Will be traveling to Bloomington, In, Champaign, Il, & Iowa City.
Bacaro closed the grocery they never really found a niche for (next door) and has cut its hours to Wed-Sun. I think they bled red ink on account of their operation next door, give them a chance to refocus. I would look for them to expand to the next door site at some point. Radio Maria is about to open an expansion (tapas) and has spent major bucks. There is a Neuvo Latino place opening on Columbia in Jan. or Feb. by the excellent chef at Milo's in urbana. Milo's will remain. There is also a Mediterranean place opening in an upscale development in SW Champaign off Windsor, not far from a new I-57 interchange that is under construction.
On campus, Flat Top Grill (chain) and Harold's Chicken Schack (a S. side Chicago institution) will be opening soon. There is a Bar Louie (upscale Chicago-based bar/restaurant chain) in the old Panera on John St.
Parm lover: Thanks for the extensive post. I have to say I have eaten at Radio Maria a bunch of times and it has never been better than *okay*, and much of the time downright bad. The dishes just seem badly planned and then badly executed. They need to hire kitchen staff on par with their decorators.
moving on to good stuff though. To your list I would add the following:
- Cafe Luna. My current favorite. From what I hear it is owned by the offspring of Bread Company. They do soup/sandwich/salad for lunch, but a step above the usual (eg duck breast with fig jam sandwich) and then for dinner they have a big assortment of great tapas. My faves are the duck confit ravioli, the fried artichokes & beets, and the tuna tartar with wasabi sauce and tomato sorbet. Good wine list too.
- Sushi County: stupid name but the lunch bentos are a great deal.
- There seems to be a new spiffy Korean place on Neal just south of Kirby -- in the same shopping center as Green Onion, the excellent Korean grocery. Haven't had a chance to eat there but walked in to look at the menu and was very impressed by what I saw on the tables.
- I'll have to try Great Impasta again. Went there once and was just not that impressed.
- Bacaro is probably one of the most interesting places in town but is it just me or are they slipping a little lately? Was there last week and service was borderline rude, pasta dishes were blah. (Granted I hold them to a much higher standard than most...they used to be perfect and lately not so..?)
- Favorite bar: The Blind Pig. They are serious about their beer. I am a beer snob so it works out well ;-)
- I feel I have to talk up "East West Fast Food" on Green street. He started out offering Indian style street snacks (aka Chaat) but I don't think people knew what to make of it. Now he also offers a vegetarian buffet which I am not so crazy about, but his chaats and drinks are nice, and great when you want a little something after classes. The samosa chaat is probably my favorite, I just wish more people would encourage him. Super nice guy.
The OP asked about bar food and most of the above posts on Champaign didn't address that. You can't beat the fish sandwiches at Legends (only available on Friday and Saturday).
I also like eating at Crane Alley, which has both a bar area and a table area. You can eat in both.
Jupiter's has pretty good pizza and a good bar scene.
Guido's, as mentioned above, has a good bar and decent food.
The White Horse is a more "dive bar" atmosphere and has very good burgers. Joe's at 5th and Green is a large bar with pretty good bar food.
Finally, Boltini's in downtown Champaign is a slightly more upscale bar, has excellent food and good cocktails (upscale means they focus on cocktails as much as beer, no undergrads, mostly late 20s to 30s crowd, people get a little more dressed up here).
It should be noted that all of the places mentioned above, with the exception of Legends and White Horse, will not have many undergraduates. (Legends, Joe's, and White Horse will have a mix of everyone).
Here is a post I put together recently on Champaign restaurants. There is a lot of overlap with the list above, though we probably have different "favorites":
Below is a list I keep on computer for e-mailing re: my favorite places in Champaign-Urbana and comments on ones I don’t like as much. These are in no particular order. (Have lived in Champaign for 20 years.)
