By Kristy Wilson
In a recent Food and Wine piece that I came across titled “the Summer’s Best New Beer Gardens” I noticed that Urbana got a shout out for its newish beer garden, the Sipyard. Sipyard is the only beer garden in Central Illinois that’s housed in a shipping container. How fun!
The only downside I found when I checked out their menu is that Sipyard doesn’t serve any kind of food. While it boasts of a non-traditional venue that will be a change-up for your evening out, make sure you eat up before heading here. This got me thinking about all the non-traditional (i.e. you won’t find all the downtown Champaign restaurants listed here) places that you can dine outside.
In 2014 chambanamoms.com did a Facebook poll on this very thing. The first list that you will find below is the most (by more than one person) recommended places from said post. The second list that you will find includes my few additions! As the temperatures start to become a bit more bearable I hope that you’ll try some of these places out.
1. El Toro (on Neil Street): There are many locations for El Toro. Several years back El Toro took over part of the space that was formerly JBJ’s Collectables and transformed part of what used to be just a sidewalk into a wonderful outdoor dining area.
2. Jupiter’s at the Crossing: The large benefit of the outdoor dining area here is the amount of it and access to it. You can eat outdoors under a covered patio area, outdoors in an open area, or upstairs on the rooftop. Your choice!
3. Radio Maria: This is a great place to come on a Saturday night, grab some tapas, and people watch. You know, if you are into that sort of thing.
4. Attie’s Bar and Grill: Several of you recommended this, but I had to look it up. Attie’s is the pub located at Stone Creek Golf Course.
5. Sun Singer: This is a nice option if you are on the southwest side of Champaign. There are not a lot of places in the area that offer outdoor seating. Wine and dine (outside), but if the weather turns unfavorable don’t worry there is plenty of room inside with their recent expansion.
7. Huaraches Moroleon: This is likely what many people would refer to as a “hole in the wall” restaurant due to its location and size. Don’t be fooled though, read the reviews on their website. It sits on the corner of Philo Avenue and East Washington Street in Urbana. While a couple of you recommended it for dining outside it would seem that there are few tables.
8. Dublin O’Neil’s: Despite my prefacing about excluding downtown Champaign restaurants, this one is. This is the only traditional Irish restaurant that I am aware of in Champaign. They say that “your experience is nothing short of a slice of Irish heaven.” Eating outside on a nice night can only make it better, right?
9. Destihl: Yep, another downtown one. Another one that I have mentioned in several articles that I have written. Sit outside on a nice night and try some of their deep fried bacon!
10. Esquire Lounge: Located in the heart of downtown this is a great place to eat outside, do a little people watching, then head inside for some pool to change it up.
11. J.T. Walker’s in Mahomet: This one was only recommended by one reader, but after taking a look at their website it seems like an awesome place to check out! They have a rooftop patio that looks like a fantastic gathering spot.
Those I would add to the list:
1. Houlihan’s: There isn’t anything fancy about their menu, but if you catch this eating out experience on the right night you might be serenaded by a live band/musician. On Tuesdays you can enjoy a half-price bottle of wine!
2. Milo’s: Their back patio offers a bit more privacy that some of the other outdoor dining options where you might feel like you are on display for all walking by. So, if you are looking for a bit more intimate spot this might be it!
3. Biaggi’s: While they have an outdoor dining area, I feel like I never see anyone using it. It is tucked in a small area between the parking lot and the main dining area. If you are craving Italian food and want to enjoy the weather you might consider this.
4. LePeep: Le Breakfast, Le Brunch, Le Lunch … Le Peep. Just don’t get confused and show up to dinner here, folks, because they won’t be Le open!
5. Buffalo Wild Wings (Savoy): I am including this for multiple reasons. First because I have several friends with food allergy issues and know that they all say this is a place that they can easily eat at. Second, and most important, because the outdoor seating area is covered. There is nothing worse than opting to sit outside only to have to scramble to move inside when a pop-up rain shower hits.
6. The Bread Company: This is a great place if you’re a student, happen to work on campus, or if you just like to visit occasionally. This restaurant is one of the few in town that I am aware of that offers fondue.
What would you add to the list?
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.