It’s back to school week. The U of I, Urbana District 116, and Champaign Unit 4 are all back to in-person learning this school year. I’m probably not the only parent feeling mixed emotions about kids going back to school. Mine were virtual all last school year, and now they are in school after more than 500 days of being home with me since March 2020 — and I find myself with more time than I’ve had in seventeen months.
How can I seize these moments? Food. I will seize these moments with good food.
This list goes out to all the parents out there in Champaign-Urbana — even the preschool parents — as everything on this list can be eaten before you need to pick up the kids. Here’s five bites you can eat without your children.
Croissant and Cold Brew | Art Mart
Whenever I take my kids to Art Mart, they want to look at the toys and get a cookie or a croissant — or both. I love to take my kids, but Art Mart hits different when you’re solo. I love to get a ham and Swiss croissant ($2.97) and a cold brew ($2.97) with a squirt of caramel to zhuzh it up. The cold brew was served over ice which was great on a hot morning, and while you can totally get your cold brew black, I like a little sweetness, and the caramel syrup was just what I like. There’s also something fun about getting just one croissant and eating it immediately. We could debate all day about which croissant is the best at Art Mart, but I will never stop being in an exclusive relationship with the ham and Swiss one. This croissant is just perfection: one slice of ham rolled with some amazing, melty, gooey Swiss cheese inside a flaky, butter croissant. If you’re looking for an easy, affordable breakfast, this cold brew and croissant pairing is worth a try.
I love to take my Art Mart goodies to go (and eat in the car on my way to errands), but I also love to eat at the little patio tables in the front of Art Mart. There is indoor seating available in the cafe as well.
1705 S Prospect Ave
M-Sa 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cold Brew and Bagel Sandwich | Common Ground
I promise this is not a cold brew list, but it’s hot, and I’m really into cold brew right now. Common Ground is a grocery, but the Cafe in the back is legit. I ordered at the counter, paid at the register, and then took my brekkie to one of the several tables in front of the Co-op. The cold brew was $2, and I added a flavor shot of caramel (I like what I like, okay) for 50 cents. The cold brew was really sweet with the syrup, so if you don’t like sweet, don’t get the flavor added. It was pretty tasty to me, though.
I ordered a bagel sandwich ($9) which was made to order and customizable for the bread and fillings. I picked ham, cream cheese, tomato, and onion on an everything bagel, toasted. It was fantastic. The bagel tasted homemade, and it was chewy but crunchy on the edges. The bagel was covered in everything seasoning and so very good. I loved everything about this breakfast sandwich: the generous smear, the vibrant summer tomato, and the ham, of course. It was a messy meal because summer tomatoes are the best (and so juicy), but it was my pleasure to eat it. So filling and so fresh, I highly recommend you go to Common Ground and make a breakfast sandwich to your tastes. Read the full meu here.
Common Ground Food Co-op Cafe
300 S Broadway
7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., daily
General Tso’s Chicken Lunch | Green Jade
This place opens at 10:30 a.m. which is awesome if you are picking up a little one at noon. I walked in right at 10:31, and they happily took my order. It took about ten minutes for my food to be ready. For $7.35, you can get the lunch special which is a choice of 56 entree options served with rice and a can of soda included. I ordered General Tso’s chicken with white rice and a Dr. Pepper.
The General Tso’s chicken was solid. Not spicy but spiced well, the chicken was battered and covered in a dark, sticky sauce. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s tasty. Red chiles and rice vinegar flavored the sauce, and the white rice soaked it up. I’ve had spicier General Tso’s before, but this one was really mild. It wasn’t hot in spiciness, but the temperature was piping hot, even after I drove it home to eat, which was excellent. There are 19 chicken dishes, nine beef dishes, nine pork dishes, ten seafood dishes, and six vegetable dishes on the $7.35 lunch special menu, so I’m sure there’s something for you.
You can eat on the tables out in front of the restaurant or take your food to go. Check out Megan’s recent review of her dinner at Green Jade here.
Green Jade Chinese Restaurant
1109 W. Windsor Rd
M-Sa 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fajitas | Huaraches Moroleon
If you’re really hungry, where should you go? When I’m hungry for lunch at 10 a.m., I go to Huaraches Moroleon. I went right at opening, and while you can order breakfast, the full menu is available (including margaritas if you’re having that kind of day). I ordered the chicken fajitas ($13.99) which came with a huge portion of chicken breast topped with grilled onions, bell peppers, and jalapeño, and it was served with rice, refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and flour tortillas.
The fajitas came out sizzling hot. This was a ton of food, and I had leftovers. I loved the flavorful, thinly sliced chicken topped with just a bit of cheese, and there was a lot of grilled veggies, too. The sides were great, and the tortillas held all of the filling in. There aren’t too many tables at Huaraches, but there probably aren’t too many of us trying to eat a full meal at 10 in the morning. You can also order food to go here.
805 Philo Rd
T-Th 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mindy’s Chocolate Bar | NuEra
Lastly, I want to offer up something relaxing. If you have heard of edibles and not yet tried them, it might be because people only seem to share the insane stories of melting into the couch, but legal edibles are easy to dose, and this chocolate bar is delicious to eat. This chocolate bar is 100 mg, but it is pre-cut into 10 bars that can be separated. If you eat just one bar (10 mg), you may feel it if you are new to consuming THC. I like Mindy’s brand because they make edibles that actually taste great. The artisan chocolate was milky and creamy, and the brittle was crunchy and sweet. I couldn’t taste any cannabis; my taste buds were delighted. This chocolate and peanut brittle bar gave a chill that lasted for about three hours.
Obviously, you can’t take your children into the dispensary, so save this errand for when they’re in school. NuEra is requiring masks for all patrons, regardless of vaccination status. If chocolate isn’t your favorite, check out my reviews of edibles in this list and this other list. You can also ask the friendly staff to recommend a product that suits you. Place your order in advance or order in store at the kiosk. Enjoy responsibly at home. The best time to consume edibles is when you won’t be driving anywhere. For parents out there, I suggest breaking off a few bars of this chocolate when everyone is home for the day as an appetizer to keep you calm through dinner and bedtime shenanigans.
102 Green St
Su noon to 7 p.m.
M+T noon to 10 p.m.
W-Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.