Timpone’s, Urbana (710 S. Goodwin Avenue, 344-7619) This is my favorite, favorite, upscale restaurant in C-U – it’s on the UI campus next to Krannert. Pastas and other entrees made from scratch and very creative. You can actually go here and just get a pizza too but the other entrees are more expensive. Resos a must. The desserts are made from scratch and just to die for. (And you pay for it, I think $5 or $6 per dessert, but worth it in my book.) I go here for practically every special occasion and we like to go here for New Year’s eve every year. The owner is big into wine and has wine tasting dinners too. www.timpones-urbana.com
Sunsinger, Champaign (http://www.sunsingerwines.com) Wine bar café. I just love this place and I don’t even drink. Terrific creative menu for lunch or dinner (menu is the same for both) and wines by the glass. Tables inside and outside. Terrific hors d’oeurves, great cheeses, wine shop is part of restaurant. I love to go here in the summer for lunch and sit outside.
Hickory River Smokehouse, Urbana (1706 N. Cunningham, 337-165) – One of our eat-here-every-two-weeks (or more) places. This is a good bbque place. We actually like L’il Porgy’s sauce better (several locations around town) but the meats here are such good quality. It’s a locally owned place and the restaurant is just kept immaculate. I can’t ever seem to get anything here except brisket – it’s so tender. My hubby gets ribs too sometimes. They have this heavenly cornbread – it seems homemade, sweet and has corn kernels in it. Beers on tap, cobblers for dessert. Good stuff! http://www.hickoryriver.com (Speaking of L’il Porgy’s too – these are such dive places – one in Champaign, one in Urbana. Love the sauce but not real happy with their meat quality. They have a great bbque sauce as I’ve mentioned above, mild to hot – we like their roasted chicken the most. Very dive-ish -- they’re not into pretty-ing up their restaurants! I always take it home to eat....... Meats are cooked on a grill that you can see when you order – a massive brick grill. I am tentative to order their sandwiches because they don’t watch what they slice – I always seem to get way too much fat and once they sliced bone on multiple slices onto a pork sandwich.)
Courier Café, Urbana (111 North Race, 328-1811) I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have eaten at Courier over the years – it has to be 100’s and 100’s of times (we’ve lived here almost 20 years). It’s good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – definitely a local institution. People will just cry if this place ever closes. The hand-dipped milkshakes are the best in town, I think, served in the metal cups they mix them in so you get every last drop. It wins for best salad bar often in the Best Of Champaign News-Gazette issue. Good burgers, wonderful homemade soups, and good entrees at night. Great coffees too if you’re a coffee drinker. The atmosphere of Courier is so neat – all wood floors, booths, old tin ceiling. Small place, no resos. This restaurant is owned by the same person who owns Silvercreek. http://www.couriersilvercreek.com
Silvercreek, Urbana (402 North Race, 328-3402) same web site as Courier. Another of our locally-owned non-chain favorites. It took several years for the owner to restore this old brick building (I think a lumber business?) and IMHO the inside is one of the prettiest in Champaign. Varied American menu – recently they switched to printing menus frequently, every day I think. The homemade soups are very good and they bake their own bread on-site, a little basket of it is served with dinners. I used to find the dessert menu disappointing – but recently they hired a new pastry chef so could improve. They have a brunch every Sunday– very nicely presented and creative dishes.
Apple Dumpling, Urbana (2014 N. Highcross Road, 344-0076) This place can’t be more family-style dining. Their specialty is fried chicken, noodles (beef or chicken), mashed potatos, apple dumplings w/ caramel sauce and ice cream – everything’s made from scratch. They have pan rolls like my Grandma used to make – 3” or 4” tall, brown tops, w/ apple butter on the table. The dining room’s lighting is so bright it’s garish but the food is good. During the week, they have specials every night like one would make at home – goulash, etc. Very inexpensive. Hubby and I probably eat here once every two weeks – we have a handful of inexpensive places that we rotate on a two week basis! The one negative about this place – the owners (a couple in their 60’s) smoke and it seems most of their staff do too. The restaurant is one big room (plus the kitchen in a separate but open room) and part is non-smoking and part is smoking, no wall, nothing to separate them so the whole room is essentially smoking. We try to go at lunch when restaurant is less busy but smoking is almost always a problem. No web site.
