. Raspberry and blueberry muffins abound and happen to be delicious. The soups tend to be very vegetable heavy, with offering from jalapeno potato to a lime and cilantro black bean chili, and come with an olive oil biscuit that’s literally sublime. All the aforementioned are vegan, although there is usually the option to add cheese or meat to the soups.