Smile Politely

Pygmalion 2015: Your guide to feasting as you fest

The Pygmalion Festival kicked off yesterday, and some of the best events are yet to come. With the addition of the new TECH component to the festival, this year’s schedule is stacked. And with all that learning and listening and socializing, you’ll need some food fuel. For a quick list of places near to each day’s events, refer to the Food + Drink section of The Pygmalion Festival Guide

But if you have a few minutes and, like me, are very concerned about what and how and when you eat — especially while travelling — then you should take a read through my guide below. Fear not, food-conscious festival attendees: there is always a delicious bite just around the corner from each venue, and in some cases, in the venue. I know. It’s insane. I’ve noted these with the label venue. Like two-for-one shopping.

Disclaimer: this is neither an exhaustive list of all of the eating possibilities in Champaign-Urbana, nor is it a list of all of the festival sponsors (but there are some on the list). As Smile Politely’s Food + Drink editor, I’ve compiled a variety of places at varying price points featuring eats at high levels of deliciousness nearby the bulk of each day’s activities. Sometimes you just need a slice or an empanada. Sometimes you want to treat yourself to some delicious and tender lamb leg medallions dressed with a Tuscan basil sauce. You can have all of those things before, after, and sometimes during the MUSIC/MADE/LIT/TECH programs.

Check out the rest of Smile Politely’s Food + Drink section (restaurant and bar reviews, specifically) for a fuller picture of your options while you’re in town. Happy festing and feasting!

Thursday | Downtown Urbana

Cafeteria + Co. venue | 208 W Main Street | 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

This collective is actually two places: Flying Machine Coffee and Pizza M. If you’re in need of some caffeine, there are delicious coffee and tea options. There will probably be a handful of baked goods available at the counter. Pizza M opens at 11 a.m., and serves slices ($5, large, Sicilian-style, with thick crust) at lunch. There are often some non-pizza specials, but that depends on the day. Whole pizzas (about $15) are available at all times. If you eat meat, get the Sugar Bear. It’s an open seating situation, and the pizzas can take a while to come out, so give yourself a generous amount of time for ordering, waiting, and eating. 

Common Ground Food Co-op | Lincoln Square Mall [west side], 300 S Broadway Ave | 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. [deli until 7 p.m., salad bar until 8 p.m.]

Common Ground is a cooperatively owned grocery store. You’ll find a variety of organic produce, as well as tasty snacks and individual bottles of beverages. I might suggest picking up a baguette (from local bakery Pekara), some local cheese (Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese or Ludwig Farmstead Creamery), and maybe some cured meat or fresh fruit and have yourself a little picnic in the outdoor seating area. If that’s not your thing, there are soups and sandwiches (made to order, up to $7), pizzas ($7 for half, $14 for whole) as well as premade bites and baked goods. Hot beverages are available, too. 

Courier Café | 411 N Race Street | open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Courier Café is a low-key spot that serves everything from burgers, sandwiches, lasagna, and fish tacos; there’s something for everyone. Until 4 p.m. you can take advantage of the sweet salad bar — you pay for this separately (.32 per ounce). The dinner menu starts at 5 p.m. Figure on spending $10 – $15 per person, depending on what you order. Burgers are $5-$7, and the 10 ounce rib eye dinner is $15. Start with the Skinny Dippers ($6.25) because they are delicious. And do save room for dessert: the brownie special ($4.50) and the milkshakes ($4 or so) are not to be missed. There are plenty of vegetation options, and there’s a gluten-free menu (just ask for it). Courier Café staff are always happy to accommodate. 

Dancing Dog Eatery and Juicery | 126 W Main St | 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Dancing Dog is the only vegan restaurant in Downtown Urbana. The entire menu is vegan, so don’t be confused by any menu items or specials that indicate otherwise. That sausage is made with soy, friends. The restaurant offers more than just salad and beans, including quesadillas, nachos, tofu scrambles, burritos, spaghetti, and “hot dogs.” The desserts are really quite excellent because all you need to make dessert great is fat and sugar, which can be vegan. DD is also a juicery, and there are a variety of options, but at $6.95 for 12 ounces, the juices aren’t cheap. Meals will run you about $10 to $15 per person, depending on what and how much you order. Most items can be made wheat free — just ask your server.

photo by Maddie Rehayem

Silvercreek venue | 402 N Race St | lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m.–10 p.m.