Fiesta Café, Champaign (216 S. 1st, 352-5902) www.fiestacafe.com Another once-every-two-weeks place for us. There are so many Mexican restaurants in town, I’m sure everyone has a different favorite. This place is locally owned, very dive-ish. We just like the simple food and that you can order a la carte instead of getting those huge platters. I like their enchiladas with mole sauce here. If you’ve ever been in Mexico, this place feels like it’s in Mexico – i.e. seems run down, charming Mexico-type bright paint, good food. I like their salsa here too – seems more homemade than others. Dos Reales is our 2nd favorite place for Mexican (1407 N. Prospect Avenue, 351-6879). Good homemade-type salsa there and love the queso cheese dip. They are popular and just added another restaurant in Urbana recently. Our third favorite Mexican is the chain Chevy’s by the mall. I love their roasted-tomato salsa and their fajitas. They make their tortillas from scratch there too – love ‘em.
Milo’s, Urbana ( 156-D Lincoln Square, 344-8946) Another of my favorite local non-chain restaurants. Everything made from scratch here too. One of my favorite dishes is their homemade mushroom ravioli. This winter I had a stew over mashed potatos, both homemade. They have menus for each season. It’s a small restaurant – resos required if you want to get in. This place has been open quite awhile so an established restaurant. A review in the paper described the cuisine as eclectic American. Neat story behind the owner/chef: http://www.illinimedia.com/di/features/1646 No web site for the restaurant yet unfortunately.
Bacaro, Champaign (113 North Walnut, downtown, 398-6982) If you’re up for an expensive dining “experience”, I really like this place. (www.barcaro.thadmorrow.com Although he is not keep this web site up-to-date, not sure why?!) Resos a must. Very gourmet. I wish I could afford Bacaro more often. See menu at web site – you will see what I mean by very gourmet. A small restaurant that probably only has 20 tables decorated in a very modern style. Thad was recently featured in a national magazine, the name of which is escaping me just now. Also has a neat little gourmet grocery called Persimmon next door.
A review about Bacaro from lthforum.com recently:
I love this restaurant. On Sunday nights the wines are half price and so I've tried plenty! The staff make excellent wine pairings suggestions and they have the best deserts in town (without doubt). On my last Sunday visit - thanks to the cheap wine - I splashed out and tried the truffle risotto. The experience was exquisite. Before I was served, my meal I was brought out the truffles to smell, touch and admire before they were shaved onto my meal by the chef. They are amazingly aromatic and a gustatory treat. It was a wonderful evening, as always at bacaro. Note also that it is open until 11pm - making it one of the few places in Champaign where you can get a good dinner after 10pm - you can eat at a table (more romantic?) or at the bar (lots of fun with friends!).
Kennedy’s, Urbana (2560 S. Stone Creek Bvd., 384-8111) One of C-U’s more upscale places. The restaurant itself is very Frank Lloyd-ish in appearance. Surrounded by the Stone Creek golf course. Lunch and Sunday lunch are actually quite reasonable compared to dinner prices (and dinner prices are not terrible). They have an expensive buffet on Sundays for the major holidays like Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. www.kennedysatstonecreek.com Grilled steaks, seafood, etc. I love the atmosphere but I wish they would change their menu more often. Service also is often not the greatest.
The Ribeye, Champaign (1701 S. Neil, 351-9115) This is just your basic good-ole-boy grilled steak place – very popular local eatery. You can decide on your entrée in just about a minute because they only have I think 7 entrees and the only steak is, of course, ribeye. I love their salad bar – employees attend to it constantly. We laugh that we do go there because we speculate that the owner has put maybe two nickels back into the place since it opened (like in 1955 maybe?!) but it’s just an institution around here. They have a very simple menu that they do well and efficiently. I get fried shrimp quite often and they are good quality – large shrimp. I also love their twice-baked taters here. The steaks are served on the sizzling hot black cast-iron plates – I don’t like ribeyes but hubby says they are good. It takes reservations on one night of the weekend but not the other (Fri/Sat) can’t remember which night is which. Never go here on a UI game day – crowds out the door and a closet of a waiting room. No web site.
