Smile Politely

You can get standout sandwiches at Cheese & Crackers

Located in the Old Farm shopping plaza, Cheese and Crackers is a hidden gem. When I walked in, I saw refridgerated cases of cheese and meats, shelves of crackers, a cooler of drinks, shelves of wine, and chips hanging from clips. There were one way markers on the floor of the store, and masks were required at entry. I felt very safe in the store and went back several times to try different sandwiches.

The exterior of Cheese & Crackers in Champaign. The sign overhead has the store's name on a white building. Outside, a vinyl banner reads

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

There are several parking spots available in front of the shop, and if those are full, there’s never a shortage of parking spots in that shopping center lot. 

Inside Cheese & Crackers in Champaign, there is a cold case featuring lots of cheese to be sliced at request of customers. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The store sells cheese and deli meat by the pound, sliced to order, in addition to pantry luxuries, fresh fish, artisan chocolates, and more.

I tried seven of their sandwiches: Smoky & Sweet, Muffaleta, France Meets Italy, Blue Ox, Mindy’s Italian, Frankensandwich, and a kid-sized grilled cheese. 

A sliced sandwich on sourdough bread is stacked on top of each other on white paper. The sandwich has lots of pink ham, a few slices of very light yellow Gouda cheese, and the faintest spread of dark brown fig jam on the bottom. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My first sandwich was the Smoky & Sweet ($8.99), one of the hot sandwiches. It was a well-balanced sandwich made with Boars Head ham, smoky gouda, and fig jam. The bread was perfectly toasted: crispy and brown in the center and light brown on the edges. The sandwich was mostly ham that had both sweet and salty flavors. The cheese was thinly sliced, and there were seven slices on my sandwich. The bread next to the fig jam was softened, having absorbed the sweetness of the jam. The staff left my hot sandwich’s wrapper folded slightly open, so it wasn’t soggy when I got to eating it which I appreciated

There was nothing extra on this sandwich: no tomato, no lettuce, no onion. Just ham, cheese, and jam, and, my goodness, it was simply perfection.

A sideview of a baguette Mortadella sandwich from Cheese & Crackers in Champaign. The bread, sliced cheese, Italian meat, and olive mix are visible from the side. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The second sandwich I tried was the Muffelata ($8.99). It was served on a crusty baguette with Italian salami, mortadella, provolone, and a muffaletta olive mix. “Mortadella is like bologna but better,” the sandwich maker said to me. Mortadella is a luncheon meat that is made of pork with small cubes of pork fat and pistachios. I tried the mortadella and agreed with him that it was better than bologna.

The Muffaleta sandwich had an abundant amount of salami and mortadella. It was a very meaty sandwich. The slices of provolone were mild, and the muffaletta olive mix was very salty. Altogether, the sandwich gave a lot of salt flavor, and I would not pair it with chips. I enjoyed it just as a sandwich, but it would be great paired with a soup or salad if you’re into that.

A large baguette sandwich from Cheese & Crackers called France Meets Italy sits on white parchment paper. There are many cold, light green artichokes atop pink shaved ham with a white spread beneath. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I also tried the France Meets Italy sandwich ($8.99). This one was made with proscuitto cotto (sweet Italian ham), goat cheese, artichokes, and a creamy garlic-herb spread. The sweet and smoky ham was shaved thin, and the artichokes gave a nice, soft veggie texture. The thick garlic smear saturated the bottom of the bread.

It’s a miracle that the crusty baguette holds all of this in: it’s a ton of artichokes and a ton of ham for one sandwich. It was a great, filling sandwich, perfect for taking to a picnic under the Eiffel Tower or perhaps at a table by the Trevi Fountain — or for taking home to eat in your pajamas.

