Smile Politely

Mike ‘N Molly’s hosts Carnivàle Debauche

Turning North onto Market Street, heading toward Mike ‘N Molly’s, the hidden gem of downtown Champaign, I am greeted by the familiar green exterior and the wrought-iron of the patio gate. The old brick buildings that surround on the narrow street instill nostalgia of a simpler time, and the rustic interior of MnM’s continues this deception.

Photo from Mike ‘N Molly’s Facebook page.

Inside, the eye is drawn to the scotch and whiskey bottles shimmering in the light, and the chalkboard menus which are constantly updated with the ten regularly rotated draft handles, scotch, whiskey and rye selections. This is a bar for those who enjoy traditional libations without a mixer and at every price-point.

Lately, I have found the Edel-Weiss Hefeweizen on tap to be my new favorite. Its light, crispy flavor makes for wonderful drinking on the ivy-covered beer garden, but a knowledgeable patron, Tom, introduced me to Jan de Lichte, a Witbier — also very good, but lighter in flavor and texture than the Edel-Weiss.

At Mike ‘N Molly’s, patrons are knowledgeable about their selections and as the talk around the barrier would suggest — that’s the culture maintained by MnM manager Jim Creason, a seasoned home brewer and beer aficionado. While PBR and Hamm’s can be found on special, the real treats are the beers you’re not going to see at a lot of places, which are carefully selected for those who patron MnM’s looking for the rare and delicious. 

The beer and rye culture are not the only reasons to visit Mike ‘N Molly’s, with its intimate upstairs that frequently features live music and large, secluded beer garden. Mike ‘N Molly’s is reminiscent of a big city neighborhood bar — one Rosie Schapp might write about. And while some pubs gets a little prickly about patrons bringing in food, MnM’s welcomes the idea since they don’t have a kitchen themselves. This gesture may be entrenched in practicality, but makes me feel as though MnM’s encourages being neighborly with their fellow downtown businesses. 

This past Saturday, Mike ‘N Molly’s hosted Carnivàle Debauche. Previously a burlesque troupe, this group of talented and entertaining performers have taken on new talent to create a true carnival experience. Masking their scandalous performance by draping tarps over the wrought-iron, the Carnivàle maximized its space by offering two shows for the evening.

After Classy Combinations — a local troupe of belly-dancers — opened for them, Carnivàle Debauche quickly commandeered the audience’s attention with their enthusiastic MC, Billy Boudoir.

In the past, the Carnivàle played predominately to the burlesque element of the troupe, but this year they really developed a balanced and entertaining show — something I would be willing to take my mother to (oh wait, I did!). This year, in addition to the infamous Bettie Leigh and Drusilla Delacroix, we also were graced with Willi the “boy-lesque,” a male performer who’s sense of humor is a bit on the naughty side. Let’s just say, I didn’t know they made striped stockings in a 32Long. And Norm Andie the … well, he seemed to take on many forms, but whether it’s eating fire or showing off his “strong-man moxy,” his silent stature spoke volumes.

A newer addition, Jeto Gingersnaps, captivated the audience with her poi, mesmerizing us with the spinning lights and energetic music and brought much of the audience to their feet clapping in rhythm and cheering her finesse of the strings. 

In addition to Carnivàle Debauche, Mike ‘N Molly’s beer garden has also been graced with the likes of Parkland Big Band and various C-U DJs who effectively took on the secluded space and transformed it into the ambiance of their desire. 

While the tattooed bouncer may give this hidden-gem an air of rough-n-tumble, the menu and welcoming atmosphere of the staff and patrons make Mike ‘N Molly’s a wonderful place to impress the out-of-towners, or just relax after work, sip a beer and watch the ivy ripple in the wind.

[gallery carnivale_debauche_slideshow]


Mike ‘N Molly’s
105 N. Market Street
Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 355-1236

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