Pickles, Champaign, IL (505 South Neil, 356-1930) It almost looks like a chain but it is local-owned and run very nicely, kind of a local jewel. Good sandwiches and entrees. Good place for a basic inexpensive dinner – soda, burger, fries, etc. I like their chicken strips – have been getting them for years, excellent quality. Fries are always prepared fresh. Bar in middle but not a rowdy place in the slightest – definitely family-type place. We’ve been going here for years and years. No web site. (Just went completely non-smoking recently.)
Great Impasta: Great Impasta was on my list of favorite, favorite places under a previous owner, then it was off my list for awhile because of smoking, service, and menu problems IMHO under a new owner. We gave it another chance recently – it’s gone non-smoking, the menu has changed, and service seemed better so it’s back on our list again. Pasta is made from scratch and the homemade clam chowder is wonderful. Really neat visual restaurant – one big open room with wood floors, high ceilings, and original art on the walls.
Guido’s, 2 East Main, Champaign, 359-3148. If you want to go someplace that’s “cool” to hang out, you‘ve will see Guido’s driving through downtown Champaign. It’s neat to sit outside their restaurant in the summer. Food is honestly just so-so but there aren’t too many places in town with the kind of outside set-up they have. If you want to go somewhere for beers/drinks/snacks, it’s a fun place.
Also a funky fun place to go is the Cowboy Monkey. Outdoor dining – bands at night. It’s smack downtown and has this wonderful patio area with tables with umbrellas. (www.cowboy-monkey.com) It’s a little menu but so creative. I like the shrimp tacos.
Crane Alley, Urbana, www.cranealley.com I want to like this place but service seems to struggle and menu does not change enough for me. Although, it is a very creative menu. Dining in the alley next to the restaurant in the summer is neat. Last time I was there they also had homemade ice cream that could be ordered individually in different flavors. Billiards also available inside. If you eat inside, restaurant is at back of building, past billiards.
Jim Gould’s, Corner of Main and Neil, downtown Champaign, 531-1177. Upscale eatery. I’ve been here twice – I wish I liked it better. It is a gorgeous restaurant – terrific location. Inside and outside seating. Both times I went, the bread basket was disappointing, once it was as if it was stale. Awfully disappointing for the price paid. Another time, I ordered the pan roasted beef tips and the beef was chewy. Again, disappointing for the price. Hope they improve – I’m sure I’ll try it again.
Original Pancake House, 1909 West Springfield Avenue, Champaign, 352-8866. Just a great place for coffee and a decent breakfast – extremely popular with locals. Good griddle pancakes. Always extremely crowded weekend mornings.
Texas Roadhouse, Champaign (by Schnucks off Mattis Avenue). We are not big into chains (and rarely go to any of the ones on Prospect) but this one is just a good one. Their salads are good, they make homemade rolls w/ cinnamon butter – I would go to TX roadhouse for just the rolls. Their prices are so reasonable – good grilled pork chops. Just a good chain. We also really like their grilled burgers. http://www.texasroadhouse.com (Outback Steakhouse on Prospect is also a decent similar chain. It is very similar to Texas Roadhouse but prices are steeper, still quite good for a chain. http://www.outbacksteakhouse.com)
People tell us that the El Toro Mexican places in C-U are good – 3 locations now. We just have not gotten around to trying them.
There are related family Italian places that are quite popular in Champaign – hubby and I don’t understand why they are popular but you can see that they are. Manzella’s Italian Patio and Dom’s, both in same block in Champaign. We think Manzella’s is a smoke pit (cigarettes) and have not been impressed with the food the two times we tried it. Dom’s is in a building with no windows – that may be a weird thing to get hung up on but we just don’t like it. We gave it another try recently with a group of friends who wanted to go and were shocked at how old and run-down it seems. Can’t understand the attraction.