The roast beef on this sandwich is shaved thin and stacked tall inside golden brown sourdough bread. There is a lot of blue cheese spread on the bottom half of the sandwich, oozing a bit out the middle onto the white parchment paper. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I tried the Blue Ox ($9.99) sandwich, too, another of the hot sandwiches. It had rare roast beef, blue cheese, grilled onions, and a vinagrette on sliced sourdough bread that was grilled in butter. The sandwich was still warm and gooey when I got home to eat it. The grilled onions had a faint crunch and went so well with the meat and cheese. The blue cheese was more of a saucy spread that melted throughout the sandwich; no chunks or crumbles, just creamy deliciousness. I am not a big fan of blue cheese (team ranch dressing all the way), but this was a lighter, mild version of blue cheese than I’ve had before, and it was delightful. The beef was shredded and had a great roasted flavor.

This whole sandwich was amazing: buttery, crisp bread with three ingredients that were each incredible in their own right, but together, exceptional. 

A large Italian sandwich on a baguette from Cheese & Crackers sits on white parchment paper. The salami is plentiful, and the cheese is thin. The veggies are covered in an herby dressing and fall out of the sandwich. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Mindy’s Italian ($8.99) was my next sandwich to try. This one was made with Genoa salami, provolone, and a trio of lettuce, tomatoes, and onion tossed in a house-made vinaigrette with Italian herbs. I loved this Italian, and I’m not sure I can ever get an Italian sandwich anywhere else after this.

The white onion-tomato-lettuce slaw was so flavorful and tangy — and slippery, falling out on occasion with a bite. There was a lot of salami on this Italian. The provolone was sliced really thin which let the pork and the herby veggies lead the sandwich. The oil and vinegar soaked the bread, but the outer crust remained crunchy. The sandwich made a big mess which I feel is the true indicator of a good sandwich. It was a simple, meaty sando that I will be making my regular order.

A side view of Frankensandwich from Cheese & Crackers. Pink ham is overflowing from the sandwich which rectangular chunks of Mozzarella underneath and a white spread on the bottom of the bread. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The Frankensandwich ($8.99) sounds spooky, and it was scary good. On a crusty Italian baguette from TriBeCa Bakery, the sandwich had ham, garlic-mascarpone spread, vinaigrette, mozzarella cheese, and onion. The sweet and smoky ham was a hearty portion — that the staff sliced just moments before assembling my sandwich. They piled the ham on, folded all kinds of wild, just a rugged good sammie. The raw onions gave a good bite, and the thick discs of mozzarella stuck into the creamy, garlicky spread balancing the flavor of the ham.

A golden brown half sandwich, sliced on a diagonal, sits on a white plate on a white table. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Because I’m a mom, I also ordered the kids’ grilled cheese ($3.99). Served as a half-sandwich, this is as simple as grilled cheese sandwiches get: buttered bread grilled with melted cheddar cheese inside. No frills needed; none required for my child.

A close-up cross-section of Cheese & Crackers' kids' grilled cheese sandwich on a white plate. There is a thick layer of cheddar between two golden brown slices of grilled bread. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

This kid’s sandwich had a thick cheddar middle that wasn’t sharp tasting. The cheese didn’t melted like American cheese would, but the cheddar was gooey — and my child deemed it “fancy grilled cheese.” It didn’t have much flavor, but I suppose that means it’s perfect for children. There is an adult grilled cheese if you’d like a full grilled cheese sandwich or to choose your cheese from these options: cheddar, smoked bacon cheddar, hot ghost pepper cheese and fig jam, swiss, or colby.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

All in all, Cheese & Crackers is a great little shop to pick up sandwiches, charcuterie items, pretty farfalle, peanuts, and more. It is packed with all kinds of stuff to look at while you’re waiting for your sandwich to be made.

Lunchtime is busy at Cheese & Crackers. If you know what you want, I suggest calling in your order. Several calls came in while I was waiting in line in the store to place my order. These sandwiches are good and are definitely worth the wait. Call ahead at 217-615-8531 to place your order, or walk in to place your order.

Cheese & Crackers
1715 W Kirby Ave
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor

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