Foodies, rejoice! We’ve created a mouthwatering guide to all things food in the Champaign-Urbana area. From restaurants to breweries to food trucks to specialty foods and festivals, we’ve got your taste buds covered. Get ready to chow down on the best eats in Champaign County.
But first, check out this fun news: Champaign’s been nominated as one of Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Towns! Head over to midwestliving.com/vote to show your love for Champaign. You can vote every day until May 31 to help Champaign be featured in Midwest Living’s September/October issue as the winner. Now, let’s eat.
Egg Came First
Restaurant, Catering and Food Truck
Perfect for those late-night group study sessions or weekend happenings, this U of I graduate-launched food truck will deliver made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, tots and locally-roasted coffee to your get-together. Lose yourself in a breakfast sandwich—piled high with sautéed spinach, sun dried tomatoes, hash browns, a fried egg, and sharp cheddar with garlic basil or spicy chipotle pesto—any time of day thanks to their catering service, and, this spring, drop into their brand-new storefront on campus.
Catering and Food Truck
If you’re looking for a sweet treat in lieu of a savory meal to kick-start your Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, consider devouring a decadent made-from-scratch doughnut. All Pandamonium’s artisan doughnuts are cut out, rolled, fried and decorated by hand, so get to this food truck early before the limited small-batch delicacies sell out.
Before you head to a show at nearby Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, enjoy a contemporary Italian dinner crafted with locally-sourced ingredients at Timpone’s. This long-time favorite restaurant on the University of Illinois campus serves mouthwatering pizzas, pastas and mains, and it has a selection of over 400 hard-to-find wine bottles, with emphasis on Italian, Californian and French wines. Raise your glass to your favorite graduate.
Authentic Chinese Cuisine
Located directly west of Campustown, Golden Harbor is a must-stop for the best Chinese food and service in Champaign. Its expansive menu of more than 1000 items includes both authentic and Americanized Chinese food. And, for a fun fact, the restaurant’s been featured as having one of the funniest Facebook pages you’ll ever read. Who doesn’t love a restaurant with a sense of humor?
A little less than half a mile directly north of Golden Harbor is Blind Pig Brewery, Champaign’s first all-grain brewery since prohibition. Its Columbia Street Coffee Stout was recently named by porchdrinking.com as best coffee stout at the Chicago Beer Festival. If that’s not enough to persuade your palate, check out the brewery’s other featured beers including Blind Pig Makin’ Wookie—a finely balanced black IPA—and Blind Pig Samburro Chili Ale, defined by the Mexican Morita chili peppers that give it a deep, smoky, spicy and surprisingly refreshing flavor.
Right next door to Blind Pig sits our equally awesome foodie pick, V. Picasso, a rustic wine bar where you’ll be served fresh, farm-to-table cuisine with ingredients locally sourced from Willow Creek Farm. The restaurant’s minimal, modest menu features traditional items accented with eccentric twists, like its cedar plank roasted Irish organic salmon, served with Neuskes’ bacon jam, Willow Creek Farm greenhouse tomato risotto, arugula and fried lemons. The eatery also spotlights a seasonal menu that’s just as tasty.
Just one block north of V. Picasso, treat you taste buds to modern American cuisine with Korean flair from accomplished chef Jae Lee. Dine amid the restaurant’s trendy, exposed-brick setting (meticulously designed by a U of I alum) while you indulge in a signature cocktail. Select from dinner menu items like apple pear beef tartare, royal sticky rice gnocchi (gungjung tteobokki) and Buddhism bi bim bap.
Frequently named best burger in Champaign-Urbana, Farren’s is a low-key joint just around the corner from Miga, and it’s tucked away in an alley where you’ll need to follow the “Burgers & Beer” arrow to find it. Choose from an extensive selection of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, tacos, signature burgers and micro brewed beers. If you like heat, give the fire burger a try. It features sautéed jalapeños, red peppers, red onions and habanero/jalapeño cheese.
