Radio Maria, a colorful restaurant created by an artist couple who graduated from the nearby University of Illinois, has a little bit of everything. They have hints of a Spanish theme, which appears most clearly in the full tapas menu. This menu has both the basic tapas that you always crave and a few more exciting specialties. Their dinner menu is short, but the decision will still be difficult due to the delicious choices. Whatever you choose, you’ll get to enjoy it in one of the gorgeous rooms, some of which are decorated with found objects that the owners have artistically re-homed.
Radio Maria, 119 N Walnut St, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 398 7729
The owners of Maize Mexican Grill are from Mexico City, so you know that what you’re getting is authentic. The menu is short but sweet. Most of the dishes are recognizable to Mexican food connoisseurs (with a few exceptions, of course, like the torta ahogada and the tlacoyo, which both include a number of traditional Mexican ingredients put together in different ways). They only have a set number of dishes. This means they’re able to put a lot of work into making sure that these specialities are as authentic, fresh, and tasty as possible.
Maize Mexican Grill, 60 E Green St, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 355 6400
Don’t expect a normal restaurant experience when you come to DESTIHL. Expect, instead, a ‘gastrobrewpub’, or the perfect place to enjoy not only delicious food cooked from scratch, but also some very exciting beers from this Central Illinois microbrewery. Year-round beers include weissbier, Hoperation Overload IPA, rotating seasonal beers, their Wild Sour Series of sour beers and limited release Belgian-style beers, wood-aged brews and barrel-aged creations. This is a true beer lover’s paradise. For best results, you might try something from the tap and then bring home a barrel-aged bottle.
DESTIHL-Champaign, 301 N Neil St, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 356 0301
Bacaro Wine Bar and Italian Restaurant started as a wine bar in 2001, but over the past decade, it has expanded its repertoire to become a hub of fine-dining in Champaign. The chefs endeavor to use as much local produce as possible in addition to filling their menu with simple and elegant choices. For those wanting the full experience, they offer a special ‘Market Monday’ tasting menu, in addition to a separate menu with wine pairings on Tuesday to Sunday. This is a place for a special occasion and you will be rewarded to paying the admittedly high prices with a meal that will grab your attention and not soon let you forget it.
Li’l Porgy’s Bar-B-Que
There’s just something about a barbecue joint with a secret recipe that piques your interest and makes the food somehow even more mouthwatering – and Li’l Porgy’s is exemplary. Their meat is hickory smoked, and their selection covers barbecue from several different styles, with ribs, rib tips, chicken, shrimp, and sandwiches all on the permanent menu, plus specials for each day of the week. Another proof of their authenticity appears in the beverage menu, which lists sweet tea as a choice. No true Southerner could possibly have barbecue without sweet tea, and Li’l Porgy’s understands this completely.
Li’L Porgy’s Bar-b-Que, 1917 W Springfield Ave, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 398 6811
Restaurants like Seven Saints are the one of the big perks of visiting a college town. The interior looks like an old British pub, but with a twist that you can’t quite put your finger on – at least, until you have a look at the beer menu, which features an astounding array of American beer favorites, including rotating seasonal choices. Their signature dishes are their many takes on that late-night favorite, the slider, but if your taste tends away from burgers, they have plenty of other delicious items. One thing to try is the cheese curds, which is a Midwestern specialty. If you stop in during the week, you just might run into their special discount nights.
Seven Saints, 32 E Chester St, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 351 7775
Jarling’s Custard Cup
Jarling’s Custard Cup has a long history of serving custard in Champaign and they’re still going strong. The foundation of their menu is five flavors of frozen custard: vanilla, chocolate, lemon, strawberry, and the flavor of the week. From this they build a whole menu full of sundaes, shakes and Snowstorms, which are custard mixed together with toppings. If after all that you still don’t know what you want, they also have a novelty menu. On this is their own homemade custard sandwiches and frozen, chocolate covered bananas, among other things. Jarling’s closes for the winter months, but you’ll get a tasty reward once you’ve made it through to the summer.
Jarling’s Custard Cup, 309 W Kirby Ave, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 352 2273
Papa Del’s Pizza
At only a couple hours from Chicago, Champaign naturally has a good Chicago pizza joint – and Papa Del’s Pizza goes above and beyond this particular call of duty. They’ve got two solutions to fix your Chicago pizza craving – the original deep dish pizza and the super stuffed pizza. To really enjoy the stuffed pizza, you’ll need a lot of time and a big appetite. Between two layers of crust, you’ll find a generous helping of cheese with your requested toppings mixed in, with the tomato sauce sitting neatly on top. For a real treat, try a stuffed crust pizza with spinach – a refreshing treat.
Papa Del’s Pizza, 206 E Green St, Ste 1, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 359 7700
This little corner of Japan in the middle of Champaign has carved out a place for itself with its dedication to detail, both on the menu and in the decor. The owner of Sakanaya traveled through Asia collecting the touches that have come to characterize the place and the chef brings years of experience working in New York City restaurants. In addition to their daily lunch and dinner menu, there is also a special late-night menu for the student population.
Sakanaya, 403 E Green St, Champaign, IL, USA, +1 217 344 1400