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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Beginner’s guide to eating well in South Bend

On a day-to-day basis, the Notre Dame bubble can sometimes leave students with limited dining options. South Bend and Mishawaka, however, have a plethora of wonderful restaurants you NEED to hit before you leave. I know everyone has their go-to spots, so these may not be everyone’s favorites, but first-years, I hope this list helps you to find favorites of your own.

For GREAT brunch: 

Hit Peggs. There’s no reservations, but you can get through the short wait with a cup of coffee or a glass of water in their adorable mugs. Or, if you want to stroll around downtown South Bend — which I highly suggest you do even if you aren’t in line for Peggs — they’ll call you when there’s a table opening. The food is great overall; I’ve had about four different meals there. My favorite? The Chicken and Waffles with a freshly pressed juice and their cinnamon rolls that are to die for.

For a lunch-y/brunch-y combo moment: 

Hit the Metro Diner in Mishawaka. Their food is excellent; I have never gotten the same thing twice. They have all of your midwestern classics from a great chicken salad sandwich to a warm chicken pot pie. Also, readers over 21, their bottomless mimosas are the perfect balance between OJ and sparkling wine. 

For local coffee, fun teas and a snack: 

Yes, Starbucks is always a functional option for getting some work done and housing a few salted caramel cold brews or iced peach green tea lemonades, but every city has a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ or both. You can do that anywhere. 

Instead, hit Chicory Cafe. This adorable New Orleans-style cafe has a great little menu for any time of day.  They have locally roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee that smells amazing the second you walk in. My go-to order? Their lavender London Fog latte with an order of the beignets. Hands down the best tea-latte in town and sometimes, I’ll get two beignet orders in one visit. 

As a side note, the casual atmosphere also makes it a great first date coffee spot. And, if you’re feeling nostalgic, there’s no one telling you you can’t get dino nuggets off the kids menu (speaking from experience on both those fronts).

The space also does live music, has a piano at all times and a comfy couch in the corner where a larger group can sit and talk. 

For a fun, casual dinner: 

The Lauber. Whether you’re getting dinner with friends, your parents are in town or you have a club leadership dinner to organize, the Lauber is a great option. The two patios are so much fun, you’ll want to sit out on them even as it gets cold. The setting sun as you eat is so pretty outside and peeks so well through the garage doors of the former sheet metal company into the exciting bar and restaurant atmosphere. 

Get the Tin Can Nachos as a fun appetizer to share within the group and watch as your server lifts the can away to see the nachos spill all over each other. There are great vegetarian and vegan options here as well and a bunch of origial pizzas. In terms of what I get, I’m always torn between the Prime Melt and the Power Salad. Their specialty drinks and desserts change with the seasons but they are always good, too. 

For a place almost as new as you: 

If you’re looking for somewhere with a great vibe, great music and incredible food, but that’s still making a name for itself (which, by extension, you get to be a part of), hit Fatbird. Go with a couple friends and share a few of their incredible entrees, all made with southern influences. The Jambalaya, the fried chicken and the chicken salad sandwich on a croissant are all worth your time and you cannot miss with a single one of the sides. The drinks are made classically and elegantly, but they also have a drink list full of twists on old classics as well. The dessert is always yummy too, even though I barely have room for it. 

For a milestone or a birthday:

Hit Corndance. The exciting twist on a classic steakhouse is always fun. The food is incredible and the space is entertaining. It is a little pricier than most of these other locations but it is a great way to celebrate an important event in your life. The sides do not miss here either, especially when they accompany the Sword of John Adams. What is that you ask? It is a literal sword (dagger-like structure) stuck into a plate skewering different cuts and kinds of meat. Owned by the same people who own Evil Czech and Jesus (two other great restaurants in South Bend), Corndance features their locally-famous dessert, Cake in a Can. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. 

Best of luck, first-years, on your first forays outside the Notre Dame bubble and upperclassmen, if you haven’t broken out yet, try one of these places as soon as you can! You won’t be sorry you did. 

You can contact Manni at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.