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Feb 19, 2012 10:20 PM

Champaign-Urbana dining in the 1970s

An article about this appeared in the local paper today with a link to this list of places:

Most were gone by the time I got there in 1990. Anyone have any memories? Ah, how I miss the Deluxe!

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  1. I really miss Garcia's pizza. They were my second favorite pizza place of all time. Today I am told that they are nothing like they used to be. It started when they started using canned ingredients, then canned sauce, and now they even purchase the pizza dough.

    3 Replies
    1. re: exvaxman

      Agreed. I think the 80s/early 90s were their peak years, they had maybe 6 locations in CU and a couple more in the region. Papa Del's is still very good!

      1. re: ddfry3

        I discovered Garcia's in the early 80's when they expanded to Purdue.
        There was also a pel-freeze fast food rabbit place that I enjoyed as well that had branches in both places. I'm sorry that they got out of the rabbit meat business and went into the medical drugs business.

        1. re: exvaxman

          I remember that rabbit joint in W.Lafayette. Always thought it tasted like really good chicken...

    2. Interesting. I got here in 1990, too. I know I ate at a lot of these places, but some that I'm remembering probably come from hearing my partner (a townie) talk about them.

      I worked at the White Horse. I still like to recreate the triple decker grilled cheese sandwich (my version had cheddar, swiss, and cream cheese, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, and it was to die for). For some reason I think it is re-opening but that thinking could be from a 2009 or so reopening that failed.

      I have fond memories of heading to the Home Stretch for late food with folks from the Inn. Mmm...Haystacks.

      For a while I went to hear jazz at Katsinas, but the food never impressed.

      Taffie's will never, ever close. I believe it is protected by numerous state and local laws. I've never eaten there. I'm not sure I'm old enough.

      Jazz musicians still miss Treno's. The current restaurant on that site (or one of them, Treno's space was split up I believe) is pretty good. I never made it to Treno's. I don't think I ever made it to the nearby T-bird either. And of course Timpone's is still open and I assume doing well. Not so much the other Timpone restaurant, Jolly Roger, which closed in scandal a few years ago.

      I had a date once at Dom's.. An odd place for a 20 something to take a 20 something for a date. I think perhaps that one has been re-opened by the kids? But I'm not sure.

      I had one brunch at Top of the Inn. I can't remember if it was any good; I only remember drinking a lot of mimosas.

      Monical's pizza. Still here. It's not particularly good pizza, and yet...I find myself craving it on occasion. My SIL, who moved to Florida in 1987 or 88, still craves Monical's pizza and their catalina dressing.

      I haven't been to Original Pancake for years but this has me wanting to return. Now.

      Village Inn was my partner's childhood pizza place, and we've gone there a few times. It's a great family place, with that big back room.

      Carmon's closed several years ago, reopened as Carmon's Creperie, closed, and re-opened last year as the very good Carmon's Bistro.

      House of Chin...<shudder>...

      There are several others I recall, a couple others still around.

      5 Replies
      1. re: debbiel

        How long ago did you work at White Horse? I liked that pit seating area, and good sandwiches. It closed for a while, reopened, and as far as I know is closed again. Several incarnations ago the Gully's space used to have very good sandwiches and a pleasant vibe overlooking the creek.

        Ah yes, the Homestretch, and that no-tell Prospect Motel next to it. Bloomington Rd. was a bit rough back then.

        I too was never impressed with Katsinas. Treno's had great Irish nachos, and Nature's Table had great bread and sandwiches and the most counterculture vibe you could ever hope to find in Illinois outside of Chicago.

        Always liked Dom's...a neighborhood hole in the wall feeling, but always got good service. Liked Chicken a la Dom, and they had a great creamy dressing I was a big fan of. Not a place to take a date needing to be impressed...which I remember doing at Top of the Inn in 1991, as a UIUC freshman. Blew the budget on a swanky dinner with dessert and Steak Diane prepared tableside. I think for the two of us we dropped $75 or so, a lot for those days in CU. It was very good, and I remember going to a number of Top of the Inn banquets for UIUC groups. Liked the mafia-esque old location of Kennedy's at Sunnycrest, and of course the Stone Creek one recently folded (never was impressed with that). Not that crazy about Village Inn pizza, but they used to have an excellent steak sandwich, used to get that often when I worked at Centennial HS 1996-2000.

        Ah yes...Chin's Wok n Roll cafe., Coslow's, Mi Pueblo (excellent desserts especially, was in Johnstown Center), Greater CU Beverage Co., Deluxe (ah, those fish sandwiches, though Derald's are just as I good), and my fave cheapo lunch buffet, Land of Mexico, where a Green St. apt. high-rise is now.

        On the other hand, the restaurants of recent years are mostly better I think....and Black Dog...can't beat that. I think the place is a license to print $$$!

        1. re: ddfry3

          I worked at the White Horse from 90 to 92. Catered to the Monday night 2 for 1 burger with either waters or manhattans Monday night crowd and then saw the place try to morph back into the campus bar of its hey day.

          Bloomington Road. Yeah, rough. Was the Edsel on Bloomington Road? I almost picked up a part time gig there, but the weekend before I was going to start, my friend had a gun pulled on her while she was closing.

          $75 in C-U in 91? Wow!!!

          Coslows--I used to study there. Greater CU Beverage Co--did that turn into Bombay Bicycle Club? I think my roommate's boyfriend work3d there. Kennedy's at Sunnycrest was SO much better than Kennedy's at Stone Creek.

          Nature's Table. Oh dear Table. There have been Table reunions the last several years. Did you know that Terry Masar (owner) died in October? Very sad. We're still mourning him. I still expect to see him out and about. He was a friend, a dear, dear man. Lots of Table recipes floating around since he died. The last few years, there were several occasions when Terry left loaves of stollen on my porch. He made good stollen. Great stollen. Such a lovely human being.

