Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois

Junior Burger
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2011/09/15 20:04:39 (permalink)

Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois

I'll be visiting my college son this weekend, and of course we want to have some yummy dining experiences.  He can't wait to ditch the campus dining halls, and I love trying different restaurants.  Can you, my Roadfood friends, give us some ideas?
Before posting this messsage, I searched Roadfood forums for "Champaign-Urbana", "Urbana-Champaign" and "University of Illinois", but there were very few previous recommendations or testimonials.
With 200,000 residents and 40,000 students, there's gotta be some restaurants that are special enough to get some Roadfood attention and affection, right?
Thanks in advance for any suggestions you provide.
post edited by ImtheMom - 2011/09/15 20:06:05

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    Re:Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois 2011/09/19 23:27:07 (permalink)
    Here are a few selections:
    If you like stir-fry, the Flat Top Grill is in Campustown (Sixth street just north of Green St).  It is part of a chain of about 15 or so restaurants that was first in the Chicago area but has branched out some.
    The best pizza in town is Papa Del's; also in Campustown - on Green Street.
    The Bombay Grill is good.  There are two locations: one on Green Street and the other is not far away on First Street.  The one on Green is cheaper but you order at the counter and then find your seat; your food is delivered on styrofoam dinnerware.  The one on First Street is, in my opinion, worth the slightly higher cost.  The one on First Street has a buffet at lunch time.
    I also like Niro's Gyros on west Springfield Avenue.  I like their Italian Beef and Italian sausage sandwiches. 
    Route 11
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois 2011/09/21 22:36:30 (permalink)
    Black Dog BBQ in Urbana. Some very inventive twists on smoked foods! Mexican Cokes, burnt ends and bbq corn on the cob.
    Junior Burger
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    Re:Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois 2011/09/22 18:03:24 (permalink)
    Okay, I completed my weekend visit with my son, and here is a description of our restaurant experiences:
    Courier Café – excellent breakfast.  Eggs over easy cooked perfectly.  The hash brown potatoes were also perfection: crispy brown on the outside, softer on the inside and not greasy at all.  The buttermilk pancakes were tender and delicious. Large portions.  Quintessential Roadfood restaurant: locally owned and operated in an historic building with lots of antiques.  Menu describes the history of the building and the history of several notable antiques.
    Timpone’s – excellent thin crust artisan-style pizza.  We had one with wild mushrooms and sausage, one with spinach, artichoke, peppers and goat cheese.  Caesar side salad was excellent.  The restaurant has three different seating levels with three different ambience: street level just a few tables in the bar area, middle level several tables and booths with a tiled floor and more of a lunch feel, and top level carpeted and more of a classic Italian dinner feel.  I would characterize the prices as somewhat expensive, with most of the pasta dinner entrees around $14-$15 and most of the beef, seafood, and chicken entrees $20-$30
    Crane Alley – excellent sandwiches.  For appetizer we had nachos with a beef steak ragout and cheese, delicious.  My son’s sandwich was steak, mushroom and onion panini, excellent.  I had a beer-batter fried fish sandwich, excellent. The beer batter was made with one of their craft beers.  The front of the establishment is more like a sports bar including taller height tables in the bar area, with televisions and three billiard tables.  The back of the establishment was a really cozy restaurant.  When weather permits, there’s outdoor seating in the “alley”, hence the name of the restaurant.
    Papa Del’s – excellent pizza.  Been around more than 40 years, and if you Google Papa Del’s, you’ll find that many people consider it to be the best pizza in the United States!  It’s deep dish pan pizza that’s usually referred to as Chicago-style pizza.  The menu describes it as “Sicilian Pan Pizza”.  If you’re from Chicago and/or you’re already familiar with the bigger names Giordano’s, Gino’s, Bacino’s, Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due or your local pizzeria’s deep dish, you’ll agree that Papa Del’s is definitely as good as or better than those.  The key differences would be that Papa Del’s crust is more like a delicious bread with just the right balance of soft and crunch, the sauce is smoother and less acidic but not sweet, and the cheese and other ingredients are super generous.  It looks somewhat taller than most of other restaurant versions mentioned above. Now, if you’ve never eaten deep dish pan pizza before, then you will think that you died and went to heaven when you have Papa Del’s!  The exterior of the restaurant is very ordinary, even downscale, and gives you no clue that the pizza served inside is phenomenal. 
    DESTIHL - (new review added 09/25/2011) My son and his father ate at this restaurant and offer the following report: this is the same ownership as the DESTIHL restaurant where we ate for our older son's graduation from Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, only this is their newly opened Champaign-Urbana location, right across the street from Jim Gould. Father and son shared an appetizer of cheese curds and sauce.  My son had a deluxe fancy Kobe hamburger with bleu cheese and other toppings and loved it. They shared chocolate cake for dessert, excellent.  The restaurant specializes in artisan food and craft beers brewed onsite ("DESTIHL" = "The Still", get it? LOL) 
    Flat Top Grill – (new review added 09/29/2011) we ate there in July when we took “baby boy” to register for classes.  Characterize Flat Top Grill as a Chinese restaurant where you can assemble your own ingredients individually.  Ummm, there was nothing wrong with it, but I was simply un-impressed.  You fill a bowl by choosing from a buffet of main ingredients (meat, chicken, fish or veggie), other ingredients (noodles, rice, beans, veggies, etc.) then you choose your sauce (typical Chinese, Thai and other flavored sauces) then the restaurant staff stir-fries it for you.  I guess the main advantage is that you create exactly what you want.
    Jim Gould - (new review added 09/29/2011) we ate there in August on freshman “Move In” day, our son’s last hurrah restaurant before a semester-long regimen of university dining hall food.  The restaurant is beautiful and the food is excellent, and is known as a great steakhouse although we didn’t have steak that night.  Two of us had grilled salmon and it was excellent.  One of us had shrimp scampi and that was excellent, too.  Jim Gould is not a Roadfood establishment, it’s a fancy restaurant with fancy prices, but certainly worth it for those of us who enjoy fancy sometimes.

    I hope it’s okay to mention other food websites and forums, as long as we cite the original source and provide the proper reference.  I found an excellent article about Champaign-Urbana restaurants 
              “Your Favorite Restaurant in Champaign-Urbana, IL and Why”
              (General Midwest Archive – Chowhound) 
    at the Chowhound website     
              chowhound . chow . com / topics / 125563
    In the future, every time I visit Champaign-Urbana I’ll try some other restaurants and then I’ll update this Roadfood post (I've added some updates already). 
    post edited by ImtheMom - 2011/09/29 16:52:29
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    Re:Champaign-Urbana (Urbana-Champaign) University of Illinois 2011/09/23 03:51:02 (permalink)
    Good Report.
    You helped us more than we helped you.
    Glad you had a good time even though your Fighting Illini beat our Sun Devils
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