If you’re looking to impress a date, or have some drinks and shrimp cocktail ($14) before your next event, look no further than the modern American fare at Silvercreek. Lunch is pretty reasonably priced (sandwiches and burgers, $9-$12), but dinner is a little more expensive. Dinner entrées start at $15 (pasta with veggies), with most hovering around the $22 mark. There are typically lunch and dinner specials. ‘Appy Hour is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Friday | Krannert Center District

The Bread Company | 706 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana | 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

Dinner at The Bread Company can easily turn into a very expensive affair, so tread carefully. The food is European, and you’ll find fondues and raclette ($13 and up) and the aforementioned delicious lamb leg medallions. Amazing. And while those things are all well and good, my favorite items at The Bread Company are the roasted garlic pizza ($12.50) and the lemon garlic greens (small, $5; large $7.50). I put the greens on top of the pizza. It’s amazing. The pizza and small greens are more than enough to feed two people, and—bonus—it’s an affordable dinner. This is an easy place to visit with diverse diners, as there are several vegetarian and a few vegan options. Daytime is much more casual, with sandwiches, soups, and salads all under $10. Service can be painfully slow, so give yourself plenty of time before your next program.

Intermezzo Café venue | Krannert Center for the Performing Arts 

Intermezzo is an unassuming café within the space of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The food is delicious, and totally affordable. You’ll be able to get your meal for under $7, and based on my experience, you’ll be satisfied.

Manolo’s | 1115 W Oregon St, Urbana | 11 a.m. to midnight 

So when you are in need of a slice of pizza or an empanada or two, Manolo’s is your spot. You’ll be able to eat on the cheap, and perhaps more importantly, eat on the go. There is virtually no seating, so eating on the go is pretty much your only option. Just walk across the street to the immense amount of stairs at Krannert Center, and you’ll be all set. 

The Red Herring venue | 1209 W Oregon St, Urbana | 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The Red Herring is a vegan restaurant on the campus of the University of Illinois. Enter through the basement to a very relaxed and welcoming space. Menu standards include salads and wraps, stews and soups, plus weekly specials. Most items are less that $7, making Red Herring is a healthy way to treat your body and your wallet. It’s only open until 2:30 p.m., though, so mark this down for lunch after Stephen Wolfram’s lecture (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). 

Saturday + Sunday | Downtown Champaign

bacaro venue | 113 N Walnut | 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., reservations recommended 

This is one of the best and classiest joints in town, so put on your fancy pants and bring your monies. Well, it’s not that fancy or expensive, but bacaro is a fine dining establishment. The fall tasting menu debuted earlier this week, so expect to find a new, seasonal menu with end of summer and early autumn flavors. Don’t skimp on dessert, either, because it’s delicious. Dinner will probably cost you about $50 per person (entrée with appetizer or dessert; pasta entrées start at $18, meat/fish entrées at $30), but it will be well worth it. Oh, and do check out the incredible selection of wine. Make your reservations here

Big Grove Tavern | 1 E Main St | open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., but full menu not available 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

This farm-to-table restaurant has just updated its menu to reflect fall flavors, and this almost always includes the seasonal cocktail menu. The cocktails are quite good (albeit a little pricey); BGT should be on your list of stops for drinks and sharable appetizers at some point this weekend. Brunch and lunch (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) will run you about $10 per person, while dinner entrées are between $12 and $28. Oh yeah, and you should check out the late night poutine with braised beef short ribs ($17, after 9 p.m.).

Black Dog | 320 N Chestnut St | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

This is the second location for the much beloved barbeque joint, and it literally opens for business yesterday, which means that service might be awkward as all of the kinks are worked out. The space was completely renovated and looks as good as the food tastes.