Minneci’s is also in same area (maybe same family?). Atmosphere, lighting, and music are hokey, and seats are too close together so we don’t go here often but food is pretty good. We like their pizza best – homemade crust, good sauce. A group from work goes for lunch sometimes – I like their tortellini with marinara sauce.
There is a really neat restaurant in downtown Champaign called Radio Maria. (http://www.shout.net/~radiom/dinner1.html) I want so badly to like this place – the restaurant in appearance is so neat. It’s the old Brown’s Paint store – wood floors, big windows. I think the menu influence is Cuban and it is just really, really unique food. You would not want to take a picky eater here because it is really unique stuff. It is always busy. I’ve gone twice and just haven’t picked well off the menu I imagine. We keep saying we should try it again. Definitely need resos here on Fridays/Saturdays. The neat thing here is – you can wait at the coffee shop just down the street for your table. I’ve heard they also have tapas.
If you like the hokey teppan table thing, - Miko and Kamakura are both good. I’ve tried Kamakura many times and like it. Kamakura tends to be expensive – least expensive Teppan entrée is $15 chicken. I like to get shrimp. It’s hokey (re: cooking show) but I like the preparation / grill taste.
Basmati is an Indian place near campus. Being a typical Midwesterner, I just do not know Indian food. I might love it if I’d try it but I need someone to go with me and instruct me!! It seems to be a popular place.
Fun little extras:
Culver’s on Prospect, yummy custard ice cream, good “butter” burgers.
Jarling’s Custard Cup - 309 West Kirby Avenue, Champaign, 352-2273, speaking of ice cream, huge local favorite in C-U. Smooth custard ice cream in four or five flavors.
Curtis Orchard on Duncan Road– apple orchard, etc. Neat store – sells homemade apple donuts in the mornings, maybe just on the weekends. Great homemade apple cider. Fresh apples from the orchard.
Pizza: Two favorite local pizza places are Monical’s and Papa Del’s. I’ve had Monical’s so much since I was a kid I’m pretty much sick of it! The Monical’s in Tolono is the best one – there’s a new Monical’s restaurant on Mattis and one on Kirby, both are okay but the Tolono one is the best. Crunchy thin crust pizza. Papa Del’s is on campus. It’s been around since I was in high school – one of our teachers would pay people to bring him back frozen pizzas so he could bake them. There is a good thing and a bad thing about Papa Del’s. To me, their pizza is unquestionably the best in town. Unfortunately, the guy who owns it will not keep his restaurant up. Hubby and I swore off it for about a year recently because we were so disgusted. It’s like he won’t put out a dime to clean it or keep it painted, etc. He just barely does what he has to. Eventually we could not resist and returned ...... we just hope we live when we eat it! It is truly good pizza. I wish the owner would wake up. I guess dives are just that – dives.
Jupiter’s, downtown Champaign. Is also supposed to have great pizza but the one time we tried to go the excessive cigarette smoke sent us right back out the door. A review from lthforum.com: After the bars, we grabbed a pizza to go at Jupiter. A trendy bar atmosphere belies the the high quality of their pizza. A very good cracker crust and quality toppings. Ours had spinach, basil, sun-dried tomatoes and large chunks of extremely tasty sausage. http://www.jupiterspizza.com
The Cake Artist’s Studio, Champaign, http://www.thecakeartistsstudio.com Great place to stop for individual servings of wonderful pastries! The display case is a visual feast. Also has cookies and other smaller treats in a side case.
Reuben’s Chocolates, Champaign, local exquisite chocolate place. The display case is also a visual feast here. http://www.rubens-chocolatier.com
Pekara Bakery & Bistro, downtown Champaign, 116 N. Neil, Champaign 217-359-4500, Pekara means “bakery” in Serbo-Croatian. Article about Pekara: http://www.thehubweekly.com/community/index.php?id=96 Breads, pastries, baklava, scones, crepes, coffee, soup. Really neat place.
