Just one year ago, my mom moved from our childhood neighborhood of Plainfield, Illinois to a way off small town 30 minutes away. This doesn't sound like a lot and things could definitely have been way worse, but it was still a change. Most of my friends are a good hour away now and there is no fun things to do in this small town surrounded by corn fields. 

The reason I don't care too, too much is because I'm only home for holidays. However, when I am home I'm always stuck doing nothing with no car. It kind of sucks. Not to mention it's cold

Growing up there was a decent amount of things to do. It has been different being in such a smaller town—for me at least. Where I used to live, I was surrounded by areas with 150,000 people. Yorkville—where I am now—has 20,000 people. I know it's not a nobody town with less than a thousand people, but it still feels super small. This is the downtown area. It's barely a block. 

pizza, coffee, water
Ashley Peek

But something adorable comes out of this small town that I didn't notice in my old town: the local eateries. Sure, there is still a Starbucks and McDonalds around, but there are definitely not as many chains as where I used to live. This allows local businesses to flourish, which is what I love about this town. 

Since I have been back for the holidays, I have not been to any chain restaurants. The best of the best truly comes from these smaller businesses. 

For one, the food is phenomenal. One of the restaurants, Crusade Burger Bar, is a local business that uses fresh ingredients from around the area to prepare the juiciest burgers in town. It's located in the heart of downtown—big place, remember—and is always packed. 

beer, wine
Ashley Peek

Another thing I love is the friendly feel of it all. Foxy's, the local ice cream shop, is known by the whole town. They have crazy ice cream flavors like This $&@! Just Got Serious, a blend of salted caramel ice cream with rich sea salt fudge and salted cashews—a personal favorite. 

cookie, ice, cream, ice cream, chocolate
Ashley Peek

It's one of those places you know all the kids would hangout or go on a date if it were placed in a movie. Just look at the set up. The cotton candy colored walls and panelling is nothing short of enticing. Also, the shoppe is located right on the side of the quaint river walk, leaving you to stroll with your melted ice cream cone on a warm summer night. 

wine, coffee, beer
Ashley Peek

However, the best places seem to be hidden. There is a little barn and tea room buried right behind all the open fields of the town called Emerson Creek Pottery + Tea Room. It is downright the most adorable place ever. The tea room has a seasonal menu that changes with fresh, healthy ingredients. But in addition to that, they have a pottery shop and host weddings in the barn. 

Reservations are a must here. I went once when I came back briefly in the summer. It was refreshing seeing so many friends, young and old, gathering together over a cup of tea and sandwiches. Despite being in a small town, I've noticed so many places are crowded with people all the time.

Ashley Peek

Every local restaurant I visit around here feels so home-y. It's exactly what you wish you felt if you lived in Gilmore Girl's Stars Hollow. You'll go out to eat and see family working together, friends grabbing a drink at the bar, and you'll even have your neighbor as your server. It's familiar, which is nice every once in a while. 

There are many big towns with local, unique restaurants, but they differ entirely from small town businesses. Their cool, hipster atmosphere surrounds you as you drink a $10 cup of coffee with beans from the west coast of Jamaica, but you can sit in a crowded area and still not know anyone.

Yes, I don't come back home often and I don't even know my neighbor's name, but the sense of community is so strong here.