Recently chambanamoms.com posted an article entitled the “25 Things You Need to Eat in Champaign-Urbana.” Most of the items highlighted in that article were from well-known restaurants in the community. They are the types of places that, if you live in the area for more than a couple of years, you will likely hear about or stumble across.
However, what about the places that are a bit more hidden? The places that only those who have lived here a while, or those who really like to explore the culinary world that is Champaign-Urbana, have discovered? Maybe even the places that people won’t tell you about because they are such gems that they don’t want to share them! Here are some of those places.
I will share the same disclaimer from the last article:
In no way do I believe that this is a complete list. Having said that, this list is not intended to upset any local food places that were not included below. These are simply the places and food items that I am aware of. I based these selections on recommendations of others as well as the places that I have stumbled across in various situations not expecting to have a meal, but being happily surprised that I became hungry when I did! You will find the list in alphabetical order for a quick name reference. Having said all of this, I invite you to go and sample some of the hidden food gems of Champaign-Urbana.
Art Mart Café: A reader of the “25 Things You Need to Eat in Champaign-Urbana” commented on that article with the addition of Art Mart’s croissants. Its new location on Prospect Avenue, just off of Kirby Avenue, makes those buttery, flakey pastries of deliciousness a bit more centrally located for those on the west side of Chambana. The cafe has expanded its grab -and-go options significantly, and there’s no shortage of room to eat.
Beckman Café: Do you happen to be on the north side of campus for some reason? Are you suddenly hungry? Pop into the Beckman Café and grab something to eat. The daily “specialty menu” is posted a couple of days in advance on its website along with its standard menu items. Talk about economical: you can get a full breakfast (two eggs, choice of meat, potatoes, biscuit and tea/coffee) for just $4.60! I’m not even sure that you can get that much food at the cheap breakfast chain restaurants.
Bevier Cafe: Stepping into this eatery helps to further the educational experience of students on the University of Illinois campus majoring in dietetics and hospitality management. This student-run café offers a standard daily menu with daily specials that are posted on its website. If you are looking for a fine dining experience you can make a reservation at Spice Box. The Spice Box is run by seniors in Hospitality Management who are enrolled in the Fine Dining Management course. Each student is required to plan an evening of fine dining for the restaurants’ patrons, carefully balancing menu items, a food budget, and two menu selections. Students often bring in guest or “celebrity” chefs to assist them. Reviews state that this is a dining experience you can’t have anywhere else in Champaign-Urbana!
Cheese and Crackers: Another reader of “25 Things You Need to Eat in Champaign-Urbana” pointed out that you don’t want to miss out on the made-to-order sandwiches at Cheese and Crackers, so we listened! You may have heard about Cheese and Crackers at the Old Farm Shops when it was featured in a news story on WCIA about its sandwiches. One of the shop’s customers posted a negative review of the sandwiches online, saying the sandwiches were not consistent from day-to-day. One of the employees took action and put a sign on the sidewalk in front of the store stating “come in and try one of the worst sandwiches one guy on Yelp ever had in his life.” According to the news story the sign only increased business and we’re glad because its sandwiches sound super tasty and have been added to our places try soon list!
Flying Monkey Café: This Wizard of Oz themed eatery is located at Curtis Orchard. Its name goes well with the large silo just outside that is painted like the Tin Man and the various other décor that reflects all that is loved about the movie classic. While the orchard is typically known for the amazing apple donuts (yes, they made the list of the “25 Things…”) there are also some more hearty meal options available if you are famished after walking the area picking apples or looking for the perfect pumpkin. The items on the menu will remind you of down-home type items that you would have at a family event like Italian beef and pulled pork … yum!
Huaraches Moroleon: I have to give full credit to our editor Laura Weisskopf Bleill for this suggested addition to the list. I have lived in Champaign-Urbana for 25 years and have never heard of this place; I had to look it up. The pictures on yelp.com look quite amazing and the reviews certainly match this. Noted on the website was $0.99 Taco Wednesday, making this recommendation incredibly economical. Thanks again, Laura! I can’t wait to try it!
Intermezzo Café: This café tucked away in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 90 minutes before most shows through the end of the performance. The café offers options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (only on performance evenings) including everything from fresh-baked breads and pastries to salads and sandwiches. The café is a green café offering fresh, local products as well as providing them to you in biodegradable containers while keeping prices fairly low. The highest priced regular menu item is a sandwich served at dinner time for $7.35. If you are in the campus area, or are planning to attend an upcoming performance, add this café as a meal option. For our Top 5 Things to Do at the KCPA with Kids, click here.
Strawberry Fields: Homemade food with a Mediterranean flair, there is both a hot food buffet and cold food. So much to try and all delicious, and reasonable prices. As someone who likes to cook and try new recipes I am always on the hunt for the one nontraditional ingredient that I don’t have in my pantry. Since my family tends to eat fairly healthy these ingredients can often be found at Strawberry Fields. I can’t wait for the next recipe with the missing ingredient so I can head over and check out the menu!
Did we miss your favorite hidden gem restaurant? What would you add to our list? Add them in the comments below!
Kristy Wilson considers herself a “townie” having lived in the community for more than 26 years. She grew up in Unit #4 schools and attended the University of Illinois. Kristy is passionate about her professional work as a social worker. In her spare time she enjoys food! In particular she loves to try new recipes and sample new dishes at local eateries.