Thursday, September 30, 2010

#31: The Chili Cook Off Challenge

Stop eating right now.

Seriously.  Start saving room for the Chili Cook-Off Challenge tomorrow.  The event is happening from 11am - 9pm, so you have plenty of time to gorge yourself.  There are eight downtown restaurants competing and showcasing their special chili recipes.

All proceeds benefit United Way, and it's $5 to join in the tasting.  Look for volunteers to participate and get your chili 'scorecard'.  Voting is free and open to the public.  As if food and democracy wasn't enough, all voters are registered to win prizes from downtown vendors.

There's tons of other activities going on downtown tomorrow as well (a concert at CJ's, scary stories at the library, et al).  Gotta love First Fridays.

Where: Eight participating restaurants downtown.
When: Friday, 11:00am - 9:00pm

#30: Chicory Cafe

I've never personally been to New Orleans, but if I'd ever had, I imagine I would take pleasure in the little touches the Chicory Cafe makes to bring a lil' Creole to South Bend, Indiana.  Instead of the typical egg sandwich on a bagel or croissant, here you can get an egg po'boy.  Many of the cafe tables double as checkers boards, and you notice that the pace inside seems much more relaxed.  You won't hear the rattle of coffee jargon ("Double Non-fat Extra-Hot Tall..."); perhaps the jazz is just playing too loud.

Despite its location on the corner of two busy downtown streets, Chicory Cafe is a bright little haven and a fun place to unwind for as much time as you have.  The coffee is delicious, and they serve Italian-size cups of cappucino, and the intriguing Spanish latte (cinnamon + half-an-half) that I have yet to try.  There are sandwiches and soups and salads as any coffee shop should have, and if you want something sweet with your java, try a beignet, a powdery French doughnut.

Beignets (ben-gnay), the official state doughnut of Louisiana
 Oh, and they have gelato, as if as to remind you that this isn't the French Quarter, but Indiana, the crossroads of America.

When to go: Monday-Friday, 6:30 am - 5:00 pm; Saturday, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Where: Corner of Michigan and Jefferson
Tip: The price is right for a quick breakfast-- a small cappucino or an order of 3 beignets both price in at under $2

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

#29: West Washington Historic District

Fall seems to have finally arrived so take advantage of the sunny days and autumnal chill in the air by taking a walk through one of South Bend's most beautiful historic districts.  The West Washington Historic District served as home for the industrial leaders of South Bend for many years and it is here that you can find Tippecanoe Place (now a great restaurant and a post for another time), the old Studebaker mansion, and Copshaholm, the residence of the Oliver family.

Tippecanoe Place
Walking down West Washington you'll pass several old-fashioned bed and breakfasts where you'll feel that you are much further away from the bustle of downtown than you actually are.  I'm not going to waste any more time describing the lovely old homes and ambiance of the area as the neighborhood itself has put together a thorough walking tour. 

Find the walking tour here: 

Neighborhood website:

Monday, September 27, 2010

#28: Energy Week at Notre Dame

Now in it's fourth year, this week-long Notre Dame celebration of sustainability and energy has a variety of events, lectures, and movie screenings.  Any event would be a great excuse to come on to campus, but I'm going to specifically recommend attending tomorrow's screening of 'No Impact Man.'  This documentary follows the journey of one man as he sets out to try and live without a carbon footprint in New York City.  Make sure to catch this fascinating film as well as check out the other Energy Week events!

What: Screening of 'No Impact Man'
Where: Hesburgh Library Auditorium
When: Tuesday, September 28th, 7:30pm

Check out the full Energy Week schedule here:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

#27: Just Goods

From its previous location near the Farmer's Market to its current home squarely in the East Bank Village, Just Goods has been a local favorite for fair-trade products, green fashion, and a truly sustainable ethos. We visited the new location the other day, and although they are they still settling into this old house, it's a great showcase for the wide variety of available items.  Whether you're looking for a home-spun table runner, hand-crafted purses, or just the ability to browse items with a clear conscience, you'll find it here.  Just Goods is committed to only selling items that are produced at a "fair wage" and made with "environmentally-conscious" materials.  

Make the choice to feel good about what you buy.

