Smile Politely

Date Lab: Open market

Summer is upon us and that invites a wealth of Instagram posts of bonfires, beach days, and fancy cocktails that were staged specifically to acquire likes. It’s also a time for new adventures and new dates! We explored Urbana’s Market at the Square (Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon), located just behind Lincoln Square in Downtown Urbana, which turned out to be a prime spot for Instagram pictures. Jon and Tyler accompanied me this time, so I guess group dates are a thing now.

Our first stop was Pandamonium Doughnuts. These are my all time favorite doughnuts; having lived in several big cities prior to C-U, nothing quite measures up. We ordered two Cookies & Cream doughnuts (the filling is to die for, literally, I could eat it by the spoonful), a Raspberry Rose (delicate and elegant – I felt more like I was at a high tea than walking around the farmer’s market. Also, it had a pretty frosting design – great for Instagram likes) and a Blueberry Lemon (tart and perfect to offset the richness of the Cookies & Cream). Though all three of these doughnuts are yeast (fluffy) doughnuts, I’m a huge fan of the cake doughnuts too. They were sold out by the time we got there and they is absolutely worth getting up early for. Each doughnut will run you between $2 to $3.75, but are worth every cent. Pandamonium offers a huge variety of unique flavor profiles and every day boasts different varieties. You’ll never be bored, and what’s more romantic than sharing doughnuts?

Jon recommended the Cracked Truck, a fixture in the C-U area that I only knew by my friends’ drunk food requests. We grabbed Parmesan Truffle Tots ($3.50), a Sloppy Jose Sandwich ($7), and French Toast Bites ($5.50). Cracked proves to be an excellent choice regardless of your sobriety level. The Parmesan Truffle Tots were loaded with flavor, perfectly crispy, and Jon used the extra parmesan/truffle topping on his sandwich. The tots were a great, sharable option that left us all wanting more. Jon loved the Sloppy Jose, a perfectly sized chorizo, guacamole, fried egg and hash brown filled sandwich with homemade bacon onion jam. I highly recommended it for flavor, but not so much for date-appropriate breath: see the onion jam and chorizo. Tyler selected the French Toast Bites ($5.50) a soft, slightly sweet option that could have done with a bit more crunch, but did the job to complete a satisfying brunch. Cracked was absolutely worth the wait in line (about 10-15 minutes) and is best suited for couples who don’t care about the state of her or his partner’s breath.

After the heavy heart-attack inducing food from Cracked, we agreed on a popsicle from The Pop Stop, Inc. to finish our morning sampling around the Farmer’s Market. We chose a Watermelon Basil popsicle, which was refreshing without being too sweet for $2.50. The Pop Stop, Inc. is just a charming little cart wedged between other large stands, so be mindful not to skip over it. These popsicles are bright and fruity or creamy and perfect for the hot summer days to come. Also, for the record, I posted a picture of this treat on my instagram feed and accrued 31 ‘likes’ for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing.

Some of the most fun we had was eating while walking around the market. There are some incredible vendors selling everything from herbs to vegetables, fresh meats and flowers, to soaps and garden decorations. There is a wonderful sense of community here, and I could spend the whole morning browsing the aisles. Before we left, we wound up grabbing a $5 box of fresh strawberries (24 likes on IG) and took off before the rain came. It was a very successful date, and if you’re efficient, you can shop for your week’s groceries while seducing your significant other. Sounds like a win-win situation to me! 

All photos by Stephanie Svarz. 

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