By Molly Haas | Photos by Paul Jones
A lot of things can get you down during the long semester away from home. Harrisonburg has a lot to offer, but sometimes this little town in Virginia just cannot make up for the comforts of home. Maybe it’s the unpredictable weather, maybe it’s the early-morning classes or maybe sometimes campus food just doesn’t cut it. Not to worry, though, the familiar flavors of home can be found! With just a little bit of exploration, the comfort food from your mom’s kitchen can be had in Harrisonburg without blowing your budget.
Not only does Union Station have everything from classic chicken wings to a prime rib hoagie all for about nine dollars, but the historic atmosphere makes the restaurant perfect for a little break from college life. Union Station carries everything from the classic, like the ‘Nuthin Fancy Burger, to the innovative with vegetarian Black Bean Cakes. The restaurant was renovated in 2008 with a nod to historical Harrisonburg present in every detail of the décor. The menu is reasonably priced, and the appetizers are perfect to share, but if that is not enough to make you feel at home, Union Station offers you the chance to leave your mark. Each month, the restaurant chooses one dish submitted by a customer to feature on the menu. What better way to get a taste of home than having your mom’s special recipes on demand just a few blocks from campus? With a vintage atmosphere and some delicious entrées, it doesn’t get much better.
Shank’s Bakery has everything imaginable to satisfy a sweet tooth on a college budget. It’s obvious from the first bite that Shank’s goodies are all baked from scratch. With cupcakes that taste just like the ones from birthdays past and pies by the slice, you will be hooked on this downtown spot. Less than $2 will buy any four cookies from chocolate chip, monster cookies or the irresistible maple crinkles. The cinnamon buns are also a must-have. At only $1 a piece, the giant, gooey rolls sell out quickly every morning, making Shank’s a must-stop for a chilly morning before class.
Mr. J’s Bagels and Deli has long been a Harrisonburg favorite. Any Saturday morning trip will show that Mr. J’s is a popular spot for JMU students and Harrisonburg residents alike. Though the bagels may not be a secret, what makes Mr. J’s the perfect place for an inexpensive, home-cooked breakfast are the sandwiches and specials. At less than $4, the Breakfast Special tastes just like it was cooked up in your own kitchen, and for a real cozy concoction, try the Cinnamon Toast bagel with cream cheese and bacon. One bite of this bagel creation will have even the biggest skeptics conjuring up images of a long morning at home in their favorite pajamas.
Everything about Pano’s Restaurant says “comfort.” The family-friendly atmosphere and traditional entrées will take you back to that little restaurant from home that is like nowhere else and cook up your grandma’s most delicious recipes. The prices at Pano’s cannot be beat with a 12 ounce steak for under $12, and the penne primavera or fried chicken dinners are sure to fill your stomach with happiness all on a college budget. Though Pano’s is a little farther from campus, down South Main Street, it is definitely worth the trip for the familiar flavors of home without scrimping on textbooks to pay for the meal.
At Pennybackers, hungry students can get sandwiches, soups and salads for all around $8. A personal standout is the Court Square Club, a traditional club sandwich served with honey mustard sauce for a little extra sweetness. It is hard to resist the Water Street Combos as well, with a choice of a sandwich, salad or a cup of soup. Pennybackers has all of the ingredients for any good sandwich shop, but what makes the restaurant perfect for Dukes looking for a taste of nostalgia? All the sandwiches are served with cafeteria favorite, tater tots! Called “Ott’s Totts” on the menu, the warm potato cakes will have anyone wondering how french fries ever sufficed. Located just down South Main Street, Pennybackers is a short walk from campus, and a perfect escape for a weekend lunch.