Smile Politely

Date Night: Pizza and beer

Pizza and beer! The combination is as ubiquitous as bread and butter, peanut butter and jelly, tea and biscuits, bacon and eggs. Chambana has a lot of great pizza joints to choose from. We chose one crowd favorite in particular: Papa Del’s. On any given day, I’d much prefer a hand tossed or thin crust over deep dish but every once in a while it’s a nice treat to get the deep pan pizza from Papa Del’s. While they do offer thin crust as well, the deep dish is what they’re really known for. You can even have their pizzas made to order, frozen, and then shipped. (Christmas gift idea anyone?)

Over Thanksgiving weekend we took our parents to Riggs Beer Company for a tour and tasting (another great date night idea). We had been hearing many great things about the place and our first trip there did not disappoint. It was still fresh in our minds (and we already emptied our growler) so we thought what better place to have a chill date night. We decided we’d order carry out, bring a card game, and enjoy a few beers. A perfect Thursday night.

One thing to keep in mind when ordering deep dish pizza is the time it takes to prepare it. Papa Del’s website lists a 45 minute wait time but when I called it in they said it would be 50-60 minutes (online ordering available too). The timing worked out pretty well for my husband to pick it up on his way home from work. I ordered a small (9”) of the Original Sicilian Pan ($10.20 for cheese) and added sausage and mushrooms ($1.00 per topping; some, like the sausage, count as two toppings). I also ordered a loaf of mozzarella garlic bread ($3.25). It’s such a good price for the amount of bread you get. If you haven’t tried the fried garlic butter doughnuts, do so, but I chose to go with a cheaper option this time to save more money for beer. (Total: $21.30.)

With our goodies in hand we drove over to Riggs, located in Urbana. It was a little late in the evening, about 8 p.m., and we were pleasantly surprised to see how many people were there. It always makes for a fun atmosphere. All the tables were full so we had to saddle up at the bar, which is usually fine with us because it’s easier to get your drinks. Riggs hosts a fairly large tap room (seats 95), with long wooden tables for groups and cozy seating in the corners. From here you also have a great view of their brewing facilities. The tour we took the weekend before was great fun; I highly recommend it, and they have such a friendly and knowledgeable staff. You’ll find Matt and Darin Riggs behind the bar and/or bustling about tending to their brew house. You’ll be in good hands.

Riggs has a great website that includes information on events, closings, and food truck schedules. You’re also free to bring in your own meals, hence our Papa Del’s. Learn from me and remember to bring some napkins and silverware, especially if you order a deep dish pizza.

Luckily, since we ordered a small, the pieces held together pretty well. The dough was cooked perfectly all the way through and held up nicely when eating with our hands. Typically with deep dish pizzas I find that there’s usually too much of either the filling or crust. I’m like Barbara Streisand in The Mirror Has Two Faces: I require the perfect bite. This pizza was proportioned well, though. A delicious balance of tomato sauce and cheese, the mushrooms tasted fresh, and the sausage had a great mild, spicy flavor. The dough was soft and pillowey in the center with a slightly crisp bottom and the golden brown edges were pleasantly just as soft and chewy with a slight crunch. The cheesy garlic bread was great too. The only downside was since it was carry out they place the two sides of the loaf back together and wrap it in foil. It was more like a cheesy bread sandwich since the hot cheese melted it back together. But hey, it still tasted great. The bread was perfectly light and fluffy but a bit greasy. Just the right amount of mozzarella cheese and enough garlic to kill an adult vampire — it was delish.

We each had one slice (total of 4 with the small) and ate half of the garlic bread with every intention of filling up the rest of the way with beer. In the first round I had a glass of the American Lager ($4) and the hubby had the Red Lager ($5). The last time we were there we filled our growler with the Red Lager. It’s one of my favorites from their current menu (after all, we did get to taste all of them during the tasting after the tour). Its dark German malts combined with American hops. What’s cool about the American Lager is they use corn from their 5th generation family farm in the recipe. Both are delicious.

I’m a fan of everything on the menu except for the Hefeweizen. That style of beer just isn’t my bag, baby. The menu consists of four year-round beers and two seasonal beers. Check their board for upcoming seasonal releases and if you like their Facebook page you’ll also get notifications of the upcoming release dates. I believe the next release is a Schwarzbier on December 8th. Check it out!

By the time we were ready for round two we had our food boxed up and card game ready. Have you played Sushi Go!™ before? It’s such a fun and simple game to play — perfect for getting tipsy and not having to concentrate too hard. We brought this game from home, but Riggs also has their own stash of board games and hosts a game night (also on their Facebook page). In addition to having their own beers on tap they also serve a selection of non-alcoholic beverages, wines and cider (even gluten free beer), and coffees. I heard someone order a Radler so I ordered that for my second round. Its half American Lager and half citrus soda ($4). My husband ordered the India Pale Lager ($5). The Radler was light and refreshing, perfect for warmer months. The IPL came served in a tulip glass (all of which they sell by the way). The hops are really well balanced and make for a nice, drinkable beer.

I capped the night off with a mug of Glühwein (German mulled wine $4). While not made in house, it is really, really good. It’s served with a spekulatius cookie (German spiced cookie). It’s like a gingerbread cookie and when dunked in the mulled wine it was the perfect combination to end on. (Total: $22.00.)

Our grand total for the night was $43.30. Not bad, and it was such a fun night. We will definitely be doing this one again! Of course for a less expensive night you could certainly cut back on the number of beers…but where’s the fun in that? I encourage you to also take a peek at the gift packages Riggs is offering now as they would make for great Christmas gifts! The only bad thing about our night? We forgot our empty growler at home.


Papa Del’s is located at 1201 South Neil Street, Champaign and is open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight; and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Riggs Beer Company is located at 1901 South High Cross Road, Urbana and is open Thursday and Friday 3 to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 p.m.

Photos by Bobbie Bonebrake. 

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