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 (with one exception below), since restaurants open and close there as the wind blows. But we’re happy to consider them. (Check out other recent comings and goings here.)
Who: Uncle Martin’s Sports Bar
What happened: The location — 1104 N. Cunningham Ave., Urbana — must be cursed. Seemingly no place has been able to make a good run in this location since Longhorn Smokehouse (nee Hickory River) was a staple here in the 1990s.
Who will miss it: People who liked good bar food. It was underrated. (We especially liked the chicken sandwiches.)
Any hope for the future? No.
Who: Flat Top Grill
When: Aug. 11
What happened: The crush of new restaurants in Campustown has claimed another victim, this once-popular spot that lost its clientele to other spots on Green Street and thereabouts. Its closing follows the departure of the Wendy’s across the street several months prior.
Who will miss it: Those who enjoy a good stir-fry. You’re pretty much limited now to 301 Mongolia in downtown Champaign.
Any hope for the future? Nope. But there’s one in Bloomington if you have a hankerin’.
Who: Ruby Tuesday
When: July 29
What happened: The chain closed all of its Illinois locations. I guess they weren’t feeling the Lovie Love.
Who will miss it: Ruby Tuesday’s had some loyal customers throughout its time in Champaign and seemed to be doing fine. Folks seemed to like the salad bar in particular.
Any hope for the future? Doesn’t appear so, but you’d have to think someone will take another look at Champaign if the chain returns to Illinois.
Who: Atlanta Bread
When: Aug. 6
What happened: Check out our story on the closing.
Who will miss it: Similar to Panera in many ways, so those who miss it might find themselves spending more time at Panera.
Any hope for the future? No.
When: Aug. 31
What happened: We discussed this one previously, too.
Who will miss it: Lots of people. And we always hate to see locally owned and operated places go away. RIP.
Any hope for the future? See this. The good news is there have been reports that a new restaurant will open in this space. Stay tuned.
Local openings (or coming soon):
Who: Bangkok Thai
Description: It’s the second Bangkok Thai restaurant, joining the one that the same owners have operated on Green Street for several years.
Kids menu? Yes, $2.95 (dine-in only).
Where: 1104 N. Cunningham Ave., Urbana (formerly Uncle Martin’s Sports Bar)
Why we’re excited: C-U has plenty of Thai restaurants and many good ones. Now you won’t have to drive to Campustown to get this particular brand of Thai.
When: Late 2016
Description: We’ve mentioned this one before.
Kids menu? Yes.
Where: Market Place Mall, in the space formerly occupied by Buca di Beppo.
Why we’re excited: Real Chicago-style pizza. Yum. Double yum.
Who: Slim Chickens
When: Late 2016
Description: Chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, chicken tenders and — wait for it — chicken and waffles. Check it out here.
Kids menu? Well, sorta. This is one item — a chicken tenders dinner — listed under “kids menu.”
Where: In the Carriage Center on S. Neil Street in Champaign.
Why we’re excited: Well, we’re still waiting for Chick-Fil-A to call Champaign home, so Slim Chickens will have to do.
Who: Baxter’s American Grille
When: Early September
Description: The restaurant’s website says “classic American cuisine.” Steaks, seafood, pizza, etc.
Kids menu? Yes, with the usual suspects (mac and cheese, chicken fingers, etc).
Where: Near the corner of Kirby Avenue and Neil Street in Champaign in the building that once housed TGI Friday and Prairie Fire.
Why we’re excited: There’s one in Bloomington — doesn’t Bloomington get everything before we do? Destihl, Meatheads, Red Robin, etc. — and the reviews we’ve seen have been positive.
Who: Red Robin
When: early August
Description: We’ve mentioned this one before, too. Chain that caters to families with bottomless fries.
Kids menu? Yes
Where: On the northwest corner of the Market Place Mall property, near Macy’s.
Why we’re excited: Well, we’ve already had time to take a visit. See our Dad Review.