36 Hours of Local Food in Champaign-Urbana
Fancy yourself a foodie? Then check out the ultimate, mouthwatering guide for 36 tasty hours of fresh, local flavors in the Champaign-Urbana area of eastern Illinois. Discover the restaurants, breweries and food trucks that helped us win Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town. We’ve got your taste buds covered.
Start the day off right
Cracked: The Egg Came First is perfect for those lazy weekend mornings or when hunger strikes after a late-night group study session. This University of Illinois graduate-launched food truck serves up made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, tots and locally roasted coffee to help you start—or end—your day. 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 both their food truck and brick and mortar on campus.
Lunch at a landmark
The historic Courier Café, housed in the building where the Courier newspaper was published from 1877 to 1979, has been a culinary landmark in Urbana since 1980. While they serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s an ideal lunch spot. Ingredients from their on-site, urban gardens fill their fresh salad bar, while their sandwiches—such as the Dagwood with ham, roast beef, two cheeses, pickle slices, tomato, lettuce, secret sauce and cucumber—will fill you up midday.
Matt Riggs, a German-government-certified Brew Master, and his brother, Darin, a graduate of UC Davis’ Brewmaster program who previously worked for Anheuser-Busch InBev, opened Riggs Beer Company in 2016. The brothers grew up about 20 miles southeast of Urbana where they harvested corn and soybeans on their family farm, which dates back to 1874. You’ll be happy to know they’re still using their own grain in this authentic, local operation. In their two years of production, they’ve used more than 21 tons of Riggs-grown corn, wheat and barley and are currently working with the University of Illinois to select special varieties of grain ideal for brewing. They’re also 100% solar-powered, so you can feel good about drinking their popular American Lager in their tap room or beer garden.
Led by chefs James Kim and Blake Biggs, MIGA presents visually stunning dishes that taste as exquisite as they look. Chef Kim curates a sushi menu that OpenTable recognized as Diner’s Choice for Top 10 Sushi in Illinois, while Chef Biggs creates seasonal, Asian-influenced dishes such as black cod with ramps, turnips, asparagus and mustard miso. The elegant space and knowledgeable staff create an unparalleled dining experience.
Just a block from MIGA, you’ll find the iconic 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. Find a spot under the lights in their often-photographed beer garden or get cozy inside this British-style pub.
Begin with brunch
Don’t miss out on the trendiest meal of the day at Big Grove Tavern. Imbibe on mimosas and Bloody Marys as you start your morning with omelets, avacado toast or chilaquiles. Or give their maple bacon doughnut a try, with a mix of sweet and salty to start your day.
Indulge your sweet tooth
Situated in a quaint residential area in Champaign, Hopscotch Bakery + Market is a haven for dessert lovers. Owner Kaya Tate’s bakery, combined with a local art and goods market, provides a comfy setting for sipping on unique coffee and tea drinks while deciding which of the many beautiful cakes and confections you want to try. They are almost too pretty to eat, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying these baked-from-scratch desserts.
Located off the new Kickapoo Rail Trail in Saint Joseph, The Wheelhouse's Chef Ryan Rogiers keeps you guessing on what will be on the menu. His passion for locally sourced ingredients means the menu is adapted every few days depending on what is accessible. Hit up this casual, New American spot after a bike ride to enjoy small plates such as lamb from Willow Creek Farm served with artichoke, olives, capers and greens or roasted beets with local greens and cheese.
We hope your mouth is watering thinking about these 36 hours of tasty treats and thirst-quenching drinks. We have countless more hours to fill with international flavors, dinners on the farm, BBQ and other hidden gems to explore.