Can't Miss in Champaign, IL?
I'll be in Champaign, IL for three days for work. I grew up near Champaign, but we always ate at chain restaurants. Last few times I've been in Champaign, I've eaten at Merry Ann's Diner, Rock's, Giovanni's, Li'l Porgy's, Murphy's Pub, Monical's, and La Bamba's.
Anything else in C-U area I'm missing. I don't like Asian, Middle Eastern, or most ethnic foods. Prefer bars/pubs, pizzeria's, or something like that. I will be in town during a football weekend, but I'm hoping to get an early dinner on Friday night, lunch on Friday, and maybe something to grab and go Saturday after the football game.
So, I made it to town and found my first meal. I got here pretty late, but I found a pizza place called Manolo's. Here's the review I posted on my blog.
Traveling has really wore me out….and made me hungry. I’m sitting in my hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign and even though I’ve had two meals, I’m hungry. I get on my laptop and do a search for pizza joints that sell pizza by the slice. That’s what I really love about college towns. You can usually find a pizza place open late. My hotel is pretty close to campus, so I figured there would be one close and of course, there was more than one.
I chose the one that wasn’t quite as close to Memorial Stadium…I think. I went to the area I wasn’t familiar with tonight so I could stop by the other one after I get done with work tomorrow evening which I believe is closer. I’m probably wrong, but oh well. The one I chose is called Manolos Pizza & Empanadas and it sits right next to popular the night spot The Cannopy Club.
There’s not much to Manolos. Just a glass case with already made pizza, a cash register and a bar along the back wall should you want to stay an eat. There’s no seating, but their website says you can dine in at the Canopy Club. I would assume that means you’ve already got tickets to a show and they just serve pizza in there.
I wasn’t expecting much from Manolos. Just a slice of pizza. When I got there around 9:30, there were five or six guys working in the back making pizza. I stepped up to the counter and the guy that was standing there walked away. Another guy that was back by the ovens making pizzas stepped up to take my order. My plan was just to get two slices of cheese, but there was only one left so I got a slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni.
They took the two slices out of the window and popped them back into the oven for me. While they were cooking, the same guy who took the order and cooked the pizzas came back up from to take my money. The two slices cost me a grand total of $4.28. That’s less than $5 for two slices of pizza that came pretty close to equaling a half of a full pie. It wasn’t quite a full half, but pretty darn close.
I only had to wait a couple minutes after the pizzas were popped in the oven. It gave me a second to see who’s tour bus was sitting outside. It was a band called Who’s Bad The Michael Jackson tribute. Why you would do a Michael Jackson tribute, I don’t know, but I digress.
I grabbed my two slices of pizza and found the shaker of red pepper flakes. There was a shaker of parmesean sitting there too, but it was almost out. The SAME guy who so far this visit had done everything, noticed the shaker was almost empty. He asked if I wanted cheese and said he’d go get some, but I didn’t. He came and got it anyway because it needed to be filled. I really wonder what the other five guys were doing there.
I got the two slices back to my hotel room and only planned on eating one slice and saving the other for breakfast. That didn’t happen. I dug into the pepperoni slice first. Exactly what I was hoping for when I went out for pizza. The crust was a little tough which, but I think that was probably because the pizza had been sitting there for a while. The cheese, sauce, and toppings were delicious. It totally hit the spot. The second slice, which was the cheese slice, was just sitting there calling my name. The cheese slice was a little bit smaller than the pepperoni so it made me feel better about indulging at such a late hour. The cheese slice was just as good.
Manolos is just a few blocks from Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois. I love little pizza joints like this. It’s not the best pizza you’re ever going to have and it’s nothing fancy. The pizza is just what you’d expect from a place like this and that’s all I ever ask for.
re: Mid Michigan Dining
Wow, you found Manolo's...good for you. I favor their pizza by the slice too, good pizza, cheap, without any hubbub. There's a place in Campustown called Antonio's (think there are other locations on the East Coast) that has a much bigger variety of ingredients, and it's open obscenely late. Be prepared for bar crowds late at night though. It's on Green between Wright and 6th.
There are actually several CU threads if you search. I have lived in the area (with the exception of 1 year) since 1990.
As far as pizza goes, Jupiter's downtown Champaign (thin crust with excellent, fresh ingredients) is a good choice. There is also a location in SW Champaign at Village at the Crossing, at Duncan and Windsor.
Papa Del's is legendary...most love it. It's somewhat similar to Giordano's in Chicago. I prefer the pan over the stuffed. Caveat...it will be mobbed around gametime. At 206 E. Green in Campustown.
I am a big fan of Hickory River Smokehouse, on Cunningham in Urbana on the way into town from I-74. Great meats, clean, friendly service.
Farren's is a very nice sort of urban eatery/bar in downtown Champaign, behind Nitaya Thai. Entrance is on Randolph St. Another caveat - parking is tricky in the area because of new construction, park wherever you find space in the area. A good spot on weekends (free) is in the Illinois Terminal lot, where you get Amtrak, local busses, cabs, etc.
Here are some links, hope this helps!
Thanks! I did search and most of what I found was "try this Thai restaurant" or "you have to go to this Chinese restaurant" Not really what I'm looking for.
I've actually eaten at Hickory River Smokehouse in Peoria before I moved. Loved it as well.
Thanks for the suggestions. Can't wait to try them out!