The first time I drove through Vermillion — my junior year of high school, the days of yore — I was not particularly impressed with the apparent selection of services.
There was a Burger King. There were a lot of gas stations — a disproportionate number of gas stations. Why do we never discuss this? Vermillion is just over four square miles large and has ten or so gas stations. Is that standard?
As someone who loves dining out almost as much as Vermillion seems to cherish its gas stations, I was frankly a bit let down.
Since then, my outlook on the situation has completely changed. My four years in Vermillion have opened my eyes to a selection of culinary delights that I find startling when considering the size and location of Vermillion.
You can get really, really great food here — from an impeccable city/country menu at Cafe Brule to a diverse selection of Asian cuisine at Silk Road Cafe and mouthwatering customizable sandwiches at Mister Smith’s. These local businesses offer students and native Vermillionites alike an impressive selection of truly high-quality eats.
Yet there are a few things I think we’re sorely missing. As the home of the flagship university of our state, I strongly believe there are a number of businesses intrinsic to the contemporary American college experience that Vermillion is lacking.
For one thing, it is morally reprehensible that we do not have a 24-hour breakfast restaurant. Late night stress-induced pancake binges are just part of the deal when you come to college. As it stands, students have to drive 30 minutes to get to the nearest restaurants — Fryn’Pan in Yankton, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery in Sioux City — which is an impractical commute that could be better spent actually studying or getting extra rest.
I also refuse to accept the absence of a frozen yogurt bar. I realize that sounds incredibly millennial-y of me, but bear with me. “Fro-yo” — formerly just a sad and rather unpopular corner of frozen food aisles across America — has transcended dairy desserts to become a social gathering, a creative outlet and a weirdly effective stress reliever.
How great does it feel to abandon your cares for a little while in favor of throwing together a dessert comprised of exactly what you want? Your customized indulgence might even help you feel a level of control that is otherwise lacking in the pandemonium of college life.
These frozen yogurt bars are more than places to buy frozen yogurt. They are havens — brief reprieves from the chaos of everyday life where your most important choice is whether you’re going to go with the chocolate or the fruit route and what color spoon you want. I need that. You need that. The world needs that.
Lastly, as a perpetually caffeinated college student who likes to settle in for long and preferably cozy dates with my laptop, I have to say I’m disappointed that we do not have a sit-down place to get coffee outside of campus.
While I am borderline obsessive about Cafe Brule, where, full disclosure, I also work, its limited space and inherent crowdedness aren’t ideal for sinking into concentrated work for hours at a time.
Latte Da, the little coffee shop on Cherry Street, is also wonderful but quite small. A large, open space with couches, tables, coffee and Wi-Fi would do wonders for Vermillion, particularly on the weekends, when U-Brew is only open sporadically and on-campus coffee is harder to come by.
Food-wise, Vermillion has a lot to offer its residents, but it could be even better. With a steadily growing student population and a plan to move “Onward,” I say it’s time.
Give the people pancakes. Give them fro-yo. Give them a coffee shop to call home when they need to study but want to get off campus for a while. And, for goodness’ sake, don’t give them another gas station.