Where: 714 East Jefferson Blvd.; (574) 286-5878
When to go: Tuesday-Friday, 10:00am-6:00pm; Saturday, 9:00am-3:00pm

Friday, September 24, 2010

#26: Exihibition Reception

Today, log some culture hours and get thee to the South Bend Museum of Art.  There's an opening reception for two new exhibitions there, one entitled "Surface Tension" and the other "Will Pergl: Trivialities of Deportment."  And if you need a further incentive, there will be free refreshments...
"Surface Tension" is a collection of 2-D (read: flat) works by contemporary painters.  I'm interested to understand what 'tension' can be conveyed by paint, an inherently flat medium.   The exhibition description on the website states, quite provocatively, "It would seem that painting has always been with us..." The works form a collection that aims to challenge your idea of the development of painting and the ways paint can express different forms.  Find it in the Warner Gallery.
Will Pergl
The other exhibition by Will Pergl, who hails from Milwaukee, WI, offers the 3-D perspective.  He uses interesting, interwoven shapes that make you question "How did he make that?!"  The website calls his works a "visual rollercoaster".  Take this ride in the Art League Gallery.
Where: South Bend Museum of Art
When: Friday, 5:00-7:30pm

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just to Recap

In order to mark (congratulate ourselves on) our first 25 posts, we though we'd give you a quick reminder of the all great stuff to do in South Bend that we've already mentioned.  Just in case you, you know, forgot or something.

Who likes ice-cream? I do, but what I really like is ice-cream at a 50's style drive-in on Classic Car Night.  Good thing there's Bonnie Doon just down the road in Mishawaka. In the mood for browsing rooms full of books? Visit Erasmus Books hidden on a side-street near downtown. Need some fresh fruits and vegetables? Head over to the South Bend Farmer's Market. I'm sure you remember the Riverwalk, Junk Evolution, and of course, the Cove. Yes? Good.

Some of these places we've written about, South Bend residents know instinctively and some, we hope, will let residents and visitors alike find a new favorite spot in our favorite city.

So revisit these favorites but get ready, because we have 340 more posts and places coming at you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

#25: Canoeing on the St. Joe River

South Bend's location on the St. Joseph's River was not accidental, so you should play 'first settler' and retrace the experience of its founders by paddling around in a canoe.  The broad, smooth flowing river makes this a delightful and different afternoon activity for even a beginning paddlist.

If you don't own a canoe, it's simple to rent a canoe at St. Patrick's Park, which is located two miles north of downtown, right near the state border.  Friday through Sunday, from 11am-4pm, you can walk up to the Brown Barn and rent a canoe or an open-top kayak.

Canoe rentals for four hours cost $23 (or about $7 a head if you squeeze three in there), $30 for a five hours.  Single-person kayaks rent at $18 for a short trip; $25 for a long trip.  Paddles and lifejackets are provided as well as the much-appreciated shuttle service!

For those wary of heading out on a moving body of water, there is always the pond to practice in -- and that only sets you back $7/hour.  So that's a good way to get your feet wet.  Figuratively, we hope.

Location: the Brown Barn at St. Patrick's Park (past the Red Barn, look for signs)
When to go: Weekends and holidays, 11am-4pm (return rentals by 7pm), from May 22-Oct. 3
Tip: Bring your lunch and enjoy the most relaxed meal you've had in weeks.  (Don't forget to pack out! Leave no trace!)

#24: Studebagel's

Full Disclosure: I have a part-time job here.  That however is not going to prevent me from writing about South Bend's greatest (only?) bagel shop.  Located conveniently close to campus for those post-football Sunday mornings, this local favorite is open every day from 5:30am-4:00pm.  My recommendation though is to avoid the football weekends and enjoy a Studebagel and coffee early in the morning before work, school, etc. If you're up for it, you could even join the group of runners who take their morning run and head in for a bagel afterwards.

The bagels are baked fresh every night.  Standards, like whole-wheat, sesame, blueberry, and others are available every day with speciality bagels like cinnamon addiction, pesto-asiago, and poppy-seed popping up occasionally. There are speciality cream cheeses like mocha java and peanut butter chocolate chip as well as egg sandwiches and lox. The choices are so overwhelming that it's hard to even make a decision.

But honestly, there really is something to be said for a place where the staff knows the customer's orders before they come in. So come on now. You know you want to be a regular.

1801 South Bend Avenue
South Bend, IN 46637

Tip: You can draw on the walls.  Really.

Friday, September 10, 2010

#23: Football Fridays Block Party

We all know South Bend can be (superficially) known for its football.  But if you're in town for a game or if you just live here, why don't you take advantage of a community event that's been planned to coincide with the Irish schedule?

Every Friday before a football game, Downtown South Bend sponsors a block party at the College Football Hall of Fame.  The events feature live, local bands, food, drinks, activities for the whole family, and are really a great way to get to know the community that surrounds the stadium.   

For more information visit their website here:

Where: College Football Hall of Fame
When: 5-9pm
Admission Fee: $3

#22: Spark

I hate to make such a heteronormative* recommendation, but if you need a gift for your mom, sister, BFF, or another female in your life, head to Spark Fine Stationary.  It will inspire you to, as the website states, "rediscover the lost art of correspondence." 

