Life is too short for mediocre food; I want to love what I’m eating and drinking. Thankfully, C-U is a foodie town, and there seems to be no end to delicious food and drinks.
From a sandwich special at Baldarotta’s to donuts from a Neil Street shoppe, here are five food and drinks that I’ve enjoyed lately. This May, you should try a pastrami sandwich, drinks from a dive bar, food from a place that isn’t officially open yet, a coffee cocktail, and a half dozen donuts. There’s no theme like last month’s list of pretty foods and drinks. This month, the only thing all five recommendations have in common is that they’re freaking great.
Pastrami + Pepperonicini Melt | Baldarotta’s Porketta & Sicilian Sausage
This pastrami and pepperonicini melt sandwich ($15) is only available on Sundays at Baldarotta’s. Wrapped in parchment paper, the sandwich special has housemade pastrami, caramelized onions, baby Swiss cheese, spicy brown mustard, and pepperonicini on rye bread. Baldarotta’s regular menu items are always solid, and so it’s no surprise this sando was so good.
The sandwich’s pastrami was not thinly sliced but shockingly thick. The tender pastrami was packed inside rye bread, and the chunks of pastrami instantly pulled into smaller pieces that required almost no chewing — it was that tender. Soft rye absorbed the meaty flavors of the pastrami and the zip of mustard. The pickled peppers had a little spice, but the sandwich was not itself spicy. The melted baby Swiss had an impressive cheese pull, and the mild cheesy flavor blended well with the bread and pastrami. The edge bites of just cheesy bread were so tasty. With the creaminess from the baby Swiss, the tangy peppers and mustard supported the amazing flavors of the housemade pastrami. The sandwich was not messy or drippy to eat. Since it was wrapped in parchment paper, it’s ready to be eaten on the go and would make for a great sandwich on a picnic.
Baldarotta’s Porketta & Sicilian Sausage
300 S Broadway
T-F 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 4 p.m
Su noon to 3 p.m.
E’s Cold Brew Cocktail | Collective Pour
This cocktail was stellar. Made with Mr. Black coffee liqueur, white cocoa liqueur, oat milk, and whipped cream, E’s Cold Brew ($8) is the only coffee cocktail I want this summer. The drink was served over ice and had a mellow coffee taste that finished with a light sweetness from the liqueurs and whip. It tasted like a spiked iced latte, and it was perfect on a hot May day. The boozy drink was smooth, cold, and caffeinated. Made with Mr. Black, the most caffeinated cold brew liqueur with ten times the caff than Kahlúa, this cocktail would make a good pick-me-up if you need a little caffeine. I loved the whipped cream topping and brown sugar sprinkle. The brown sugar added a gritty crunch to the soft whip and a super sweet flavor to the drink. The cocktail can be made dairy-free as well.
The bartenders at CP are fantastic, and the E in this drink’s name stands for Elijah, the bar’s creative cocktail master, who recently mixed up a boozy soft serve called peanut butter banana pie that had vanilla wafers and housemade caramel drizzle. Collective Pour is an awesome place to go for chill vibes and good ambience. There’s no food offered at the bar, but you can order something from the Weird Meat Boyz Kitchen via QR code Thursday through Saturday nights. Pick up the food at the shelf for to go beer and cocktail orders. The Downtown Champaign bar also offers trivia on Tuesdays, tasting events with super expensive whiskey, beer to go, and stand up comedy occasionally.
340 N Neil St
M-Th 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
F 3 p.m. to midnight
Sa 1 p.m. midnight
Su 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Drinks and Takeout | Rose Bowl Tavern
Patio season is upon us, and this summer find me outside under the tent at Rose Bowl Tavern. Sometimes bar food is hit or miss, but at the Rose Bowl, (besides the free popcorn and packaged candy bars) there’s no food served at the bar, so outside food is welcome. The location is close to many delicious restaurants in downtown Urbana, so there’s plenty of good options for ordering food. I had a date under the big white tent with drinks from the bar and takeout from Masjita Grill (to go stone bowl bibimbap is amazing).
Bringing in food is allowed, but outside drinks are not; it is a bar, so the Rose Bowl has lots of options for thirsty people. Buy drinks at the bar inside and take them outside to enjoy under the tent. Make sure to tell the bartender you’re headed outside, so the drinks are served in plastic cups instead of glass. My go to is a Jameson and ginger, and my date always goes for something on draft. The Rose Bowl has great beers on tap including some C-U brews like Triptych’s Dank Meme and Riggs Hefeweizen. The bar is stocked for mixed drinks and non-alcoholic options, and the house special is a watermelon shot. Go for the awesome views of downtown Urbana, and stay for the live music playing seven days a week. Make sure you’re following Music Editor Sean’s weekly column with recommendations of C-U shows including which acts to catch at the Rose Bowl Tavern.
Rose Bowl Tavern
106 N Race St
4 p.m. to 2 a.m., daily
Burger and Pulled Pork Sandwich | Sooie Bros. Bar B Que Joint
This takeout spread was from the newest barbecue restaurant in town called Sooie Bros. Bar B Que Joint. This burger ($8.99) had one beef patty with cheese ($1 extra) on a soft bun and lettuce, white onion, and a slice of tomato on the side. The flavor of the burger was really delish. The meat was well seasoned with marinated flavors and a light glaze of sauce. The sweet barbecue flavor hit with the great grilled taste from the charred beef. The burger was served with fries.
The pulled pork sandwich and fries ($6.99) was super. The texture of the pulled pork was different than other pulled porks in town; the pork was pulled to teeny tiny strings that almost had the texture of ground pork. The sandwich was served on the same soft bun as the burger, and it had a great barbecue sauce. The sauce had no heat, just a mildly sweet and savory sauce, and the pulled pork on the sandwich was tossed in that tasty sauce. The sides were pretty good, and the delicious dense brick of cornbread ($2) was my favorite. The barbecue joint is not officially open yet, and the restaurant as been tweaking the menu and hours, so prices and hours are subject to change. Follow Sooie Bros Bar B Que Joint on Facebook for updates on the menu and restaurant. The restaurant is takeout only, and inside, there’s a nice waiting area with chairs.
Sooie Bros. Bar B Que Joint
1201 N Market Ave
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su noon to 6 p.m.
Half Dozen Assorted Donuts | Ye Olde Donut Shoppe
Ye Olde Donut Shoppe recently collaborated with Smith Burger Co for a special burger on 4/20 using my absolute favorite donut from the shoppe as the bun: the glazed donut. If you’ve been reading SP Food + Drink for the last two years, you know I am not a basic betch. I love all kinds of fun specialty donuts, but I stan for this glazed donut. It’s my favorite because of how airy and yeasty the middle is and how crackly the glaze is. I hate a soft, soaked glaze, and this delivered the rippled and cracked glaze that I need on my glazed donut.
The donut shoppe has been serving donuts to C-U since 1956, and there are lots of donuts on the menu. This half dozen is my family’s go to order on a Saturday morning: three glazed (it’s that good), always a chocolate frosted for my son, and then two of whatever donut sounds good that day. On this donut run, we had a walnut-topped donut and the special long john. You really cannot go wrong with any of the donuts at Ye Olde — especially because the shoppe has a drive through. That’s the best part: not having to get dressed. I like to drive over in my pajamas and slippers, order in the drive through, and come home with donuts without ever having to get dressed, put on shoes, or walk into a store. You can put in a pre-order online, but I like to just go to the shoppe and order in person based on what’s available.
Ye Olde Donut Shoppe
1401 S Neil St
6 a.m. to 1 p.m., daily