Within an hour of Champaign-Urbana
The airport in Mattoon, has a wonderful elephant ear breaded pork tenderloin and their deep fried mushrooms are great, and you can also try the original Burger King -- I have to agree about the placed in Arthur, they are okay but nothing wonderful. The Beef House is wonderful.
I just thought of another that has wonderful soup and sandwiches. Its called Charlotte's and its located in Danville, Il. They actually have 2 locations now. One on Gilbert Street and the newest is located at the Village Mall. I've never eaten at the one at the mall but can vouch for the Gilbert St. location. Their Broccoli Cheese Soup is awesome! It has a charming little garden feel to it. Its located in an old Victorian Home. If you like going to antique shops the store has a shop on the 2nd level and there is several other business next door.
how about the bayern stube?
it's a great old german restaurant in gibson city (about 45 mins north of C-U)
or, going the other direction, you could check out what Illinois' Amish community has to offer.
Have I got the place for you! Paris, IL, about an hour from Champaign, very small town, very nice unique restaurant. We have eaten there many times - live in Champaign. It can be difficult to get to - they do have a map on their site - be sure to take their number on your cell phone in case you can't find it. Let me know what you think if you go! We think it's a really neat place. Only open Thursday/Friday/Saturday I think. -- Champaign, IL, Chowhound
Here's a couple of other recommendations I thought of:
1) Possum Trot in Oakwood, Il. No web site unfortunately. The name is hilarious but it is really a good place. It's a steak place where the grill is inside where you can see it - the chefs grill for you, not one of those grill-your-own kind of places. Piano player on weekends. It's about a half an hour to 45 minutes from Champaign. Has been a local institution for years - recently was sold to a couple who I think have improved it.
2918 Batestown Rd
Oakwood, IL 61858-6152
Phone: (217) 442-6066
2) Sadorus Pub in Sadorus, IL, does have a bar on one side but the other side is a restaurant. Good homemade food - unfortunately it does tend to be smokey because of the bar, which we do not like, but the food is down-home type. Steaks, burgers, fried chicken, homemade desserts, etc. Sometimes they have things like blue gill (which my Dad used to catch and fry for us). We joked with the waitress about who their blue gill "source" was.
109 E Market St
Sadorus, IL 61872
Phone: (217) 598-2919
Hope you try and like one of these places! --
I will add The Beef House in Covington, IN. Actually the owners of this resturant and the owners of The Possum Trot are related.
The Beef House is know for their steaks and famous rolls.
A good Mexican place in Danville, IL is Bon Appettito (?Spelling). They have 2 locations.
If your looking for good homecooked breakfast thats very reasonibly priced I recommend The Covered Bridge Resturant in Eugene, IN........we also enjoy other homecooked meals there.
My guess that the restaurant he is talking about in Paris, IL is Tuscany Steak and Pasta House. It is on Rte #1 in the North end of town next to Twin Lakes. It has an extensive dinner and dessert menu with an Italian influence and is reasonably priced with generous portions. The lunch specials are totally awesome. I would recommend a stop for anyone visiting or just passing through.