by Amy L. Hatch
I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but we’ve exhausted most of the family-restaurant options in Champaign-Urbana.
The past few months were worse than usual, and we ate out far more than we would have under normal circumstances. There is a silver lining to this dinner-cloud, however — we discovered the Philo Tavern.
We were in search of a new place to eat, the regular haunts having worn thin (and, subject to the whims of two picky eaters, limited by menus) when chambanamoms.com’s own Aubrie Williams mentioned the Philo Tavern.
We were intrigued, having just found out about the Sidney Dairy Barn just a few days before. A new restaurant! A scenic drive! And they have chicken tenders!
We invited another couple along on our Philo Tavern adventure and then promptly got lost on the way there (or, I should say, I got lost — my husband would want me to make that clear). But finally we got back on track and arrived in downtown Philo.
Just an aside — I never cease to marvel at the landscape in Chambana or these small towns we happen upon. Philo, Tuscola, Monticello … they all strike me as a lovely patchwork prairie quilt that still surprises my Eastern eyes.
Once we arrived, we found the place hopping. It was, after all, dinnertime on a Friday night, but be aware that you might find a crowd. And, if you do, there isn’t much room in this joint to hang out and wait for a table. We stood in the vestibule for awhile until we decided to brave the heat and go outside for awhile.
When we were seated, the waitstaff was friendly and quick to bring our drinks and take our orders, while we enjoyed the downhome atmosphere. It isn’t a fancy place at all, but the kids sure did enjoy the vintage beer advertisement behind us that consisted of a clock and a lake scene that appeared to be moving.
That kept them quiet while we waited for our meals (which did take a bit, which I attribute to the crowd), as did the crackers provided to us by our server. The food was good and plentiful … and it was a change of scenery.
One of the great things about Champaign-Urbana is that we’re within driving distance of quite a few other towns. Even the smallest ones — and Philo struck me as pretty small, go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong — have their own quirks and flavors.
If you ask my son, dining there was the highlight of his summer. When we showed up at our beach vacation, he talked my mother’s ear off about the “Vilo Tavern.”
I’m glad we stumbled upon the Philo Tavern (thanks, Aubrie!) and you will be, too.
Do you know of any best-kept secrets in Champaign-Urbana? Send us a note or leave them in the comments!