Watching the restaurant landscape in Champaign-Urbana is a bit like watching a tennis match these days: left, right, open, closed, lob, lunge, ace.
The amount of closings and openings in the past three months alone is enough to give spectators a bit of whiplash.
So we decided to develop a scorecard. Here it is; add your two cents in the comments. Of course, we never like to see local businesses close and people lose jobs; we’re not celebrating the closings, just reporting on them. Oh, and we’re generally leaving Campustown out of this, since restaurants open and close there as the wind blows. But we’re happy to consider them.
Who: Buca di Beppo
When: Jan. 24
What happened: Buca was a victim of circumstance, to some degree. The location — in Market Place Mall — has been a trouble spot for previous restaurants.
Who will miss it: Italian-lovers. Large groups (they featured family style portions).
Any hope for the future? Nope.
Who: Papa Del’s (on Green Street and Village at the Crossing)
When: December and January
What happened: Their location on Green Street was surrounded by tall buildings and little parking. The Village at the Crossing location closed in order to move equipment into the new building.
Who will miss it: Pretty much everyone — for the time being. See below.
Any hope for the future? Yes, this is just temporary. Papa Del’s has moved into the space formerly held by Orange and Brew, Buttitta’s and Jillian’s, at 1201 S. Neil St. in Champaign. Extensive renovations are ongoing, and Papa Del’s is expected to reopen in March.
When: January 2017 (no, that’s not a typo)
What happened: The folks who also run Milo’s in Urbana have decided to consolidate their operations at that location. They’ve given plenty of notice, so you’ll want to make sure to get through the doors before next January rolls around.
Who will miss it: Anyone who liked a Latin American menu, a casual yet elegant ambience and just plain ol’ good food. You won’t find many folks who say bad things about Escobar’s.
Any hope for the future? Yes, in a way. The owners haven’t decided how much of the menu will transfer to Milo’s, so keep your fingers crossed.
Who: ROKs Tacos
What happened: They announced it on Facebook but provided no reason.
Who will miss it: A lot of people. ROKs made a big splash on the local food truck scene, and quickly drew crowds and quite a following.
Any hope for the future: None apparently. The truck is for sale.
Local Openings (or coming soon):
Who: Watson’s Chicken and Rail
When: Feb. 4
Description: Chicken dishes like Nashville Hot Chicken, plus interesting offerings like gravy fries, crab hush puppies and pimento mac & cheese.
Kids menu? No, but items are kid friendly.
Where: 211 N. Neil St., Champaign (the old Boltini in downtown Champaign)
Why we’re excited: We’ve heard great word-of-mouth reviews from folks who have dined here in its infancy.
Who: Bibb’s Country Restaurant
When: Dec. 7
Description: Once a staple in Gifford, Bibb’s bounced around to other locations before opening in Urbana. Menu offers prime rib, chicken, fish, barbeque ribs, pulled pork and other homestyle items. The fried chicken is a favorite of many.
Kids menu? Not sure.
Where: In the Wyndham Garden Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn), 1001 W. Killarney St., Urbana
Why we’re excited: We love dessert, and Bibb’s has fresh-baked pies.
When: Dec. 9
Description: A longtime Champaign restaurant, Taffies re-opened in Mahomet with a smaller menu and shorter hours. But many of your favorite made-from-scratch foods are back. See our review for more info.
Kids menu? Yes
Where: 608 E. Main St., Mahomet
Why we’re excited: There’s a reason Taffies was popular in Champaign, and we’re glad to see it return — even if we have to drive a little farther.
Who: Nando Milano Trattoria
When: Late November
Description: Upscale Italian — authentic Italian — from experienced restauranteurs. See our review for more info.
Kids menu? No
Where: 204 N. Neil St., Champaign
Why we’re excited: Champaign-Urbana can always use a high-end restaurant, and Nando fits the bill nicely. It isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for. In this case, from everything we hear, you get terrific cuisine in every fashion.
Who: Scotty’s Brewhouse
When: Spring 2016
Description: Scotty’s features typical pub fare (salads, sandwiches, pizza, including low-cal and gluten-free entrees) along with a large drink menu that varies by location.
Kids menu? Yes
Where: 2001 S. Neil St., Champaign (in the new Carriage Center)
Why we’re excited: If you’ve been to a city of decent size in Indiana, you’ve likely spotted a Scotty’s — they’re in Bloomington, West Lafayette and Indianapolis, among other places. Champaign will be its first location in Illinois.
Who: Red Robin
When: Sometime in 2016
Description: Red Robin, which has 500 locations nationally, is a very kid-friendly restaurant that features gourmet burgers. Red Robin recently opened a restaurant in Normal.
Kids menu? Yes
Where: On the northwest corner of the Market Place Mall property, near Macy’s. The building is in the early phase of construction.
Why we’re excited: Your kids likely will love it. The menu has good variety, with decent prices, and they cater to families. C-U can always use those types of establishments.
What recent restaurant openings/closings did we miss? What should we cover?