Farren’s | 309 N Randolph St | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Ask anyone around C-U about where you can find the best burger, and they’ll tell you Farren’s. This is pub food done well. The burgers are delicious (check out the green chile burger). Sub the house made chips or fries for the standard tricolor tortilla chips. With beer on tap and TVs behind the bar, it’s loud, and a little crazy, but the food is excellent. You’re likely to have to wait for a table, so if you can go early or on seemingly off hours, you’ll wait a little less. 

Food Trucks | HighDive Outdoor Annex, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. + The Made Fest, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

All of the food trucks you’ll encounter this weekend are excellent. Want breakfast food? Stop by The Cracked Truck. Wood fired pizza on the go? Dragon Fire Pizza’s where it’s at. Just need to cool off with a popsicle? The Pop Stop, Inc. has some interesting and classic flavored popsicles available for you. ROKs Tacos brings together Korean barbeque and tacos—but don’t sleep on the kimchi rice balls. Those things are amazing, or as some might say, “amaze-balls.” (You should probably punch those people. Or at least give them the evil eye.) Shady Dawgs will serve some of the best hot dogs you’ve ever had in your life. Save room for food from all of these trucks, because they are all nothing short of awesome. 

Merry Ann’s Diner | 1 E Main St or 1510 S Neil St, Champaign | open 24 hours 

Surely you’ll be drunk and hungry after Run the Jewels and Ride. Take yourself to Merry Ann’s and order an omelette, some fries, and a milkshake. You’ll feel much better in the morning, I promise. 

Miga | 301 N Neil St # 104 | Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Miga is a chic, slick Asian fusion restaurant, best for drinks and shared appetizers. The house salad is killer ($8), and the portion is generous. Entrées are $15 to $38, but appetizers and ramen are $4 to $18. The SP editorial crew recently reviewed the restaurant, and you can check that out here.

Pizzeria Antica | 10 E Chester St | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

This downtown Champaign newbie serves Neapolitan wood-fired pizza (about $15 per pizza), and it’s absolutely delicious. I’m partial to the Diavola. Stay away from the salads — they aren’t anything to rave about. The restaurant just started serving gelato, including flavors from local favorite Prairie Fruits Farm (which is made with goat’s milk). If you’re hungry, order your own pizza. If you’re just nibbling on a snack, share one.

Seven Saints | 32 E Chester St | 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Whiskey. Beer. Cocktails. Sliders. Seven Saints has those things for you. It also serves some of the best bar food in town, considering that it is not a chef-driven restaurant. There are fifteen different sliders and eleven different salads, plus appetizers, soup, and sandwiches. If you’re feeling indecisive, select the “S” combos (two or three, $10 or less) and get a taste of everything. At a place like Saints you might forget about dessert, but the sleeper sweet treat there is the brown sugar oatcake (prepared by The Cake Artist’s Studio).

Off the beaten path

Thursday + Friday

Caribbean Grill Food Truck | Thursday at the corner of Matthews + Green, Urbana; Friday at the corner of Neil + University in Champaign |11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This new food truck is celebrating its Grand Opening this week. Get there early, as the food is likely to sell out quickly.


Urbana’s Market at the Square | corner of Illinois + Vine, Urbana | Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon

We have a pretty great farmer’s market every Saturday morning. You should check it out.

All weekend

Golden Harbor | 505 S Neil St, Champaign | 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This might very well be the most delicious place in all of C-U. Really. Need more proof? Check out the restaurant’s Facebook page

Maize | 60 E Green St, Champaign | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

This teeny, tiny little Mexican joint always has a line out the door, but fear not—it moves quickly. And you can always call your order in ahead of pick up: (217) 355 -6400.

Triptych Brewing | 1703 Woodfield Dr, Savoy | Thursday + Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A relaxed and delicious local brewery, with nine brews currently on tap. Check out the special Pygmalion Pilsner. 

photo by Sam Logan

All photos by Jessica Hammie except where noted. 

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