Hedgerow Bistro, Urbana, new restaurant. Review from lthforum.com: (I have not been yet.) Had dinner tonight at a new restaurant in Urbana, Hedgerow Bistro. As the name suggests, it serves bistro-type food. The dishes I had -- an appetizer of seared bay scallops and an entree of salmon -- were simple, but very good. The menu is very short, but the entrees will change weekly. It's pricey, with entrees averaging around $20, but if the meal I had was typical, I'd rank it as the best fine dining restaurant in C-U.
Hedgerow Bistro is located on the SE corner of University and Lincoln Aves., and is tucked in the back room of a flower and gift shop called English Hedgerow, which is the only name on the building. It's only open Tue. through Sat. between 5:30 and 8:30. Since the room is pretty small, it's probably a good idea to make a reservation on weekends, to be on the safe side. The telephone number is 365-0055.
KoFusion – new downtown Champaign restaurant. Inside and outside dining. I have not been yet – another review from lthforum.com: Also has outdoor seating. Inside at KoFusion the decor is worth the trip, modern, great lighting, very cool. The menu is eclectic, lots of sushi, a sake and martini list, steak, fish, vegetarian. We were snacking, and ordered a salad, a meatball appetizer and a volcano roll. The salad was artfully plated, half a kalamata olive on a grape tomato in each corner of a square plate, romaine set on end in the center, a nice sprinkle of feta and a good vinaigrette. Not a particularly generous portion, but not bad. The meatball app was OK. The volcano roll was tasty, baked shrimp on top of a California roll. Price for each dish was around $7. Service was very good. I'd like to return and check out more of the menu. One thing I really liked is the variety of price levels available. You could easily roll up $100 a couple, or get by with sushi and sake for $15 a person.
Sea Boat, Champaign. 1114 N. Market, 351-6209. We finally tried this after years of living in Champaign – the neighborhood can be a little scary but go during the day and it’s fine. Fried fish sandwiches, fried shrimp (I think everything is fried here). They really like to use pepper – peppery homemade mac and cheese. If you like it kinda spicy, good place to go. Take out only.
Art Mart , 127 Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana, IL 344-7979, I have not been here for awhile. From lthforum.com: Not actually restaurant, this shop sells pastries, French baguettes (you can also buy partially baked, frozen baguettes, put them in the oven at 350 F for 8 minutes and you've got a hot, crispy baguette!), imported cheeses, meats, olives, jelly, chocolates...imported everything! There is a new store with imported foods, the Great Harvest Bread Co., on University Ave. in Urbana, too.
Places I have not been but have heard are favorites of others:
Bread Company, 706 Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 383-1007
A classic favorite of Foreign Language Building people, and not only because it's a half a block away. The owner of this restaurant comes from Switzerland and the food is delish. Sandwiches, salads, and soups for lunch, pizzas, pastas, and hot sandwiches for dinner. They also have FONDUE (cheese and chocolate) and a RACLETTE!!!
Here’s a UI list of local restaurants with brief descriptions:
Other good restaurants in the area around Champaign-Urbana:
Possum Trot, Oakwood (2918 Batestown Road, 217/442-6066) In the country by Oakwood, very rural area, only about 1⁄2 hour from Champaign. It’s called a “supper club”. The huge brick grill is inside – great grilled steaks, pork chops, salmon. There’s a piano player on Fri/Sat nights. If you sit in the right area of the restaurant you can watch them grill. It’s wild to watch them use the pulley to pull the grill rack up high with the food still on it and add more charcoal/wood. A younger couple just bought the restaurant last year and we think they’ve improved it. Reservations are a very good idea on weekends. No web site.
Sadorus Pub, Sadorus, IL, (109 E. Market Street, 598-2919) Closer to Monticello. 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 very down-home type. Steaks, burgers, fried chicken, homemade desserts, etc. Sometimes they have special 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 – she wouldn’t tell us. Very dive-ish. No web site.
Not a fan of:
Zelma’s on Windsor
Tang Dynasty in Urbana Mall
Rainbow Garden on Neil
Parm Lover, Thanks so much for this great post. We have been going to Champaign area for well over 10 years since our daughter lives there and this is by far the best list I've ever seen. Would you mind e-mailing it to me so I can print it out and keep it in my car? Am looking forward to trying many rest. that I've not know about .. Thanks so much for all the great info.
