By Jenna Weglarz-Ward
The Dancing Dog Eatery is vegan eatery and bakery in downtown Urbana that opened this fall. Currently, it is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and Sundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for brunch. It serves a variety of entrees as well as fresh pressed juices, teas and coffees, and amazing vegan baked goods. They also serve beer and wine. You are welcome to dine-in or carry out.
My daughter, who is vegan, and I, who is dairy-avoidant, went for a late lunch this week. The space itself is lovely with warm woods. To start, we ordered coffee, tea, and a Tingler juice (a blend of kale, spinach, beets, carrots, cucumber, parsley, ginger root, lemon, lime, orange, and apple). The juice was delightful. I am not a huge juice fan but this was light, fresh, and with a clean finish. My daughter loved it.
We sat with our tea and coffee while waiting for our entrees. It was a nice place to sit and chat about the end of school and holiday plans. There was a mix up with our order which increased our wait so the staff gave us a complimentary oatmeal whoopie pie. You can stop there. This was amazing. I have eaten lots of sweets in my life—this week alone too many—and lots of attempts at vegan baked goods. This tasted buttery, flaky, and just the right density to sink your teeth into. The ‘butter’cream was particularly wonderful. We will make a special trip across town for these when cravings will undoubtedly hit in the future.
We wanted to order one of everything but for our entrees we selected tacos and a roasted vegetable sandwich. The tacos were served with house-made guacamole, salsa, lettuce, and a quinoa and corn salad. Although a little spicy for me, my daughter drizzled on some Sriracha (they have many hot sauces available). The roasted vegetable sandwich was stuffed with onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, vegan cheese, basil pesto, and served on house-made bread. I’ve eaten a lot of roasted veggie sandwiches in my day. Most are modest in their veggies and sauces. This was an even balance of flavors allowing the fresh products shine through. But let’s get to the meat of the dish (pun intended). I love French fries, love them. And I love these fries. But it was all about the homemade ketchup. It was addictive and we had to ask about the ingredients. This recipe had the normal tomatoes, vinegar, garlic but also cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon. But this wasn’t like pumpkin pie cinnamon flavor. It added a warm undertone that allowed the tomatoes be rich and smooth. They are playing with other recipes so plan for some other creative flavors.
The staff was kind and friendly (we asked lots of questions). The prices range with most lunches running $7-9 and dinners from $7-15. The portions are generous and you will get a lot of bang for your buck. Menu options change daily (but are often posted on their facebook page). A great place for any meal or just a nice cup of coffee and a treat. The menu is welcoming to carnivores and veggie eaters alike and reads like a familiar diner (not the ‘hippie health food’ cafes my mom brought me to in the 90’s).
Over the past few years, the local restaurant scene in CU has developed into a stellar array of choices sometimes leading to a Sophie’s choice of decision making and I am excitably adding Dancing Dog to the family.
Jenna Weglarz-Ward is a mother of four children (3-18 years old) and wife to her high school sweetheart. They have lived in Champaign for 15 years. She is currently completing her doctorate in special education and also works as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.