From reading articles here on Smile Politely, I’ve come to realize that my perfect Saturday seems to be the same as that of many other people. I wake up bright and early, hit some garage sales and haggle over some junk I can’t live without, shop local at the Farmers Market, and finish up with a yummy breakfast at one of the great places in Chambana.
Unfortunately, my perfect Saturday happens about once a month. The reason? Sleep.
Man, do I love to sleep in on a weekend. There is nothing better than waking up, knowing there is absolutely nothing you have to do, and rolling over and getting more sleep. So, if you’ve slept in on a Saturday, and you’re feeling like you might have missed out on all the fun stuff that you meant to do but couldn’t quite get up for, think again.
It’s noon; you just rolled out of bed; what are you going to do? Start with brunch at Carmon’s Restaurant. Now, I have no idea why you’re waking up so late on a Saturday. Maybe you’ve been stressing about schoolwork and studied late into the night, in which case, here is a great place for a cup of coffee with some real cream. Maybe (like me) you had a late night out with friends, in which case, grab some hair of the dog and get an incredibly tasty mimosa (as specifically recommended in our fantastic Best: Food and Drink.)
The crepes here are to die for. No joke. But if you aren’t a crepe fan, there’s plenty else to order. There are always new specials offering something different every time you visit. But there’s also enough regular fare, if you are one of those people that likes to get the same thing every time you go somewhere. The atmosphere is of a small, bustling cafe, warm and comfortable with interesting art on the wall, and every person I have taken here (from visiting friends to visiting parents) has been impressed and found something to love.
It’s more expensive than your McDonald’s egg and cheese biscuit, but there’s a reason for this: quality. Seriously, it’s oozing from every bite. My boyfriend also recommends going for dinner and other meals, but as I have only been here for brunch, that’s my main recommendation, and as I said, the Best: Food and Drink article describes all that just fine.
Walnut Street Tea Company
I spent the longest time ignoring this place because I absolutely hate tea. I know, I know, I know. Tea is great blah blah blah. Sorry, other than chai, I just can’t stand it. Which is fine for all involved ― as this place is fantastic regardless of your feelings towards tea, and I’m leaving more tea for you to try and enjoy.
Carrying a variety of coffee beans as well as tea, Walnut Street Tea Company is your one-stop-shop for caffeinating it up in whichever manner you might choose. There are plenty of flavored coffee beans and different blends, as well as all the paraphernalia that you might need, such as filters, mugs, and sieves.
Beyond that, and in some ways, even better, there is a ton of sweets in stock. There are local fudges, toffee, chocolate-covered fruits (try the cherries!), mixes for cheese balls and biscuits, and chocolate covered espresso beans.
The Walnut Street Tea Company is owned by Betty Elliot, and has been open for 29 (going on 30) years. My personal favorites are the Cafe du Monde chicory coffee (though the roommates find it too bitter for their taste) and their beignet mix. If you have a deep fryer and pounds of powdered sugar, you’re in for a good time.
Having slept for far too long today, this is a place to visit when you just can’t make it to the Farmers Market, but still want something tasty to indulge in, and maybe something to bring home and share with others. Maybe.
And finally, having had an amazing brunch and gotten your sweets to indulge in later in the day, it’s time to grab some DVDs and food for later, because if you had a late night out on Friday, spending the rest of your day in a dark room with a movie sounds absolutely perfect . . . and later, you can make some Indian food for dinner, invite people over and have another late night.
Annapoorna is the Hindu goddess of food, as well as the name of a series of peaks in the Himalayas in India, and upon walking into Annapoorna Grocery, chances are that you’ll meet Mr. Handa, who has owned the store for about six years. Originally from New Delhi, he has made Champaign his home.
Personally, I can attest that he has been nothing but friendly and generous to me every time I have walked into the store. When I come in with an idea of what I want to try cooking, he’ll help me not only with advice on what to buy, but also with advice on how to cook it. Shan Spices absolutely rock my socks off, and always leave my guests thinking that I know how to cook much better than I actually do.
However, what I’m mainly writing about this time is the DVD section. Mr. Handa has hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes of all different types of Indian cinema. I have a soft spot for Bollywood, and trust me, it’s not all singing and cheesy romance.
With a $20 refundable deposit, you are welcome to rent whatever DVDs or tapes that you want, and if you spend more than $10 in the store, you can get a rental for free (one time only.)
My personal recommendation is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), which was reviewed in Smile Politely a few years ago. It is a quintessential Bollywood film, but for those not interested in typical, check out Dhoom (an hysterical action film with a good sequel, Dhoom 2) or Don (a suspenseful action film about a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . or was he?). Mr. Handa recommends Pardes, a poignant film about people and their definitions of “home.”
Whether you’re in the mood for tasty Indian food or a fun movie, check this place out and be sure to ask Mr. Handa for recommendations.
If, on a Saturday in which you’ve slept far too long, you need some place to drag your kids who (just might) have more energy that you currently have, bring them to the Champaign Public Library this summer.
The children’s department will be hosting special programs for elementary school-aged kids on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons at 2:00 throughout the summer. Programs cover a wide range of topics. Book-related events include American Girls, Dangerous Book for Boys, Bunnicula, Green Eggs and Ham, and Franny K Stein. Other topics will include Martial Arts, Yoga, Juggling, Dinosaurs, Magic, History, Animals and Wildlife.
The Summer Reading Game runs from June 1st–August 15th. Children ages birth up through graduating 5th graders can participate in the reading game. (Reading clubs are also available for teens and adults.) Registration will be anytime, starting on June 1st. Participants will receive a prize at registration along with their reading log, and for every 10 minutes children read or are read to, they can color in a box on their log to keep track of how much they are reading. If they bring the log back into the library before August 15th, they get to choose a free book to take home and keep!
A special early-bird registration time is available at the library’s program Saturday, May 29, The Not-So-Scary Scary Animal Show.
For more information about the children’s summer reading game, people can contact the library at 403-2030.
Sometimes, even though you’re low on energy, your kids might not be. Bring them in; get them registered; say hi to me, as I’ll be volunteering on some weekends; and have a great time watching your kids quietly read! Everyone wins!