Smile Politely

Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: December 2021

Happy December, food and drink readers. This December feels more festive, more joyous than 2020’s December. Huzzah, fa-la-la, and deck the halls. I’m here for the holiday spirit, twinkly lights on winter nights, and the warm, comforting foods and drinks of the season.

This December, the foods we need are ones that bring glad tidings. We need sizzling fajitas and melty cheeseburgers. We need holiday lattes, sweet crêpes, and stout beer. And so, we shall have it. This month, I’m recommending you try an egg nog latte, chicken fajitas, tiramisu crêpe, local beer, and a solid burger you can get (with fries!) for only six bucks.

On a brown table, there is a pink paper coffee cup with the name of the shop BakeLab in black below a pink heart. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Egg Nog Latte | BakeLab

‘Tis the season for holiday drinks. To me, running errands around town is more fun with a latte. Last month, I was all about caramel and pumpkin flavors, but I have moved on. I stan for egg nog in December. I really love egg nog, and I hope you do, too. If you don’t like egg nog, I am sorry. This latte was very egg nog-esque.

BakeLab’s winter special latte was like nog spiked with coffee: a mostly sweet, creamy drink with a faint coffee flavor. The nutmeg sprinkle on the foam made each sip taste like Christmas. The main flavor of this drink was egg nog, so if you like nog, this is our latte of December. BakeLab’s latte came only in a to-go cup which makes it clutch for running errands. There was a small variety of pastries in a glass case at the BakeLab plus a great coffee menu. Xiaohui recently reviewed the pastries and coffee at BakeLab if you want to learn more about the Urbana bakery.

410 N Lincoln Ave
T-Su 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On a retro table, there is a fajita skillet with chicken, onions, tomato, and cilantro on top. There is steam coming off the top. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Chicken Fajitas | Fiesta Cafe

I could hear my fajitas coming as they sizzled on the way to my table. The chicken fajitas ($14.95) at Fiesta Cafe on First Street were top notch. I like to order these on a chilly day because it warms me right up. Served with four tortillas (choice of flour or corn) plus a side of rice and beans, the chicken fajitas come blisteringly hot in a searing skillet with soft grilled onions, peppers, tomato wedges, and topped cilantro. With so much food in one serving, these fajitas will fill even the hungriest diner up. The chicken in Fiesta’s fajitas was cut into bite-sized pieces, not strips, which made for easy taco assembly and even easier eating. The rice and beans at Fiesta were both really tasty, and I loved when I got a little piece of potato in a bite of rice.

Fiesta has a few kinds of fajitas on the menu: chicken, shrimp, steak, combination, and vegetarian. The vegetarian fajitas include a lot of veggies: grilled zucchini, red peppers, yellow squash, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and an option to add mushrooms and cheese. There is ample seating at Fiesta if you are taking a group or want to be spaced from other diners; there are two dining rooms in addition to outside patio seating with overhead heating.

Fiesta Cafe
216 S First Street
11 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily

On a wooden table, there is a white plate with a tiramisu crepe on it. The crepe has whipped cream topping at the top of the triangle, a dollop of espresso whipped cream in the middle, and a dusting of cocoa powder all over. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Tiramisu Crêpe | Pekara Bakery & Bistro

The new owners of Pekara Bakery & Bistro on Springfield have brought back old favorites including Pekara’s crêpes. When I heard the crêpes news, I had to get one. I ordered this tiramisu crêpe ($8.95). The crêpe was a thin, soft crêpe — and honestly, a perfect crêpe, so delicious. The coffee flavor was subtle in the espresso-mascarpone whipped cream, and the cocoa powder dusting brought a yummy mocha flavor. There was plenty of the whipped cream to get some on every bite. This crêpe really did taste like tiramisu, and if you’re a fan of coffee desserts or a fan of sweet crêpes in general, you need to get try this tiramisu crêpe at Pekara. There are other crêpes on the menu, too, including the Monte Cristo, roasted veggie, berries and cream, sweet strawberry, and French lemon.

You can order online, but I recommend taking the time to enjoy a crêpe at the bistro. Make time to sit at a seat by the window and enjoy a hygge December morning in the little neighborhood bistro, just you and your crêpe. 

Pekara Bakery & Bistro
811 W Springfield Ave
W-Su 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On a bar, there is a single glass of stout beer filled to the near top with a dark brown head of foam at the top to the rim. A bartender is turned away pouring another draft beer from one of the many silver taps. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

52.5Hz Stout Beer | Triptych

Okay, so a cold beer won’t warm you up temperature-wise, but it might give you a little holiday spirit. I like to drink stouts in the winter. 52.5Hz is a bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout conditioned on vanilla beans and pistachio. When I drank the stout, it began super smooth and ended with a bit of a beer taste. It was a very sweet drink, like a dessert beer. I definitely tasted both the stout and a sweet malt flavor, and I enjoyed the heaviness. It’s a high gravity beer at 16.5%, so you will definitely feel festive when drinking — or perhaps want to share this drink. I had it on tap at the brewery, but 52.5Hz is now only available in limited amounts by the can. A four-pack is $26.99, and single cans are $7 each. 

If you will be drinking beer this December, try a local brew. Triptych Brewing won an award in the 2021 Great American Beer Festival for their flagship brew Dank Meme. The brewing company brews more than just this great stout. They make a variety of great beers like a double IPA called Indistinguishable from Magic and a European-inspired lager called Pretty Nice Little Saturday. Triptych has indoor seating, patio seating, and a variety of games at the brewing company if you don’t want to just pick up curbside.

Triptych Brewing
1703 Woodfield Dr
M-W 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Th 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa noon to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

On a brown table, there is a beige plate with fries beside a cheeseburger with melty American cheese and a long pickle sticking out from under the patties. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Cheeseburger | VFW #630

The VFW #630 on Main Street in Urbana is a club for local veterans. The place is open to the public, and there is a bar with electronic games, a heated outdoor area, and a restaurant in the back. The restaurant serves food cooked by masterful chefs Zachary Bronson and Katrina Downes who worked together at Radio Maria. The menu is small, but the cheeseburger is at the top of the menu for a reason. This cheeseburger ($6) has double smashburgers grilled to juicy perfection with melted cheese atop each patty. The bun is soft but sturdy enough to hold the cheeseburger together. The onion and pickles gave the burg a good crunch. The fries were fantastic, hot, and crispy. It was a big burger and so many fries that I couldn’t finish — all for $6, cash.

This restaurant doesn’t have fancy chairs or laminated menus, but the VFW #630 does have framed photos of veterans, plaques of military awards, and walls of interesting things to read. I really enjoyed my lunch and wandering around the place to read everything on the walls. There are many free parking spots available, too. Don’t forget your cash (no cards accepted), and bring your appetite. 

VFW #630
1303 E Main St
T 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.
W-Th 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor

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