By Beth Peralta
I’ll admit it: I’ve kind of been stalking Harvest Market Champaign’s Facebook page for months now. Even before I became a registered dietitian, I’ve loved grocery shopping. My mom used to send me to the store with a list and a check (which was totally allowed in the pre-debit card mid-1990’s) to shop. Anytime a new space opens up for groceries, I always want to check it out.
So when Chambanamoms invited me to come along to a pre-opening test of Harvest Market’s Farmhouse Restaurant for lunch, I leapt at the chance. (Disclosure: meal was provided to me free of charge. However, this did not influence my opinions listed in the article).
We were led to the Farmhouse Restaurant area by Niemann Foods’ food service director, Kevin Walker. He discussed some of the major tenants of the restaurant with us before leading us to the ordering line. All of their items are completely made from scratch – for example, they are not using bases to start sauces or soups, buttermilk biscuits are made fresh, and all lettuce for salads are cut in-house instead of from pre-washed mixes.
Farmhouse Restaurant features breakfast (6-11 a.m.) and lunch/dinner (11 a.m.-8 p.m.). We were there for lunch, so the breakfast menu items that we sampled were the biscuits (a table favorite that also come along with many lunch/dinner items) and a few samples from the coffee bar (dark chocolate mocha = must have, but definitely a decadent sometimes treat for me!)
There are three different parts of the menu: sandwiches, salads, and simmering pots. Sandwiches range from $4 (grilled cheese) to $8, salads from $5 (salad bar/garden salad) to $9, and simmering pots start at $4. For the kids menu, options range from $2 (mac & cheese, no side) to $5. Kids menu items have an option of chips or fresh fruit as a side.
I ordered the veggie wrap – hummus, spinach, tri-colored bell peppers, roma tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, avocado olive oil and balsamic vinegar, spices and sunflower seeds – and it was delicious. The vegetables had the just right amount of crunch and the hummus, oil, vinegar, and spices had a good balance of flavor. The sandwiches come along with fresh fried potato chips (though I would have liked a fruit cup option) which were pretty tasty. There are burgers, too.
Simmering pots include soups, stews, and casseroles, and they are on display as you wait in line to order. All of our mouths were watering as we walked past these bright, colorful pots. At our table, we tasted the shrimp and wild rice as a group and it was a definite favorite.
During lunch, we were able to talk with several friendly staff members about the restaurant. There is an upstairs or downstairs area where you can sit for your meal. The downstairs dining room has a good mix of bar height and regular height tables, and a section with the bench/chair combo. For families bringing in smaller kids, there are four high chairs and four booster seats available. The menus will have allergen information available. Upstairs, there are a lot of sitting areas, a bar, and the Nook, where the educational classes will take place once it is open. They plan to hold events for families and kids in the future, and will have the schedule available on their website.
I am excited to check it out again once the store and restaurant are officially open and see what types of classes are offered in the future.