Mark your calendar for this week-long multi-faceted culture fest in September, where you’ll celebrate in downtown Champaign. Pig out on some of the best local eats while you listen to music, theatre, culture talks and more. Last year, featured eats included a variety of Farren’s sliders and Black Dog Ale House’s whole hog sandwich and Piemonte sausage.
An easy 10-minute drive east from our Champaign picks, Strawberry Fields is your one-stop-shop for natural, organic and local foods. While you stock up on groceries, grab a loaf of made-from-scratch bread from the business’s bakery, or enjoy a latte and sandwich at the cafe. World Harvest Foods recently merged with Strawberry Fields, bringing with it its international and gourmet foods (which represent 29 countries) and largest selection of cheeses in the area. The two stores sit side-by-side.
Natural Foods Store
Southeast of Strawberry Fields, Common Ground offers a variety of organic and natural foods and ingredients. Drop in to shop for groceries and eat a delicious deli sandwich, or ask about becoming an owner. You’ll help strengthen local farmers and the local economy, plus you’ll receive discounts on groceries as well as education classes offered there. Past classes have included topics like “Basic Bread Dough Variations,” “Solar Power House” and “Homemade Cleaning Solutions: Scrub/Spray/Polish.”
at the Square
Featuring over 70 vendors weekly, Urbana’s Market at the Square is one of the largest farmers’ markets in the state. Saturdays in May through November from 7 a.m. – noon, celebrate everything local and browse the freshest produce, meat, wine, honey and more. You can also delight in an artisan doughnut from Pandamonium’s food truck while you’re there.
Eatery and Juicery
Dancing Dog serves 100% vegan cuisine and offers hearty goodness that even meat lovers will appreciate. Stop by on Saturday evenings after 5:00 to try Paula’s deep dish pizza, starring a made-from-scratch buttery crust, sauce and dairy-free mozzarella cheese. Or enjoy a refreshing juice, smoothie, spirit or delectable dessert.
Black Dog Smoke
and Ale House
If you’re looking for some of the finest barbecue in Urbana, this is your spot. Rated #2 on Maxim’s best barbecue in the country, you’ll find a location in both Urbana and Champaign. Daily specials include selections like smoked pork belly, bacon-wrapped meatloaf or fried catfish sandwich. Wash it down with a local ale like the Triptych Blueberry Blonde.
Having recently opened last summer in southeast Urbana, Riggs Beer Company grows its own grain at its nearby farm. Hop on the Urbana bike path that runs through Stone Creek to be led right to Riggs’ parking lot. From there, head to the taproom or beer garden to cool off with a refreshing brew. Interested in learning how beer is made? Make a reservation for a tour of the brewery offered on Saturdays and Sundays.
There’s a drink for everyone at Triptych Brewing, where the brewers’ desire to explore and create has come to life in more than 100 varieties of beer. Head to the taproom in Savoy to sip drafts like Dank Meme, an east coast pale ale, or a Prairie Peach Picnic, a peach Belgian ale. The brewery’s beers are served in restaurants and pubs spanning the state of Illinois.
Take a trip to southwest Champaign to enjoy apple slushies, apple donuts and delicious food at Curtis Orchard’s Flying Monkey Cafe. Go apple-picking and stay for live entertainment in early August through October, or pick the perfect pumpkin in September through November. Be sure to ask for a taste of the orchard’s honey, which recently won “Best Tasting Honey in the World” by the Center for Honey Bee Research.
Mark your calendar for June 3, 2017 and take a 30-minute road trip east of Champaign to Homer where you’ll have the opportunity to taste more than 250 flavors of glass-bottled soda. While you’re there, check out the antique car cruise-in, listen to bluegrass music and enjoy the Brick Street barbeque cookoff.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know what your other must-stop foodie spots are in Champaign County, and click here to explore our eclectic and complete list of cafes, wine bars, pizza places, multicultural bistros sandwich shops and more. And don’t forget to vote for Champaign-Urbana as Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town every day until May 31.