          Black Dog. Seriously amazing. I'm so happy I'm not a vegetarian any more.

          I remember falling in love with the Great Impasta mediterranean loaf when I first moved here. It was so incredibly cheap. I always got 2 or 3 meals out of it.

          1. re: debbiel

            Don't know of the Edsel (other than an ill-fated Ford!) Greater CU Bev is where Nitaya is, and boy if Great Impasta wasn't better when it was in that tiny space next to Art Theater! Bombay was out along Kenyon Rd. in Urbana and that site is vacant to this day. Mountain Jack's...another place vacant forever...and boy if that Neil St. entry off 74 into Champaign isn't ugly, with the failed hotel on one side and failed commercial enterprises on the other.
            Did you ever get to Jean Louis in Urbana, or Maggio's in downtown Champaign? Both gone by the mid 90s.

            Yes, I knew Terry died. A real loss.

            1. re: ddfry3

              Okay. I remember that Bombay now. And yes, that is a sad, sad 74 exit. Not that I want it to be another North Prospect, but geez. So there wasn't something else in that Randolph spot between Greater CU Bev and Nitaya? So I guess it was Greater CU I ate at.

              I never went to Jean Louis. Never ate at Maggio's but I did go upstairs to hear Don Heitler play a couple of times. I think that was Maggio's. Where Mike and Molly's is now?

              Damn, I've been in this town for ages.

            2. re: debbiel

              Hi Debbie
              I went to Natures Table in the eighties on Sunday nights with my friends and had that veggie pasta all you can eat special. Do you have the recipe or some idea of the ingredients in that pasta or in their chili?
              I've lived in Chicago for 20 years and I still miss the following Champaign-Urbana spots: The Great Impasta's stuffed mushrooms and their pasta salad both the Meditteranean and the Nicoise pasta salads.....the pizza bread, the spaghetti and the Italian tossed salad at the Italian Patio.... The Dagwood at Bubby and Zadies...Jumers Castle Lodge....the pizza slices at Strawberry Fields....shish kabobs both at Ground Round and at Round Barn...Delights Ice Cream Kahlua and Chocolate....Yen Chings entrees and their plum wine....Kamikura.... the subs and lunch sized pizzas at Paglias, the veggie and cheese melt at both Trenos and at Coslows... Double Dipski..,.Spring Jade in the Johnstown Center in the early 90s where I ate daily for a few months before my move to Chicago in 1993 ---and although it's not food related, I wish Blums and The Closet ( clothing stores ) hadn't closed. I never had much money in college due to buying Jessica Gunne Sax dresses at The Closet!

        2. Do you remember the name of the restaurant at 202 E Green St (I believe) - it was very popular after the bars closed. It was called Sambo's, but either changed its name or changed owners and renamed. This was around 1976 or so. Thanks

          2 Replies
          1. re: dc2149

            Are you talking about Mabel's? I saw the Ramones play there as well as every show there by the Last Gentlemen (remember them?).

            1. re: dc2149

              My father opened and managed the Sambo's on Green St. There were a few drive by shootings before it open up. The graveyard shift was always packed, and I remember cleaning alot of green vomit in St. Patty's Day when I was 12 and 13. It opened in 1972 and we moved to Mt. Prospect to open the biggest Sambos at that time in 1975.

            2. Man brings back some great memories of an era when pizza and beer where guilt-free! I was fortunate to be at C-U 1975 - 1980 and it was just amazing, and I went to many of the places in the booklet. My wife and i returned periodically and one of our kids went there in the 2000's so we have watched many of the places fade away. Deluxe billiards on Green served amazing fish sandwiches with onion and pickle and had a breezy funky hangout atmosphere. But by the 1980's it included scurrying cockroaches and the place was soon gone. The White Horse Inn was a favorite my last couple years when I had a car and was sick of the wild underclassman bars. It stayed amazingly unchanged with what I recall as the same dingy red carpet for decades. Sad to see it closed. Rumors of the Rolling Stones playing there after concerts circulated. Illini Inn is still in business I think, great relaxing pub away from the student bar atmosphere. Wonder if my Mug Club membership (complete with a mug hanging on the wall) is still good? Treno's in Urbana next to T-Bird was a great place to relax, T-Bird being a little rowdier. These were "freshman bars" then, I think the drinking age in Urbana was 18 in 1975 but 21 in Champaign and everywhere else. Round Robin was wild and rowdy and fun, and also had 10 cent beers and hot dogs during happy hour, which was a great inspiration to get all homework done by 3pm! Murphys was a quaint grad student bar back then, seems bigger and almost family oriented now. Zorbas - which burned and re-opened, was the first time I ever heard of a gyro much less had any idea what the heck it was made of but man where they good, don't seem quite the same now. Uncle John's pancakes was a Sunday tradition if you had a car - my wife and I still remember the little kissing boy and girl magnetic display, and we were sad to see it is no longer there. And Garcia's Pizza with the Flying Tomato on Wright was as iconic of college in 1975 as you can be. Nothing beat a Gutbuster after a night at the bars! We would actually make a stop in C-U on road trips in the 90's so our kids could have a slice of Garcias but it was clear they were declining. The Wright location was replaced by a chocolate bar and now a bubble tea shop (which we like) and the Green street location eventually closed too. But it is nice to see that students now have more options than pizza and beer.

              1. I remember going to Carmon's on Neil Street in 1960s. Would go on my break from Sears across the street. I'd order a brownie ala mode and grapefruit juice ... during the grapefruit fad. I can't be sure, but I think in those days the waitresses wore uniforms and hats. Do you recall? Loved that place!