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-Urbana was named Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town! Read up on some of these great places to discover why we won, then come see for yourself!
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.
You’ll catch wafting smells of freshly baked bread coming from this Swiss-inspired locale in campustown. A staple to the community for over 30 years, this cozy spot serves all meals of the day, but it’s the romantic dinner sharing their Classic Cheese Fondue while sitting in the table by the fireplace that makes The Bread Company a must-stop.
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.
the best coffee shop in Champaign-Urbana for too many years to count, Café Kopi is about as laidback as it gets. Situated in downtown Champaign, this popular coffee shop sports outdoor seating all year round, and you’ll even see people out there in January! Their sinful Café Miel, a single shot latte with honey and vanilla, is a favorite. It’s not just the coffee that keeps people coming in. They’re extensive tea selection, along with salads and sandwiches like the Matty Pooh Pita, cumin-dill hummus with lots of veggies, keep people coming at all hours of the day.
Fields and World Harvest Foods
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the heart of downtown Rantoul, you’ll find the most unexpected faire—southern inspired American cuisine. Owners Cameshia and Curtis, bring soul to their dishes like the scrumptious Chicken-N-Waffles or their Alligator Po’Boy. Their weekend brunch is something to salivate over, particularly their shrimp & grits with mixed with gouda cheese and served atop their traditional gumbo.
Just south of Champaign County, you’ll find some food that will stick to your bones. Here, traditional Amish cooking brings you homemade noodles, gravy, their famous Broasted Chicken and of course, homemade pies, are all there to provide comfort for your family.
For over forty years, The Brown Bag Deli has been slicing up sandwiches just off the quaint Courthouse Square in the heart of town. The homemade Egg Salad is a classic along with the Dagwood sub (made up of Chicago roast beef, Bavarian baked ham, turkey, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island Dressing), but it’s the Pies by Inge from the bakery behind the restaurant, that will satiate any sweet tooth.
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.