Smile Politely

Last chance for near-campus cravings

The newest crop of students arrives tomorrow, fresh-faced and ready to start their lives. After a summer of relative quiet — and a local population dip of 30,000 or so — it can often be an adjustment when the University of Illinois begins the fall semester. As I lament the passing of yet another summer, I warmly welcome these young people and their energy to our community. They bring new and creative ideas, and boost our local economy. 

Though I gripe about the aloof pedestrians and entitled bikers, there is a lovely burst of sanguinity that permeates the area. Yes, this freshness is often mixed with the aroma of stale beer and vomit, but I’ll take it. The bright-eyed optimism that thousands of 18 year olds bring to our town is contagious (just like pink eye, strep throat, and mononucleosis). There is something to be said about all of this energy: get your last taste of some of C-U’s most coveted spots before they take over these affordable dining options. I’ve put together a short list of places you should consider visiting in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Anywhere on Green Street: Does this really need an explanation? Check out Bombay Indian Grill on Green and 4th for a flavorful experience. They have lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it’s definitely enough food to get you through the afternoon. If you’re looking for a quick sandwich, I’m partial to Penn Station Subs. Or, if you desire something in between those two, visit Jerusalem Restaurant for a taste of the Middle East. They have a number of meal-deals between five and eight dollars. The interior is relatively small, with about 17 tables, most of which seat only two people. The décor is minimal; it’s not exactly inviting you to sit and linger. The variety of customers also happens to make for good people watching, which is good entertainment as you wait for several long minutes for your food to be prepared. Most recently I had a falafil sandwich, and not only was it very generously stuffed with the falafil and the Jerusalem salad, but it was also hot and moist – the way good falafil should be.

There are also a few places on Green Street to pick up a sweet finish, including Cocomero and Cold Stone Creamery. Of course, I would be amiss if I did not also mention two Green Street favorites: Maize and Papa Del’s pizza. I think I’ve said enough about Maize for the moment; that line is always long, but it moves very quickly. With the new location set to open very, very soon, Maize will become more easily accessible.

Papa Del’s arguably serves some of the best pizza in town. You must fully commit to Papa Del’s — there is no ordering of a “thin” crust pizza. Don’t waste your time on it — it’s original pan or super stuffed only. You can sit and eat at the Green Street location, which I suggest. Be prepared for the long wait. Those deep-dish pizzas take some time to cook, but the steaming hot, melty cheese is well worth it.

Jerusalem Restaurant is open Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday noon to 7:30 p.m. Find them at 601 S. Wright St., Champaign.

Papa Del’s is open Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
206 E Green St., Champaign. There is free parking behind the building.

Caffe Paradiso: This lovely coffee shop also serves up lemonade, bagels, scones, pasta salads, sandwiches, and desserts. (Check out this chocolate mousse cake!) It’s a fairly large place, and its limited parking and campus location make it a prime spot for students writing, cramming, and otherwise engaging in academic activities. The décor is quirky and homey, but not crusty, old, or drab, and despite a plethora of hard wooden chairs, most folks set up shop and park it for several hours. While there are always the ambitious undergrads, graduates, and UIUC professionals taking up some of the seats, there are likely to be plenty of spots available in the next few days for lunch or the late afternoon pick-me-up.

Caffe Paradiso’s summer hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., regular hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.. Find them at 801 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana (corner of Lincoln and Nevada). 

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House: Ah, Black Dog. It’s the number two spot for the best BBQ in the States, according to Fox News. I’m nearly certain that this will be the first and last time I promote anything remotely related to Fox News; it’s that serious. The burnt ends, if you can get them, are great. Perhaps you’d like to try them for lunch, as they’re usually gone by dinner. Vegetarian readers, don’t fret, you too can partake in the smoky wonder that is Black Dog, as they now offer a smoked falafel sandwich in addition to their Portobello mushroom sandwich and grilled cheese. The cornbread, pit beans, and potato casserole are not exactly vegetarian, but the French fries, sweet potato fries, and slaw are. Wednesday’s specials are the Cuban sandwich, Cuban black beans and rice, smoked turkey club, and smoked beef ribs (dinner only). Thursday’s specials are the burrito (lunch only), smoked turkey club, smoked duck platter (dinner only), and the smoked beef ribs (also dinner only). There should be plenty of parking in the lot just north of the building. They’ll only sit your party if everyone is there, so plan accordingly.

Black Dog is open Monday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. Find them at 201 N. Broadway, Urbana.

Jarling’s Custard Cup: As you may already know, Jarling’s may not be my favorite place for frozen dessert, but it’s worth stopping by for a sweet snack before the students walk over to Jarling’s in hungry zombie-student hordes and take up the tables. With the weather as comfortable as one could ask for in August, there’s nothing quite like a sitting outside and having a little ice milk on a lovely evening. It’s an essential Champaign thing to do. I recommend the snowstorm – there’s no excuse for not being able to find some candy/fruit/ice milk combo you like. This week’s flavor is coconut, and all sizes of old fashioned sodas are 50 cents off.

Jarling’s is open Monday through Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Find them at 309 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign.

The traffic of motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians will be mostly unbearable in just a few hours, so pay your visits to these spots now, or you might want to curb your cravings until Thanksgiving.

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