This lovely little store downtown is located across from the Chocolate Company.   It has some of the finest stationary and paper products I've seen, and it carries some of the coolest brands on the market, including Papaya, Moleskine, and those snarky post-its and to-do lists found at Urban Outfitters.  The store has a nice urban vibe to it, which makes every purchase feel special, like you're getting something unique or exotic.  Speaking of 'exotic', there's an "Improper Etiquette" section of the store that's not to be missed.

This store's cool factor is amplified by how awesome the owner is.  Joya Helmuth, a graphic designer, is the co-founder and president of the board of the ShoLo (Shop Local) Alliance in the area AND a board member of the local NPR station.  Joya, thank you for this outpost of urban sophistication and the latest graphic design art.

Where: 121 South Michigan Street
When to go: M-F, 9am-6pm; Sat, 9am-4pm; by appointment
Tip: Spark is known for their custom invitations.

*Sorry for the six-syllable word, but it's my favorite.  And they also carry nice fountain pens and journals, which are great and unexpected non-gendered gifts, so still check this place out if you need a Father's Day present.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

#21: The Riverwalk

In this burst of fall weather, the leaves have given up the ghost faster than the teenagers and their flipflops.  Experience the early onset of autumn on the Riverwalk/Northside Trail, which winds along the St. Joseph River.   It is a good path for biking, running, or walking your dog even when the snows arrive, but it is during the fall when it is most beautiful.  Crunchy leaf-steppers, don't miss out.

Look for Sunburst logos and other marathon-markers

This trail picks up where the East Bank Trail ends and follows the river from downtown South Bend into Mishawaka/IUSB territory.  You'll pass Howard Park and its skating rink, a (former railroad) pedestrian bridge, the Notre Dame rowing shed (and their signature on concrete pilings), the Farmer's Market, and friendly passerbys.  You can watch old me fish or kids learn how to ride their bike.  It's one of the most pleasant paths to fall into the flow of the river (figuratively) and just go.
View of downtown from the ND rowing platform

Length: Three miles, approx.
Where: North/east side of the river from Howard Park to IUSB
Tip:  Sometimes the path floods in heavy rains, and the concrete can be uneven so be mindful of the conditions!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#20: Unity Gardens

If you ever wished you had enough space in your backyard for a garden, the motivation to plant one, or just wished you had fresh-grown tomatoes right at your fingertips, you can now do so in 25 community gardens right here in South Bend.  The theory is that the garden is supported by the surrounding community (weeding is much easier with friends), and everyone can then reap the benefits (and cultivate a potential green thumb).

These gardens are called Unity Gardens and are located all around the city.  Some grow specific types of produce like the Butternut Squash Garden on Kaley Street while others are run by specific organizations such as the Homeless Center Unity Garden. Some gardens donate all of their produce to local food banks while others split the harvest between members of the community.  Regardless, all gardens depend on the support of the community and can use regular volunteers. Chances are there is one near you.

For locations, events, and more information visit their website here: 

Monday, September 6, 2010

#19: Michiana Celtic Festival and Highland Games

Yet another festival drew people from across the city Sunday.  However, I don't think there are any other festivals with attractions like men carrying logs and women flinging intestines.  Come to the Michiana Celtic Festival and Highlands Games to see the sights and experience the Islands in this land-locked county.  

You won't be bored by the multifarious array of events at this festival.  From bagpipers to "Whiskey B4 Breakfast", bands perform both traditional and contemporary Celtic music.  Celtic dancing, weapons demonstrations, and competitions in sports you didn't even know existed keep the sights fresh.  And when you get hungry, there's always haggis to try.  Let me know how it is -- couldn't bring myself to taste it!

Where: Howard Park, next to the river, across Jefferson from The Emporium
When to go: 10am-6:30pm
Tip: Walk over to Fiddler's Hearth for the post-party

Saturday, September 4, 2010

#18: Vesuvio Pizza

So maybe you do have a weakness for going to Fever, or what calls you downtown on Friday nights is the bars, not open stores.  That's okay-- we've been there too.  A frustrating aspect of downtown is that a"24 hour diner" does not exist for (let's be frank here) those late night drunk food/munchies. 

Yes, Nick's Patio is a $3 cab ride away.  Yes, there is the illegal sausage vendor outside the Feve.  But the most reliable and most beloved establishment is Vesuvio's Pizza.

This hole-in-the-wall on South Michigan Street  does have holes in the walls, actually.  There is occasionally a table inside.  Walk past it during the day and you will think this place has been abandoned; walk past it at night and you will see a hubbub of people spilling outside its doors, talking, kissing, fighting.  Even if you are sober (but hungry), the interaction between people is entertainment enough.

So grab a $3 slice of hot bubbly, cheesy, thin-crust goodness to make any night end right.

Where: 230 South Michigan Street
When to go: Any weekend night after 1:00 AM
Tip: The wait may get long, but take the opportunity to make friends with the people around.  Everyone's friendly at this time of night.

