Ray's Guide to Eating in the Champaign-Urbana Area

Find short descriptions of some of the many eating choices available below.


View Places to Eat Near NCSA in a larger map
-- Notable for quality or convenience
-- Region containing multiple restaurants
-- Hampton Inn
-- NCSA

Note to attendees staying at the Holiday and Ramada Inns

Unfortunately, there are fewer restaurant choices near your hotels. The closest ones are the hotel restaurant in the Holiday Inn and the Urbana Garden, on the other side of Lincoln Ave. I recommend that you make you dinner plans closer to NCSA. The Illini bus runs late into evening (past 2am).

Hey Vegetarians!

Many of the restaurants described below are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Cross-reference it with this listing from VegGuide.org.

Restaurant codes used in descriptions below
* -- Recommended for quality or convenience
L -- Lunch only
A -- Serves Beer, wine, and/or spirits.
$ -- Reasonable Cost, particularly for Lunch
$$ -- A little more expensive, more appropriate for dinner

A near walk: University Avenue

Distance: less than 0.3 miles (< 10 minutes walk)

There several restaurants that can be easily reached by foot from NCSA or the Hampton Inn. They are, in rough order of proximity:

Bevande Cafe (* L $)
A walk-up inside the Computer Science building, this convenient cafe offers cold and grilled sandwiches, hummus, fruit and decent coffee (including espresso). Recommended for its convenience and coffee!
Find it from NCSA: Exit NCSA through the south doors (not toward the parking garage), walk across the quad, and enter the CS building. Once in the lobby, turn left toward the large wall LCD screens.
Beckman Cafe (* L $)
A decent cafeteria offering sandwiches made fresh, a few hot entrees, soup, salad. Recommended for its convenience.
Find it: The cafe is located in the Beckman Institute building which is just west of the parking garage. Inside, you can find it at the west end of the ground floor atrium.
Perkins ($)
The chain diner adjacent to the Hampton Inn. Also open for breakfast.
Cocina Real (* A $)
One of the 2 best Mexican places in town, this one offers interesting takes on traditional dishes. Good for lunch or dinner.
Find it: This is 2 buildings east of the Hampton Inn on University Ave.

Various Fast Food along University Ave. east of NCSA and the hotel
  • Hot Wok Express (Chinese)
  • Niro's Gyros
  • Taco Bell
  • Dairy Queen

Einstein Bros. Bagels (* L $)
Bagel-based sandwiches
Find it: From the parking garage side of University Ave., walk east 3 blocks to the next traffic light; you will find it on the corner with Lincoln Ave.

Short walk: Campustown

Distance: 0.5 - 1.0 miles southwest of NCSA (10-20 minutes walk)

Campustown, with Green Street as its main drag, hosts a variety of restaurants and pubs that cater to the campus community. There's lots to choose from, including Greek, middle eastern, pizza, Asian, Mexican, Indian, burgers, and bar food; here is a selection:

Jerusalem (* L $)
middle-eastern
Address: 601 S. Wright St.
Wonderdogs ($)
Chicago-style hot dogs
Address: 605 S. Wright St.
Mia Za's (* A $)
custom pizzas, pannini's, pasta
Address: 627 E. Green, south side of Green in the 1st block west of Wright.
Zorba's (* $)
Gyros and Souvlaki, serves beer.
Address: 627 E. Green, south side of Green in the 1st block west of Wright.
Panera ($)
Sandwiches and soup.
Address: 616 E. Green, north side of Green in the 1st block west of Wright.
Murphy's (A $)
Decent bar food in a college atmosphere. Recommended if you need to hash out a standard over a pitcher of good beer.
Address: 604 E. Green, north side of Green in the 1st block west of Wright.
Bombay Grill (* $)
Best Indian in town.
Address: 401 E. Green, south side of Green in the 3rd block west of Wright.
Papa Del's (* A $)
Their stuffed, Chicago-style pizza is the best pizza in town. While a little far to walk for lunch, it's worth the walk for dinner.
Address: 206 E. Green, north side of Green in the 5th block west of Wright.

Short walk: East Campus

Distance: ~0.75 miles south of NCSA (15 minutes walk)

While perhaps a bit far for lunch (unless you are keen for vegetarian at the Red Herring), this area has a couple of nice choices for dinner.

The Bread Company (* A $/$$)
European-style bakery and cafe. Lunch features fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads; dinner features European-style plates, fondue, pizzas, and pasta with a decent beer and wine list.
Find it: on the east (left) side of Goodwin Ave. just past the 4-way stop at Oregon.

Timpone's (* A $$)
Northern Italian with a great wine list.
Find it: on the east (left) side of Goodwin Ave. past the The Bread Company.

The Red Herring (* L $)
Vegetarian/Vegan "hole-in-the-wall"; worth the walk.
Find it: At the 4-way stop at Oregon. turn right. It's located on your left in the basement of its building.

Espresso Royale (* $)
A good place to get an espresso after dinner.

Additional restaurants can be found east along Oregon St. including empanadas, barbeque, and Thai.

