This weekend, my friends and I decided to check out Empire Chinese Restaurant, located on Green Street on the University of Illinois campus. The restaurant was just as busy as the Campustown street it's on.
Almost all of the signs and menus were written in Chinese, with English translations written below. When we came in it was so busy that we actually had to get our food to go because all of the tables were filled. Everyone was there with large groups of friends and seemed to be enjoying themselves and the food. We ordered our food and the restaurant employees immediately packed it up and we were on our way within five minutes of entering.
I ordered the combination platter of beef and broccoli ($7.99). Instead of just getting the beef and broccoli for $9.29, I wanted the combo platter because it came with fried rice and an egg roll. When I opened up my container of food, I was shocked to see just how large the portions were. The rice took up half of the container and was stacked high, while the beef and broccoli was stacked almost as high. The egg roll was packaged separately.
I greedily started eating and found that it definitely tasted like most other the American versions of Chinese food, and it was pretty good. I’d occasionally come across a fatty piece of beef and would have a little trouble chewing, but overall it was tasty. The broccoli was crunchy and delicious and the rice was a little greasy but satisfying. I didn’t end up trying the egg roll because my friend also ordered a combo platter and said that it wasn’t very good.
My friend ordered the chicken lo mein combination platter ($7.99). She agreed that the rice was a little greasy, and said that her lo mein was kind of greasy as well. She said that the chicken was all right and thought that overall the meal wasn't particularly special, but if she was craving Chinese takeout it was a quick buy that wouldn’t leave her unsatisfied.
My other friend ordered the veggie lo mein ($8.29). Because she didn’t get the combo platter, her plate was about half the size of mine. (This makes sense, as the fried rice took up half of my container.) She also agreed that the portion sizing was very large and made a comment about how it would last her the next few days. She too agreed that the food was a little greasy, but compared it to a stir-fry type of dish. She enjoyed the meal, though and said she would eat at Empire again.
While Empire Chinese Restaurant is not a fine dining experience, it is a great, cheap Chinese takeout spot perfect for college students looking for a lot of food for little money. The portions are huge, the restaurant environment friendly, and the food greasy and slurp-worthy. The food was yummy and great for a night in with friends. While I may not be able to go back right now because I still have leftovers, I will definitely be back at Empire if I want some takeout that I can enjoy.
Empire Chinese Restaurant is located at 410 East Green Street, Suite #1, Champaign, and open Friday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
All photos by Kristin D'Antonio.