Friday, September 3, 2010

#17: First Fridays

Sponsored by Downtown South Bend, First Friday’s are held on, guess what?, the first Friday of every month.  Businesses stay open late and offer deals, musicians play at different venues around town, several stores offer wine and appetizers in addition to antiques and art, and sometimes, yes, there is even a zombie walk.  Well, actually that last part was just a coincidence, but everything else is a bona-fide First Friday event.

Each month also plays host to a certain theme, this month’s being Football Fever (I have no idea what that’s about) with other month’s features including a Kid’s Night Out and Celebrate Baseball. So if you were looking for a reason to come to downtown South Bend, and for some reason you couldn’t find it yet, this is your final I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-convince-you incentive. Consider yourself warned.

Check the website for each month’s events HERE

Thursday, September 2, 2010

#16: Thursday Night Fever Alternatives

While many Michiana residents between the ages of "21" and 26 do not share my contempt for Club Fever, I do think there's a good number of us who look for other things to do on a Thursday evening.  These are activities that require neither a BAC of 0.25 nor an outfit from Forever 21.  And no, I can't guarantee that you will find $1 shots or cage dancing at these venues; and heck, you might not even be groped by a stranger or four, but I still think... might have a good Thursday night by avoiding the Fev.

So here ya go, my hand-picked Thursday Night Fever Alternatives.

6:30 PM   South Bend Silver Hawks vs. Fort Wanye Tin Caps
@ the Cove
One of the last home games of the Season!  Also, it's Thirsty Thursday!
More info HERE.

6:30 & 9:30 PM   "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
@ DPAC, Browning Cinema, on Notre Dame's campus
A film for anyone interested in street art - with a focus on Banksy, perhaps the most well-known street artist.  This is my pick for tonight.
This film will also be playing tomorrow evening.  You can find reviews, show times, and more HERE.

9:00 PM   live music, featuring Alligator Blackbird, a local cover band
@ Fiddler's Hearth, 127 North Main Street in downtown South Bend
You've probably been to Fiddler's for a few drinks, but I'd say that this Irish style public house is at it's best when local musicians take over the soundtrack.
Keep up with Fiddler's live music and other events HERE.

Know of anything else going on around town tonight?  Let us know by commenting on this post.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

#15: The Dollar Theater

The actual name of this movie theater is Cinemark Movies 6, but I generally refer to it as the "Cheap Movie Place" or the "Dollar Theater".  The latter is actually a misnomer because only on Wednesday nights are movies truly a dollar.  Other nights, it costs a whopping $1.50.

The movies may be second-run and the popcorn still outrageously expensive, but this Mishawaka gem offers that inimitable movie-going experience for a price that fits everyone's budget.  The price is close to Redbox's fees, and think how much better it is to see a film on the big screen.  Who needs to see movies first-run anyway?  (Twilight fans, I'm looking at you. Did you really pay upwards of $7.50 to watch three teenagers gaze at each other?)

6424 N. Grape Road, nestled behind Best Buy
Website: See showtimes and the movie selection here.
Tip: The seats aren't as plush as in newer theaters, so be forewarned if you choose to see a long movie.

#14: Lula's

So this place falls a little to the “obvious” end of the measuring stick. Lula’s. That cafĂ© where they have great coffee, an even greater toasted brie sandwich, poetry readings, new-ish copies of the New Yorker, a healthy mix of English majors, professors, young kids on laptops and middle-aged groups who meet for lunch, Scrabble available to play in the corner, and the best coffee-shop atmosphere for miles around. That place in South Bend you were looking for before you found it.

But really, Lula’s is a bona-fide one-of-a-kind. There aren’t that many local coffee-shops in the area, but that doesn’t mean they accept a lower standard. They feature local art work on the walls and host local events themselves, like the poetry readings mentioned above.   I’ve met countless friends for coffee here, written 15 page papers here, and spent a couple hours in the corner chair reading a good book. A good coffee-shop can function like a second home or neighborhood hangout, and while I'm not suggesting that Lula's is exactly Central Perk, I am suggesting that you should come here if you haven't been and come back often if you have.

1631 Edison Road
South Bend, IN 46637

Monday-Thursday 7:30am-10:30pm
Friday 7:30am-11:00pm
Saturday 9:00am-11:00pm
Sunday 10:00am-10:00pm

Drink Suggestions: Blackberry-vanilla Italian soda, the Autumn Elixir, Raspberry-quince hot tea
Food Suggestions: Hummus and blue-corn chips, the aforementioned toasted brie, really anything else
Best time to go: Anytime, all the time
Tip: Remember to get a drink card. You get a punch every time you order a drink and once you get to 10, you get your 11th drink for free. Ask for it at the register