Downtown Urbana

Distance: ~1.0 mile east of NCSA (20-30 minutes walk)

Downtown Urbana is east of the Hampton Inn and is certainly walkable for dinner, but if you have a car, there are also places to park. Black Dog, in particular, is worth the journey. Here's a selection of what you will find if you head in that direction:

Miko (A $$)
Asian with specialties in Japanese and Korean.
Address: 407. University Ave: on the right (south) side, just past the hospital complex.
Silvercreek (* A $$)
American fine dining with decent wine list.
Find it: turn right at the light onto Race St.; just past the hot dog place on the corner, find it on the left. Additional parking is on the right, just past the railroad tracks.
Siam Terrace (* A $$)
Great Thai food in a real sit-down atmosphere.
Find it: turn right at the light onto Race St. and head into the downtown area. At Main Street, turn right; it will be on your right.
Black Dog Smoke and Ale House (* A $$)
The best barbeque in town, and with a great and ever changing microbrew list to go with it, this joint rises to pilgrimage status.
Find it: From University, turn right on Broadway (next light past Race St.). Find it on your right just past the railroad tracks.
Das Cafe (A $$)
German fare for the midwest.
Find it: turn right at the light onto Race St. and head into the downtown area. At Main Street, turn left (cross Main if you are walking); it will be on your right.

First Street

Distance: <~1.0 mile west of NCSA (~20 minute walk)

If you made it this far, you might as well keep heading to downtown; however, if you are tired of walking, you can shoot down First Street for some decent options.

Manzella's (A $)
classic Italian-American family-style restaurant. The menu's not extensive or adventurous, but it's got the look and the comfort.
Find it: after turning left onto First from University, it will be on your immediate right.
Fiesta Cafe (A $)
decent Mexican food
Find it: after turning left onto First from University, proceed one block to find it on your left.
Bombay Grill (* A $$)
Along with its sister in Campustown, this is the best Indian in town.
Find it: after turning left onto First from University, proceed one block to find it on your left, just past Fiesta Cafe.
Minnecci's (A $$)
a slight more upscale Italian restaurant.
Find it: This is at the end of this corridor at the corner with the light at Springfield Ave. on your right.

Downtown Champaign

Distance: ~1.0 mile west of NCSA (20-30 minutes walk)

Downtown Champaign is west of the Hampton Inn and offers the best selection of nightlife, including 2 brew pubs, a variety of good dining with outdoor seating, bakeries, coffee, live music, and even an arthouse movie theater. Like Urbana, it's both walkable and drivable. Here's a selection of what you'll find, in order of approximate proximity:

Cafe Luna (* A $$)
fine tapas inside the old train station.
Find It: After emerging from the train underpass on University, turn right at the light. Cafe Luna is in the building on your right.
Cafe Kopi (* $)
A great place for a cup of espresso after dinner. Free wi-fi.
Find It: At the second light past the train underpass, turn right onto Walnut; it is on your left in that first block.
Baccaro (A $$)
Northern Italian with a great wine list.
Find It: At the second light past the train underpass, turn right onto Walnut; it is on your left in that first block (just past Cafe Kopi).
The Blind Pig (A $)
No food, but this English-style pub is a great place for a beer before or after dinner. Free wi-fi if you need to work on your talk for the next day.
Find It: At the second light past the train underpass, turn right onto Walnut; it is on your right in that first block.
Radio Maria (* A $$)
Unique dishes with various Latin and Caribbean influences. This is one of my favorite places. Also serves Tapas late. Recommended for vegetarians.
Find It: At the second light past the train underpass, turn right onto Walnut; proceed past Cafe Kopi and Baccarro on your left.
The Blind Pig Brewery (* A $)
Not to be confused with the The Blind Pig (above), this is my preferred brew pub in town. No food, but try the brew sampler. Free wi-fi.
Find It: At the third light past the train underpass, turn right onto Neil; find it on your right one block up.
Destihl (* A $$)
the brew pub with food.
Find It: At the third light past the train underpass, turn right onto Neil; walk up two blocks to the next light at Main/Church and Neil. It is on the far left (NW) corner ground floor of the tall building in front of you.
Kofusion (A $$)
Interesting variations on Asian cuisine
Find It: At the third light past the train underpass, turn right onto Neil; Just past the next light (at Main), veer to you right but still proceeding north; Kofusion is a few doors down on your right (and a parking log is on your left).
Sushi Kame (A $)
my favorite sushi place; includes other Japanese options as well. A good value.
Find It: At the third light past the train underpass, turn right onto Neil; At the next light (at Main/Church), turn left. Find it just past the movie theatre on your right.
Peking Garden (A $$)
My favorite Chinese place, this place features dishes you can't find elsewhere it town. It's a bit far for convenience, though.
Find It: At the fourth light past the train underpass, turn right onto Randolph; find it on your right 1.5 blocks ahead. If you are wandering from downtown Champaign on Neil street, turn down Church street past the movie theater and turn left onto Randolph; it will be on your left.

Ray's Recommendations

Best Mexican
Cocina Real (near the Hampton Inn on University). It's so close, you might as well.
Best Pizza
Papa Del's (West side of campustown). Go for the stuffed pizza with spinach and garlic.
Most Interesting
Radio Maria (downtown Champaign). Unique dishes with various Latin and Caribbean influences.
Best Barbeque
Black Dog Smoke and Ale House (downtown Urbana). Great choice of sauces, microbrews, and sides (get the cornbread). And of course meat.
Best Vegetarian
The Red Herring (for lunch; east campus). Don't despair: many places have great vegetarian options; see VegGuide.org.
Favorite Brew Pub
The Blind Pig Brewery (downtown Champaign). Try the sampler. Of course, it's so close to the other brew pub, Destihl, you might as well compare.
Best Indian
Bombay Grill (either in Campustown or on First Street).
Favorite Sushi
Sushi Kame (downtown Champaign). Great value.
Favorite Chinese
Peking Garden (downtown Champaign). Get the spicy green beans or the Shrimp Chow Fun.
Recommended for "Working" Meetings
Murphy's Pub (Campustown). Need to hash a standard out over a pitcher? Murphy's has larger tables, but shouldn't get to loud that you can't talk.


Topic revision: r18 - 2012-05-18 - RayPlante
 
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