When it comes to spending free time in a small town, your choices can be limited. But fear not! Despite the common assumption that small towns have nothing to offer college students, evidence suggests otherwise. If you are looking for somewhere off-campus to satisfy your palate, then check out my top 10 list below.
Café Piazza: Located on the square in downtown Carlinville, Café Piazza is a great spot for a quick and delicious lunch. I recommend the chicken, bacon and ranch panini paired with homemade chips and a strawberry Früli (a Belgian fruit beer). Owned and operated in conjunction with the next-door Lucky Dog’s Alehouse, Café Piazza is the perfect joint for juniors and seniors. One caveat to this recommendation— Café Piazza doesn’t open until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Magnolias Restaurant: Located at 531 S. West St. in Carlinville, Magnolias is a great upscale country restaurant perfect for a working breakfast meeting or for a lunchtime get-together. Although it is not open for dinner and can be a little more expensive, it’s a quiet, pleasant restaurant that has a lot to offer.
McLintock’s Saloon & Steakhouse: Many Blackburn students have never heard of McLintock’s, but it is my all-time favorite! Only a 15-minute drive to Girard on Standard City Road, McLintock’s is famous for their pony shoes and portions. My favorite is the pulled pork pony shoe with tater tots and white cheese. With a western saloon-like feel and generous portions, you’ll feel welcome here. However, you might want to make a reservation if you pay a visit during the weekend—it’s a popular joint for area foodies.
Camdens Art & Wine: If you are looking for a classy, refined place to celebrate that test grade or work promotion, or maybe you just want to treat yourself to a nice dinner, then Camdens is the place for you. Also located on the square, Camdens restaurant and bar is located downstairs in an elegant, quirky atmosphere. Whether you are splitting hors d’oeuvres with your friends, or you are looking for a tasty new wine, Camdens has a great atmosphere and food selection that I would definitely recommend. When you are finished with your dinner, head upstairs to shop local art, jewelry, home décor and more. Blackburn students receive a 15 percent student discount on select merchandise.
Abella’s Restaurant: Another breakfast/brunch favorite of mine, Abella’s, is located on 127 S. Broad Street, just off the square in Carlinville. Self-labeled as “classic home-style American cuisine,” Abella’s offers a student discount for Blackburn students and also features a Sunday buffet. ‘Nuff said.
Anchor Inn: There are plenty of bars in the area, but the Anchor is by far my favorite. With a rustic, country atmosphere, friendly bartenders and prices you can’t compete with, the Anchor is the perfect going out spot for college students who are looking for a cheap drink in a classier joint. Located on the square, the Anchor is attached to Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor, which is famous for their century-old gourmet chili recipe.
The Refuge Coffee House: As a big lover of coffee, or at least a lover of lots of sugar and flavored creamer with a side of coffee, the Refuge is a must for me. I often go there to study or just relax when I need to get away from campus. Located on the square, the Refuge has a great food selection, including tons of freshly baked goods. The cozy atmosphere is a perfect getaway on rainy days. Use your Blackburn I.D. to get 10 percent off your purchase, or 25 percent off on Fridays.
Jubelt’s Bakery & Restaurant: Jubelt’s has the best vanilla cappuccino around, period. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at reasonable prices and with a relaxed atmosphere. If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned feel-good food, then visit their location on the historic Route 66 in Litchfield.
Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries: Hwy 55, located in Litchfield, makes me feel like I’ve stepped right into a 1950s diner. With an open-air kitchen, fresh lemon shake-ups and homemade custard, Hwy 55 is one of my favorite affordable places to eat. They also offer an app that lets you scan your receipts, so after you accumulate a number of points you can receive a sweet treat for free!
Nancy’s Pizza: Another one of my favorites, Nancy’s offers Chicagostyle pizza in every way, shape and form. I personally recommend the cheese-stuffed deep dish, paired with your favorite wine or beer on tap. Also located in Litchfield, Nancy’s is worth the drive as it offers upscale pizza (and other menu items) and an elegant atmosphere.