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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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April 15, 2024
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An (abridged) senior bucket list of essential Galesburg restaurants

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For seniors on campus, graduation is coming barreling towards us. In tandem with dealing with senioritis, I have been feeling some major bouts of nostalgia as well (remember when we were waging a war against caf maggots? Those were the days). As a part of this reminiscing, I have compiled a list of the many fine Galesburg culinary institutions that make up a special bucket list of mine. As a service to the greater Knox community, I have shared an abbreviated list with you below. These three restaurants represent iconic, cannot-miss culinary experiences that I believe all Knox students should experience before they graduate. 

Perhaps you may not agree with me. Or—even worse—you may have never even heard of these places before. For the former group, I encourage you to share your list with me. For the latter group, have faith! It is not too late to sample the fine wares that Galesburg has to offer. 

Stuffed Breadstick (Alfano’s Pizza)

Galesburgians truly love their pizza, and while we for some reason have two Pizza Huts in town (within just a couple miles of each other), true aficionados will look no further than Alfano’s for some of the finest pies in town. Their store in downtown Galesburg greets you with a so-old-it’s-now-vintage sign, displaying a crude topographic rendition of Italy and a concerned-looking pizza chef waving with a crooked hand and staring at you with beady eyes. Each time I pass by that sign on my way out of town, I look into those eyes and feel not pain or fear, but love. 

If you are part of an elite inner circle of Knox students, you’ll know that there is truly one thing to get on this menu, and that is the Stuffed Breadstick. Seems unassuming, right? Think again. This gargantuan, iconoclastic tube of cheese and bread is not only one of the most calorie-to-cost efficient foods you’ll ever find, but is also damn good. Because of the unequivocally yonic shape of the Stuffed Breadstick, an old Knox tradition exists of calling Alfano’s and associating the breadstick to the female anatomy instead using the name of the menu. Will I take part in this tradition for my final Stuffed Breadstick? Only the moment will tell me if it is the right thing to do.

Hard-shell tacos (Taco Hideout)

Tucked away down a series of backroads stands one of the most iconic and historic Galesburg eateries of all time. Since 1964, Taco Hideout has been in the same inconvenient location, with the same simple menu, and the same mid-century interior design (so many black velvet paintings! All in one space!)

The tacos at Taco Hideout are of the ultra-not-traditional type, and aggressively so. Think hard shells, ground beef, beans, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and neon-yellow cheddar. But before you immediately scoff at me, it is important to mention that these tacos transcend the genre of crappy non-traditional taco and enter a completely different realm. The main reason for this is that the folks in the kitchen have serious pride over their work. The corn tortillas are made by hand, fried by hand for every taco, and they do this to order. I mean, there is no reason for them to be doing this other than out of sheer respect for their nearly 60 year-old taco recipe that has stood the test of time. Taco Hideout, with its humble offerings and unchanging nature, is quite literally a hidden gem. 

Torta (El Jarochito)

Ok, so there are two taco joints on this list, but it’s my list and I can do whatever I want so deal with it. It would certainly be a dishonor to not include El Jarochito as one of the essential Galesburg restaurants that I’ll have to visit before hitting the road. Most of you probably recognize this place as “Quick Sam’s,” which is the name most commonly used for it. As the legend goes, there used to be a Quick Sam’s convenience store in the current location for El Jarochito. The current owners still haven’t gotten around to removing the previous sign, and at this point I don’t think they ever will. Does it really matter? Absolutely not. What does matter? The incredible, completely legit mexican food that this place whips up.

From their simple carnitas tacos to their utterly rich and dare I say bodacious chilaquiles, it is pretty much impossible to go wrong with any menu item. However, for the purpose of this bucket list there is one that I’ll highlight: their tortas. These sandwiches are piled high with a dizzying array of ingredients, coated with a hearty dollop of sour cream and guacamole, and served in a pillow-like bun that spans the entire plate. I will have to mention that I have never actually ordered a torta myself, but I have witnessed and taken detailed notes of the experiences of those who have. From what I have observed, this sandwich is an odyssey; after finishing this sandwich, you will feel like Joseph Campbell himself has touched your palate, gracing you with a material manifestation of The Hero’s Journey. In other words, it is huge, delicious, and certainly worthy of its spot among the giants of the Galesburg culinary scene. 

So, whether you are a senior facing your final days as a Knox student or a lowly first year with many more memories in store, I encourage you to venture off campus and pick up some food from these restaurants. While they may not be the kinds of places that you’d immediately take your aunt to (unless she was a cool aunt), they stand as prime exemplars of the very essence of this lovely town. These places, with their unassuming disposition and the surprises that they hold, truly represent everything that is great about Galesburg, and makes me appreciate the place I’ve called home for the past four years.

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