If you are traveling between and not just to those cities, and your route takes you near West Lafayette, IN (home of Purdue) DO NOT MISS the XXX Drive-In (named for root beer, not porno). It is exactly the kind of burger joint you are looking for. Open 24 hours. Both the burgers and the root beer ROCK!
Recommendations from someone whos lived here twenty some years:
Courier Café in Urbana. (www.couriersilvercreek.com/) Great milkshakes too.
Extremely popular local place thats been open for years.
Silvercreek - The sister restaurant just down the street is a terrific place for dinner or lunch. (Burgers only served at lunch.) Beautiful restaurant.
Apple Dumpling great local country place. Ive not been for breakfast but they serve it. Love this place for lunch or dinner everythings homemade, rolls, chicken or beef and noodles, fried chicken, mashed potatos, sweet tea, etc. No web site located at 2014 High Cross Rd, Urbana 344-0076.
Hickory River Smokehouse, Urbana (1706 N. Cunningham, 337-165) http://www.hickoryriver.com Great local bbque place.
The Ribeye, Champaign (1701 S. Neil, 351-9115) Is a great local place for steaks, no burgers. No web site.
Guido's 2 E. Main Street, Champaign 217-359-3148, downtown Champaign, is a beautiful bar. We tried their burgers twice during the summer and they were okay but the bar is so neat.
Hi Smokey - ahhh, the old Pearson's. Unfortunately, they recently removed all of the soda fountain equipment, put in video games and a bad popcorn machine and painted everything bright pink. No more tuna sandwiches on white with a chocolate malt! (a childhood favorite) :(
Oh, that's crushing. I have such fond memories of smoking (I'll leave it up to your imagination what) and going there for a chocolate malt in high school.
Do you remember the perfume store downtown? I think it was on Washington Street, right near the ped mall. I can't remember the name and now I think it's a hair cuttery or something totally non-descript. The perfume place was really amazing, totally unique, and part of what made IA City so cool and wonderful.
Mmmm, cheesecake at the Sheepshead on Linn...
Wow, I miss IA City, or at least what it was when I was there.
Hi Smokey - yeah, it's a real bummer. You wouldn't recoginze downtown Iowa City at all! I actually don't remember the perfume store, but my parents still talk about the Sheepshead. (they both grew up here, I went to college here and came back to work at the U)
It's funny - a lot of the cool little stores are gone ("Dirty" John's grocery is still going strong and has a great wine selection), but we do have a better "dining scene" with several really nice options. Lots of local flavor, seasonal ingredients and chefs who love what they do.
And there is always Hamburg! ;)
re: David M
The perfume store was Motts Drug Store. In its place now is a fairly good little noodle shop. Z'Marik's. Close to Motley Cow is Devotay, one of my favorites, and downtown are 126, Atlas, and a swanky sushi place called Takanami, all worth a visit. But for something special, go north about 14 miles on Highway 1 to Solon and stop at Redhead Cafe. Nice people, interesting, fresh food. We all miss The Sheep's Head and Bushnell's Turtle. Some of us are old enough to miss the burgers at Donnelly's Bar.
re: Charlie D
Wow, thanks for that post and reminding me of the name--Motts Drug Store.
I know it's been 20 years or so. They're just really fond memories. I'm sure that, as you say, there are some pretty special places there now. If I'm ever back (HS reunion this summer...hmmmm), the Redhead sounds interesting.
In Bloomington The Uptown Cafe or The Village Deli (which it is not) are good for breakfast. They both are on Kirkwood (5th St.) east of the square, the VD does lunch too with great homemade potato chips) Uptown is open all day and does a great dinner menu too.
Truffle's does great bar food. They are on College Mall Rd. in the strip mall that Kroger is in just at the corner of Covenanter. Behind it is the Limestone Grill also very good. Lennie's on 10th St, eastern end, in another stip will give you a good burger or pizzas etc.
