Smile Politely

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

The new year has arrived, and I am ready for all that it has in store. At this point in the pandemic, our C-U restaurants are killing the carryout game with easy ordering and food that maintains its quality even with a drive home. 

Looking for a good start to the new year? I got you. This list what you need to try this month to rock the start of your 2021. This month, I’m sharing two awesome appetizers, a fun cocktail, a hangover cure, and a dessert. 

If holiday spending caught up with you and you’re budget conscious this month, do not fret. Everything on this list is less than $10. 

A small white plate has a large portion of fried broccoli with a crispy, light brown batter and dark green broccoli poking through in some parts. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Fried Broccoli | Esquire Lounge

You might have made a resolution to eat more veggies this year, and even if you didn’t, these fried broccoli bites ($5.50) are something you should try. Back in the Before Times, this was one of my favorite things to order on a night out in Downtown Champaign. In the now of the pandemic, I am pleased to report that they tasted just as delicious in the carryout version. 

The battered broccoli was still crispy and warm when I got home. The batter around the broccoli bites was thick and fried to golden brown. It was a really big portion as well for only $5.50. Served with a side of ranch dressing, these were so yummy. Fried broccoli probably isn’t super great for you, but it is broccoli, so maybe it’s still healthier than fries. The ordering process is easy; call 217-398-5858 with what you’d like to order, and then pay at pickup. Also, Esquire is now offering delivery to some areas of C-U with Esquire staff drivers.

Esquire Lounge
106 N Walnut
11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily

An overhead shot of NAYA's hangover burger which features a sunny side up egg on a burger with a soft bun top beside it. Next to the burger is a side of onion rings in a red-and-white checkered paper underneath. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Hangover Burger | NAYA

The hangover burger ($9.50) comes with a sunny side up egg, maple syrup, bacon, jalapeño, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, American cheese, and a side of fries included in the price. I subbed onion rings for fries for $2.50.

Have you ever seen a perfect sunny-side up egg to go? I have not before this burger from NAYA; I’ve ordered a lot of eggs for carryout (some on burgers), but never have I opened my takeout box to find such a beautiful looking egg on my burger. The rest of the burger was just as good: meaty, well-seasoned patties, crispy bacon slices, sticky syrup, melted cheese, and a little heat from the jalapeño peppers. The syrup and bacon plus the egg: all of it together gave serious brunch vibes. This is a messy, marvelous burger that deserves a try this year.

This burger could cure the gnarliest of hangovers, especially if your head is still hurting from all of the WORST of 2020.

212 E Green St
M-Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 9:30 p.m.

A mason jar filled with a brown cocktail from Punch sits on a marble counter next to a square, plastic container holding a custom ice cube. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Keep Calm and Curry On Cockail | Punch! Bar & Lounge

The Keep Calm and Curry On cocktail ($9) is made with Banhez Mezcal Joven, Apologue saffron liqueur, The Bitter Truth Golden Falernum, yellow curry, cardamamom, and lime. It came with a special pineapple-ginger ice cube; how freaking awesome is that?

A cocktail glass sits on a marble counter. The cocktail is brown in color with a light yellow cube of ice. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The drink tasted like curry, but the cocktail itself was sweet, not savory. It had a sugary taste at the beginning of the sip, but then the curry spice takes over for a crazy flavor ride. As the ice cube melted, the drink slowly became more fruity and gingery. I quite enjoyed the novelty of having a takeout ice cube in its own takeout container. This cocktail would be wonderful paired with some curry, but I had it on a Friday evening — and it was bold enough to be enjoyable alone. 

Punch! has a collection of craft cocktails always on the menu, and there’s a special section of season cocktails which they rotate. The Keep Calm and Curry On cocktail is part of the new winter menu. You can put your carryout cocktail order in here.

Punch! Bar & Lounge
217 N Neil St
T-Sa 4 to 10 p.m.

Six long, skinny breadsticks from Po' Boys sit on a white plate on a black table. Behind the plate of breadsticks is a small, plastic cup of garlic butter. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Breadsticks | Po’ Boys

These breadsticks ($7) were insanely amazing. I know, I know. Po’ Boys has been a C-U staple for 60 years and is famous for their barbecue. Their pizza is great, too, but I need to tell you about these breadsticks.

I don’t even understand how they can be this incredible. Six long, skinny sticks of bread were straight covered with a salty, garlicky parmesan crumble. Po’ Boys provided a cup of herby, melted garlic butter that we dipped the breadsticks in, and let me tell you: this flavor, it’s brilliant. This thick, buttery, heart-stopping dip was just what the garlicky breadsticks didn’t need, but it elevated them to the next level. These breadsticks are a must try next time you’re at Po’ Boys. 

Po’ Boys
202 E University
W-Su 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A thinly sliced brownie bread sits in a white paper. The top of the brownie is covered in nuts and a hardened chocolate drizzle. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Miso Brownie | Suzu’s Bakery

This brownie ($4) is chocolate perfection. Suzu’s miso brownie offers this dense, fudgy brownie that was chocolatey and sweet (but not too sweet). The miso does not have a dominant taste; the brownie tasted unusually decadant with a restrained sweetness. Sliced tall, you can choose if you’d like the brownie topped with walnuts and almonds or just chocolate. I chose the nuts which added a nice crunch and nuttiness to the chewy brownie. 

The brownie had a chocolate glaze that dripped down and hardened like Magic Shell. The chocolate drizzle was much sweeter than the brownie itself — which really showed off Suzu’s baking range. It’s a pretty big slice, so it made a great shareable treat, and at only $4, it’s a pretty affordable dessert that you need in your 2021.

Suzu’s Bakery’s online order is easy, and you can place your order here. There are curbside parking spots in front, so you can park, run in and grab your order, and be on your way.

Suzu’s Bakery
114 N Walnut
W-Sa 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor

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