Eating at University of Illinois
June 17, 2010 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I am spending a day and a half looking for housing and visiting U of I with my daughter who will be starting graduate school there in fall. Where should we have dinner that is fun and will give us the best flavor of campus life? Type of cuisine, price, etc. really not important.
posted by Lylo to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
U of which I?
posted by gimonca at 7:22 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Illinois, as per the title of the thread. Which raises the question: which University of Illinois? I'm assuming UIUC, because otherwise this would just be another "what to do in Chicago" thread.
posted by craichead at 7:25 AM on June 17, 2010

(Or a what to do in Springfield thread.)

Anyway, I'm currently a grad student at the U of I, so I can give some advice. If you want the "flavor of campus life," you should eat somewhere on Green St; the campus restaurants are just west of where Green St meets Wright St by Altgeld Hall, the Illini Union, and the Alma Mater. Murphy's is a pretty good campus bar with decent food, Zorbas has excellent gyros (and live jazz on Thursdays if you're here on a Thursday), but there are lots of restaurants on (and just north or south of ) Green St. If you want, I can give more specific recommendations.

If you're willing to get away from the campus experience, there's better food to be had in either downtown Urbana (just a few choices) or downtown Champaign (lots of choices). In downtown Urbana, I can recommend Siam Terrace (Thai), Crane Alley (bar with excellent sandwiches and sweet potato fries), and the Courier Cafe (diner food). In downtown Champaign I can recommend Seven Saints (good sandwiches/bar food), Esquire Lounge (bar food), Radio Maria (tapas, moderately expensive), Jim Goulds (hard to describe exactly but very good, moderately expensive), and Bacaro (wine bar with incredible food, very very very expensive).

Also, one of my officemates has written a website that helps us decide how to go to lunch when we're indecisive...lunchatron, which will randomly choose a campus restaurant you can try.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have about this, or memail me about other things you'd like to know about C-U.
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 7:52 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

woops...sorry about any confusion. Yes, you are correct; Urbana/Champaign campus of University of Illinois. thanks for the good info MidsizeBlowfish...We are going today and will definitely stop in at Zorbas even if we don't eat there. Lots of choices! Many thanks
posted by Lylo at 8:00 AM on June 17, 2010

Perhaps I should mention that the jazz at Zorba's happens at night--but it is an excellent place to eat. Enjoy your time here!
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 8:11 AM on June 17, 2010

Your best guide to local eating will be Champaign Taste. Probably too late for today, but great for future reference.
posted by MsMolly at 11:27 AM on June 17, 2010

Just re-read and realized you're looking for dinner tonight too. If you're a meat eater, go to the Black Dog Smokehouse in Urbana. Best barbeque around!
posted by MsMolly at 11:28 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Black Dog. I know a group of vegetarians who have twice this summer broken down and went there. It's that good!

A lot of the best food in town is found in bars, oddly enough. Some of my favorite places to eat...

- Black Dog. BBQ
- Crane Alley. Very nice selection on the menu, from bar food to finer items
- Silver Creek. Finer dinning with an excellent Sunday brunch (some other trip perhaps)
- Courier Cafe. Great little everyday food, plus some excellent shakes.
- The Great Impasta. Used to be in Champaign, but now it's over in Lincoln Square. Italian.
- Siam Terrace. Or as my friends and I like to say, "The Thai place". They're all from Chicago but still can't find a place as good as Siam.

Campus (Urbana)
- Timpone's. Excellent italian dining.
- The Bread Company. For lunch I have to recommend the grilled turkey and pesto.

Campus (Champaign)
- Za's. Not actually my favorite place, but it is a campus mainstay.
- Zorbas. Order a lamb gyro with feta and cucumber sauce.
- Empire. Chinese.
- Papa Del's. Chicago deep dish pizza.

- Jupiter's. Thin crust pizza.
- Seven Saints. Get their "sliders" (1/3 pound buger IIRC) and the tomato bisque if they have it.
- Guido's/2 East Main. I really lover their burgers, but it might just be me :)
- Faron's. A hidden bar with some excellent, varied dishes.
- Escobar's. I haven't actually been here... not sure you can just walk in and get a table. Plus, you should dress at least business casual. But people rave about it.

Others have mentioned Bacaro and Radio Maria. IMHO they are all right, but I don't make a habit of going to them. Nothing in particular that I've found bad; they just aren't my kind of place. I had a horrible experience at Jim Gould's a month after they opened, and haven't been back since. But everyone else seems to like them.
posted by sbutler at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2010

Nobody has mentioned it so I am tossing in one of my favorite eateries. Milo's in Urbana is excellent for both lunch and dinner. It's not on campus but is nearby.

I'll add a "ditto" for Zorba's, it's been on campus for as long as I have and, as such, is a green street mainstay. The Bread Company on Goodwin is non-chain and always good.

Feel free to send me-mail if needed or just stop by the Observatory if you're anywhere around the south quad area (grin).....I'm a lifetime C-U resident, UIUC graduate and a UIUC employee for 25+ years.
posted by labwench at 1:37 PM on June 17, 2010

Is Papa Del's still there? It was the cause of 14 out of my freshman 15.
posted by chairface at 4:27 PM on June 17, 2010

I'm a current grad student at U of I. I think I may be too late to add anything new to the discussion, but nthing Black Dog (my current obsession) and Siam Terrace in downtown Urbana.

And MidsizeBlowfish, I am excited to try the lunchatron!
posted by rebel_rebel at 4:38 PM on June 17, 2010

I've been hearing a lot of good things about Black Dog, and you guys have definitely made me decide to try it this weekend!
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 8:13 PM on June 17, 2010

« Older problem with subtitles on Adobe Encore   |   To grad school or not to grad school... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.