3 hidden gems in Springfield foodies don’t want to miss

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

As the Springfield foodie scene is seeing a resurgence in dining options, three hidden gems in the community — all tucked inside another entity — are worth highlighting.

From a restaurant serving a bigger purpose to a coffee shop located inside a bank and a student-led restaurant, here are three establishments you don’t want to miss!

🥗 Fresh Abilities

Location: Clark State College, 570 E. Leffel Lane

Details: Fresh Abilities is a quick service restaurant located at Clark State College’s Leffel Lane Campus.

“Fresh Abilities isn’t just a restaurant,” said Bridget Doane and Traci Bohn of The Abilities Connection (TAC). “We are a training program for people with disabilities and other barriers to gain the skills and experience necessary to successfully work in the food service industry.”

The restaurant is operated by TAC, which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower people with disabilities and other barriers to reach their full potential through meaningful employment, training and support. Doane and Bohn said the organization provides over 100 hours of classroom instruction along with hands-on kitchen experience. Trainees in the program become certified in ServSafe, an industry-recognized credential, and then move on to employment with other local restaurants.

Fresh Abilities moved to Clark State in the spring of 2022, allowing them to offer enhanced classroom instruction in the same location as the restaurant, Doane and Bohn said.

“With the move to Clark State, many people think that we are only open to students, faculty, and staff at Clark State,” they said. “We are open to the public and encourage people to consider our restaurant and dining area, especially for lunch meetings.”

Last year, Fresh Abilities expanded their menu to include pizza, subs, quesadillas, French fries and breakfast items in addition to their salads, soups and smoothies.

“We are proud of the delicious and fresh food we serve our customers each and every day, but even more so, we are proud of the impact that Fresh Abilities makes on the lives of our team members,” they said. “Our team members enjoy serving our customers while gaining real-life experience to prepare them for the future!”

Hours of operation: The restaurant is open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Fresh Abilities is closed when Clark State’s campus is closed.

More information: Visit www.freshabilities.com or the restaurant’s Facebook page (@freshabilities).

☕ Richwood Coffee

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Location: Richwood Bank, 2454 N. Limestone St.

Details: Richwood Coffee is a full-service coffee shop with Wi-Fi located inside Richwood Bank’s North Limestone Street location.

“Our coffee shops are unique in the way of not charging for your drinks,” said branch sales manager Jonathan Whitacre. “While black coffee is always free, all other drinks, regardless of flavor or style, are a ‘cup credit’ loaded to your reloadable Richwood Coffee card. To receive a coffee card of credits, we ask that you donate to one of our celebrated, local nonprofits who are partnered with us through banking and shared community improvement.”

Springfield area nonprofits that are part of the program include Bass-Smith Connection, Animal Welfare League, United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties, Project Woman, Clark County Fair, Autumn Trails Stable and Emmanuel Christian Academy. Whitacre said they have around seven beneficiaries within each branch area they serve, yet customers can choose their favorite from any area wherever you stop in for coffee.

If you bank at Richwood, a customer service representative at the teller area will be able to make a transaction transfer from your account to the nonprofit of your choice. If you do not have a Richwood account, they accept cash and have an ATM outside, Whitacre explained.

He said the larger the donation, the more coffee credits you will receive. For example, if you donate $50, you will receive 20 “thank you cups” credits and a free Richwood Coffee mug.

Richwood Coffee specializes in serving hot, cold and frozen coffees, teas and fruit smoothies. A local favorite is their signature drink, the chocolate and caramel snowbank.

“Richwood Coffee’s unique concept of giving back, one cup at a time is one of many ways to be involved with our county areas we live in too,” Whitacre said.

Richwood Coffee opened in Springfield in January 2020.

Hours of operation: The coffee shop is open 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Richwood coffee is closed when the bank is closed on Sundays and federal holidays.

More information: Visit www.richwoodcoffee.com or the coffee shop’s Facebook page (@richwoodcoffee).

🍽 The Jaguar Room

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Location: Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center, 1901 Selma Road

Details: The Jaguar Room is a student-run restaurant located in the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center (CTC).

Students, under the supervision of two chefs, prepare, serve, and handle all aspects of the restaurant, which is named after the school’s mascot.

“The mission of The Jaguar Room is to provide a real-life restaurant experience for students in CTC’s Culinary Arts program,” said Chef Dave Hay. “Students are involved in every aspect of running The Jaguar Room — from food preparation to purchasing to marketing (and) finances.”

Hay said the restaurant’s menu changes periodically, so students can study and learn different types of cuisines and cooking techniques. The Jaguar Room has several types of sandwiches, burgers and pizza, along with featured items such as a shrimp curry bowl, grilled salmon and chicken alfredo. Hay said each meal comes with their soup and salad bar.

“The students work very hard to provide exceptional food and service,” Hay said. “We are grateful for the kindness, patience, and interest our customers show to our student servers and chefs as they are learning. "

The CTC has had some type of student-run food service for at least 30 years, Hay said. They also have a food truck that will be at the Clark County Fair and a few other community events.

The Jaguar Room is known for its chocolate chip cookies and signature BBQ sauce. The restaurant has its own entrance, just north of the main school entrance.

Hours of operation: The Jaguar Room is typically open 10:50 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Hay noted the restaurant’s hours tend to fluctuate due to school events or students preparing for or attending competitions. Reservations are not required, but are are helpful for groups of six or more people. For current operating hours or to make a reservation, call 937-325-7368 extension 169.

More information: Visit www.scctc.org/programs/culinary-arts-hospitality/culinary-arts.

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