Janko's Little Zagreb is a Bloomington tradition and is a great steak and rib place. It is on the corner of 6th and Morton just west of the square.
If you are feeling like spending a bit more Restaurant Tallent is a real treat, but no burgers www.restauranttallent.com
For student oriented bars and bar foods there is Scotty's on Walnut and several places Kilroys, Nicks, etc. on Kirkwood.
By the way Bloomington is adamant about their smoking ban. There is no smoking in any bar or restaurant or working place so if you are making reservations you won't need to ask for a non-smoking section
Not to undermine Candy's recommendations, but I'd like to add some information:
Restaurant Tallent does not seem to match what you're looking for--she did warn "if you're willing to spend a little more", but Tallent is a more upscale dining experience using local meats and produce and is a far, far cry from bar food. The lower-end of the pricing scale is $16 and ranges up to the high $20's--definitely worth the price, but maybe not on this trip.
For a truly Bloomington (IU) experience, I have to plug Nick's on Kirkwood Avenue...It's a Bloomington landmark and has a great old bar feel and a pretty good menu--their salads actually use real greens and not the white iceberg stuff...their steaks are surprisingly good...and their menu is stocked with the bar staples: burgers, pizza (not my fav: I like the stromboli better), wings...It is an over-21 place, so if you're touring a potential freshman it may not work.
Another good place for a burger is Opie Taylor's up on the square (Kirkwood and Walnut)--sometimes hit or miss, but the burgers are good and they've recently changed the decor to be more Bloomington-esque. If you're looking for a quick sandwich stop and aren't looking for a great atmosphere, I'd suggest the Bloomington Sandwich Company (also on the square)--by far the best reuben I've ever tasted (not open on Sundays).
Breakfast: Uptown serves great food, but it's not a typical hearty, down-to-earth type of place--a tad bit pricey for breakfast ($6-10), but it is worth it if that's what you're looking for. They have AMAZING hot chocolate and wonderful french toast...
I second the Village Deli as that seems to be a favorite in town, especially if you like a huge helping of good pancakes...but, if you're looking for cheap, greasy-spoon diner breakfast complete with 'seasoned' waitresses, you might try Ladyman's Cafe (also on Kirkwood)...not a culinary delight, but quick and fun.
There are so, so many wonderful places to eat in town but I'll refrain and only tout the type of places you're looking for...Enjoy your visit!
...Appreciate response, you helped us narrow in on 'village deli', lol. We're not tying to do this visit 'on the cheap', just looking for relaxed places (doing the 'Big 10' tour)..You said 'Vallent' features "local meat and produce"...hhhmmm...that's intriguing..we're from chicago and bored with the "presentation crap", but that might be worth a 'taste'...thanx
Hi Paul - sounds like a Big Ten University tour. :)
I live in Iowa City and can give you a couple of recommendations - for burgers and breakfast, I'd go to the Hamburg Inn. Classic old diner (my Dad used to stop for a burger every day after his paper route) with great burgers, omelettes, pancakes, malts, and homemade pie. I'm not a big fan of the fries - they're the crinkle cut kind, but the hash browns are good. It's very close to campus - 214 N. Linn Street
Another good spot for breakfast is Lou Henri - great service and lots of tasty choices. Also good for lunch - 630 Iowa Ave.
If you're looking for pizza and beer and like thin crust, definitely try Pagliai's - right down the street from Hamburg Inn. Locally owned, homemade sausage, very good thin crust.
Hope this is a start - feel free to ask for more! :)
Enjoy the Big Ten!
Although it's been a while since I've lived in Iowa City, I second iowagirl's recs (particularly within the framework of your preferences). Another thought (and this is partially a question for iowagirl), is Pearson's. It used to be an honest to goodness drug store with a real soda fountain in back (and truly amazing malts). I know it's now a video store, but somebody told me they still do malts. Is that true iowagirl?
If so, it's worth consider (and is nearly adjacent to Hamburg Inn).