By Kristy Wilson
Recently I wrote about my top places to find healthy food when out and about in Champaign-Urbana. Now I get the pleasure of sharing the top places that we go for comfort foods. When I think of comfort foods I think of the foods that I turn to when I’m having a rough week, the foods that I turn to when I need a moment of nostalgia from my childhood, the foods that I hardly ever eat but “today I will make an exception because I’m sick and I don’t care what goes in my body as long as I can keep it down.” Or the foods that we rarely eat but we are making an exception because we are celebrating something big and “it is just one day!”
This list was a bit challenging for me because I try hard to stick to the list in the “Healthy Eats” article that I wrote if I’m not going to fix dinner. Also because when I fix comfort food for our family it is often a nice peanut stew and fried plantains, which are dishes that are native to my husband’s birthplace of Sierra Leone, West Africa (the only reason that I fix them is that I have yet to find a West African restaurant in town). So I’ve done my best to compile what our list would be along with a few ideas from some friends. I hope that you enjoy and will share some of your thoughts too!
1. Biaggi’s: They have these amazing things called Pronto Packs. They are like a full-service meal in a bag. They come with bread and the fixings for “Biaggi’s butter,” your choice of salad, and your choice of pasta. These are our “you just had a baby,” “someone in your family passed,” etc. and we want to bring food for your family. Several people brought these after the birth of our kids and they were fantastic!
2. Black Dog: Well, this is just the place to go for barbeque in our books. We have a friend that has lived in Texas and Kansas City who recently discovered Black Dog after moving to Champaign. He says that it is “the best barbeque” he has ever had. Enough said!
3. Bombay Grill: This is being added to the list because of my husband. He loves Indian food and it is one of the places that he craves after a rough week, or that we get take-out from to celebrate special occasions. For more family-friendly restaurants for ethnic food, click here.
4. Jarling’s Custard Cup: With all of the recent posts that are blowing up my newsfeed after its recent re-opening I don’t feel I need to really say much here. I mean one friend posted a pick of her custard selection with the Jarling’s Custard Cup sign in the background and captioned it “reunited and it feels so good!” See why Jarling’s now has new, expanded hours.
5. Maize: This was suggested by some friends. They said they typically get carryout from here or go during the off-peak hours due to the demand and how busy this place gets. They have assured me that the guacamole is some of the best in town. See our Mom Review of Maize here.
6. Papa Del’s Pizza: Well, I grew up eating this as a kid. I remember going to the old location on Green Street when they didn’t have large serving bowls, so if you ordered a salad you would have to bring your own bowl. This was one of the places that we didn’t mind waiting in line to be seated and then waiting again as our deep dish pizza cooked for over 45 minutes. This brings back many good memories and is still creating new ones on the rare occasions that we indulge.
7. Popeye’s Chicken: It used to be that when we were traveling we would find one to stop at. Truth be told, I haven’t eaten at the one here in town yet (a testament to how much I truly eat comfort food), however, I know the time will come. I was born in a small town in Illinois where there were only a few places to eat out. All of them had fried chicken as an entrée option. I like Popeye’s because the quality has always been predictable for me and their sides are a bit less run-of-the-mill that the typical chicken place like KFC.
8. Sam’s Club: Growing up I ate a lot of hot dogs. I was the weird kid that liked the hot dogs off the grill that were just a little bit burnt and bubbly. We didn’t eat them often in more recent years and with the research that shows hot dogs having carcinogenic effects (my understanding is when consumed in large amounts on a regular basis) we have stopped eating them all-together for the most part. However, there are times when I am out running errands and I will stop in Sam’s Club. After having downed some free samples of things and still feeling ravenous, I will stop and get a hot dog. It always reminds me of grilling out growing up, of weenie roasts, of attending sporting events, etc. Awesome memories … all sparked by a hot dog!
9. Smoothie King: This one might seem a bit different. However, this is a go-to when I have been super sick in the past. I have unfortunately had quite a few surgeries in my time, had some other illnesses (I had strep five times in the course of one year when I was a bit younger) and Smoothie King always comes through for the easy-to-swallow, nutritious (depending on what you get), trying-to-stay-hydrated option.
What would you add?
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.