There are times when Cornell feels isolated from the rest of the world, yet moments when that isolation is cozy, charming, and even reassuring. To some, Mount Vernon is a quaint stop on the way to somewhere else, a place to grab a bite to eat at the Lincoln Cafe and then scurry back to somewhere less rustic and, ultimately, with less character. To Cornellians, it’s home.
And yet for many, four years is far too short to experience everything this part of Iowa has to offer. So the Cornell Report talked to alumni and students to find the quintessential things you must do off campus before leaving Cornell. Some of these are literally a step or two from campus, while others are more of a trek. All of them, though, are worth every second of the journey.
Shop and Dine in Downtown Mount Vernon
Everyone’s been to the bars on a weekend night. But the real downtown Mount Vernon is the one you’ll find in the daylight when the stores are open, the Lincoln Cafe is packed, and the smell of coffee is wafting down the street.
Experienced all at once or taken in little trips, the downtown area is perfect for just getting off campus for a bit. It’s the classic, quaint small town, with just enough of its own charm thrown in to make it a unique experience.
|Mount Vernon's Lincoln Cafe has garnered national attention.
The Lincoln Cafe is the toast of Mount Vernon and one of the town’s biggest draws. Featured in such varied publications as the New York Times, the Raleigh Durham News and Observer, and O Magazine, the Lincoln Cafe serves some of the best entrees in the entire state, if not the country.
If cultured cuisine is not to your liking, and fast food just won’t do, try Chameleon’s Pub and Grub during the day. Their cheesy potato munchers may not be world famous, but they’re definitely famous throughout Mount Vernon.
And while waiting for your turn at Lincoln or trying to burn off some calories from Chameleon’s, check out what some of the local stores have to offer. Shopping at Bauman & Co. harkens back to the era of small department stores. Established in 1909, Bauman’s has employed a long line of Cornellians. For an even more eclectic offering, try Silver Spider, which specializes in unique jewelry and gifts, or the boutiques Cottage Kitsch, Accessories on Main, and A French Accent. A recent addition is the Cornershop, a bookstore where you can also rent DVDs, buy the New York Times, and pick up international food staples.
|Bauman & Co., which today carries men's and women's clothing, has outfitted Cornellians for decades.
If you’re not looking for a night on t he town, but just want to get away from Cornell for a little while, check out the new coffee shops, Brewcasso and Fuel, which have already become centers for students and residents alike. Here it’s easy to rub elbows with new
and old residents of Mount Vernon, and get to know some locals who can become lifelong friends. And if you’re looking to take a taste of Mount Vernon back to campus with you, check out Big Creek Market, which sells organic foods of all kinds.
“There really is no town called Sutliff anymore but there still is a great small town bar …”
So begins the backside of the menu at Baxa’s Sutliff Store and Tavern. Not exactly the thing of legends, and most small-town bars don’t usually rate on any given “things to do” list, but Sutliff is the exception.
Situated between nowhere and nothing, Sutliff stands where a ferry used to take people across the Cedar River. When a sandbar threatened that path, a bridge was built. Just over 100 years later the Sutliff Bridge was named a historic site.
The bridge itself offers a gorgeous view over the Cedar River, and the benches offer a perfect view of sunset in an area that, quite frankly, doesn’t have much standing in the way of nature.
|Baxa's Sutliff Store and Tavern is famous for its bills and burgers.
But most Cornell students venture out to Sutliff for the bar. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, a run-down old farmhouse with a few beer signs in the
window. For that matter, it doesn’t look like much on the inside either. Until you look up.
Pinned to the ceiling are 3,500 one dollar bills, each with a message written on it.
For any Cornellians who want a permanent “I was here” reminder of their four years, almost nothing beats a dollar bill with your name posted to the ceiling of Sutliff.
And while you’re there, sample the menu, which includes such stars as Chicken Gizzards (10 for $3.60) and Chicken Livers (six to eight for $3.60 but a steal at any price), as well as more typical favorites like hamburgers, tenderloins, and catfish strips. And, if you’re in a hurry, they sell hunting and fishing licenses, as well as bait and tackle.