Smile Politely

Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: June 2017

Hello, June! The farmers’ markets are well underway, CSAs have started their produce pickups/deliveries, and we are all presumably eating more fruits and veggies. Evening patio drinking is finally comfortable, and you might even enjoy walking to and from Downtown Champaign/Urbana. Campus is quieter, freeing up valuable parking and driving space to check out Green Street eateries.

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Farm to Table Dinner | Red Herring 

The Red Herring is a mainstay in our local plant-based-diet dining scene — all of the food prepared at the restaurant is vegan. During the summertime, Red Herring swaps its Wednesday night fusion dinners for farm-to-table meals featuring local, in-season produce. Dishes are $9, and dinner is served from 5 to 8 p.m.

Today, June 7th, the menu features a lentil beet burger topped with sautéed mushrooms and basil mayo, served on a homemade flax bun (gluten free available), with sides of smoky organic pit beans, zesty coleslaw, and braised local greens. Desserts are carrot cake and/or sunflower chocolate bars.

These meals are a wonderful way to dine out on the cheap, enjoy local produce, and stick to your healthy summer eating plan.

The Red Herring is located at 1209 West Oregon Street, Urbana. Farm to Table dinners are Wednesday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. For weekly menus, follow The Red Herring on Facebook. Photo from Facebook.

Crawfish | Crane Alley

Crane Alley’s 9th Annual Crawfish Boil is Sunday, June 25th. This annual event is a popular one, and it is recommended that you purchase your tickets to this all-you-can-eat affair soon. Crane Alley gets an overnight shipment of Louisiana crawfish, and the restaurant cooks ‘em up with some corn and sausage and potatoes and aromatics, serves it all in one dish with plenty of napkins on the side. Half Acre beer will be on tap (in the form of a tap takeover), and there will likely be additional drink specials. The event is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but I recommend arriving early, as food has sold out in the past. The Half Acre beer truck will be available until 9 p.m.

Tickets are $23 in advance, and $28 at the door, but get them early, as there might not be any left at the door.

Crane Alley is located at 115 West Main Street, Urbana. More info about the Crawfish Boil is available on the event’s Facebook page. Photo by Rebecca Wells.

Drinks | Sipyard 

In good weather, there is nothing nicer than meeting friends at some bar patio for a drink. Urbana’s Sipyard is arguably among the best in C-U for these purposes; the atmosphere is quite hip. The beer garden is open seven days a week, and there are mug club specials on Sunday and Monday. Grab food from one of Downtown Urbana’s restaurants and you can enjoy some food and brews and company in a very chill, very artsy-fartsy setting. Who doesn’t want to drink some beers while sitting in and among refurbished shipping containers?

Sipyard is located at 204 West Main Street, Urbana, and open Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday 4:30 to 11 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to midnight; and Saturday, 3 p.m. to midnight. For more info, including special events and musical performances, check out the beer garden’s Facebook page. Photo from Facebook.

French Toast Bites | Cracked on Green Street

Earlier this year the Cracked Food Truck opened up a permanent restaurant space at 619 East Green Street, Champaign. The restaurant is a fast-casual iteration of the two food trucks, with the same menus, minus the Underdog, plus some fun grilled cheeses. The hubby and I recently stopped by the restaurant for an impromptu dinner, and we were not disappointed. In addition to our sandwiches, we ordered the French toast bites ($3 small/$4 large). I usually order tots (which are fantastic), so I’ve never had these little sweet morsels before. They were delicious: Perfectly fried and dusted with cinnamon and sugar, they didn’t even need the syrup they were served with. I’m disappointed in myself for not having these littles sooner. They’ll definitely be on my regular Cracked order from now on.

Cracked on Green is located at 619 East Green Street, Champaign, and open Monday though Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Jerk Chicken Burritos | Caribbean Grill

In case you’ve been under a rock or out of the country, allow me to remind you that Caribbean Grill has opened its restaurant space at 2135 South Neil Street, Champaign, in the plaza known (to whom, I’m not sure) as the Shoppes of Knollwood — you know, the plaza with Biaggi’s and Le Peep.

Caribbean Grill is the second in the wave of food trucks that have opened up a permanent location, and it’s great. I’ve been a few more times than I’d like to admit publically, so suffice to say I recommend this new restaurant with confidence. (Note: the food truck will continue to be up and running, parking mostly in the Campustown area. Check Facebook for its location and schedule.)

The new restaurant space allows for a rotating daily special schedule, and Tuesdays are some iteration of tacos, burritos, and the like. I implore you to get the jerk chicken burrito.  Check the Facebook page for the specifics of when it’s on special.

The jerk chicken burrito is a fusion food made in the heavens. It’s incredibly delicious. The chicken was tender and full of flavor, and spicy, too. The rice and peas were perfectly cooked, and the cheese helps cool down the heat. At $7, it’s a very generous portion, and certainly enough food to get you through the day, though I’d warn you that it might also put you right into a food coma. I also recommend ordering a side of fried plantains; not only are they super delicious, but their sweetness also helps counterbalance the spicy wrap.

Caribbean Grill is located at 2135 South Neil Street, Champaign, and open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more info, check out the restaurant’s Facebook page. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

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