The pandemic is keeping us home, but that doesn't mean we can't have date nights in. My favorite pandemic tradition is ordering takeout on Friday nights and sitting in our dining room, away from our children, pretending that we're out on the town.

In October, I shared five takeout options for romantic dinners at home. Here are another five great options for a date night in at home.


Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Hamilton Walker's

While Hamilton Walker's does offer dining domes by reservation, HW's takeout game is solid. For our date night in, my husband ordered the aged steak burger ($17) which comes with two long slices of bacon, aged cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and grilled red onion atop the burger which is cooked to your preference of doneness. My husband likes medium rare, and Hamilton Walker's nailed it. I ordered the fish and chips ($24) that was fried wild cod served with tartar sauce. Both orders came with fries included in the price. The steakhouse fries were thick and crispy on the outside with a soft potato middle. It really felt like a steakhouse dinner date; the food was fine dining even though the ambiance (of my house) was casual.

I love HW's carryout cocktails and always add at least two to our order because they are so good — and each cocktail pours two drinks. We ordered the house old fashioned ($14) and the bee's knees ($14). They came in Hamilton Walker's signature glass jars with a pretty label. The old fashioned was made with bourbon, bitters, demerara simple syrup, two amarena cherries, and an orange twist. It was a wonderfully strong cocktail with cherry flavor and a whiskey burn that required sipping instead of gulping. The bee's knees ($14) was made with gin, lemon, honey, and a lemon twist. Sweet and tart, the drink was very lemony with slight sweetness from the honey. 

If you're wanting a nice dinner for you and yours, you can place your Hamilton Walker's date night order here.

Hamilton Walker's
201 N Neil St
Champaign
W-Su 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

NAYA

One night, we ordered the same entree and a bunch of sides from NAYA, and it was awesome. We both had the galbi burger ($12). I ordered mine with fries because they are the same skinny, crispy fries that I always ordered in the Before Times when we ate at NAYA; they carried out really well and would recommend them for sure. My husband subbed his fries for mac and cheese bites for $3.50. We also ordered a side of onion rings ($6), gyoza ($6), and two Italian sodas ($4 each) just for fun.

The galbi burger is my favorite thing on NAYA's menu — and my husband's, too. The beef patties were both sweet and savory — and totally unlike the usual savory American-style burger. The burger had eight ounces of meat plus American cheese, kewpie mayo, lettuce, and onion, and it was such a good burger. The mac and cheese bites were creamy, spicy bombs of macaroni wrapped in a golden batter (and were still warm), and the gyoza was expertly cooked. The onion rings didn't really stay crispy or warm, so next time, we'll probably skip the onion rings and be just fine.

The Italian sodas were a fun treat. I tried the grapefruit and the green tea, and for a simple cocktail, we mixed them with a bottle of bubbly we already had at home. You can also buy the Italian soda in lemon, orange, and ginger ale flavors as well. Whether you're trying for sober January (hats off to you, if you are) or just wanting to try some Galvanina Italian soda, they're a great add on to your order to make dinner feel more like a date. 

NAYA
212 E Green St
Champaign
M-Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Neil St. Blues

This was our sexy shrimp date night. We ordered jambalaya, po boy, and shrimp and grits from Neil St. Blues. The jambalaya ($16) had chicken, sausage, tail-on shrimp, peppers, onions, celery, and tomatoes in spicy red rice. It warmed me up with a nice heat; it was not a mild dish. It was spicy but not extremely spicy. I tempered the heat with red wine and my side of coleslaw ($3). My husband ordered the po boy sandwich ($12) with shrimp, but you can customize the po boy: shrimp, catfish, or alligator; blackened, grilled, or fried; Carolina style (topped with coleslaw and pickles) or regular (with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles). The sandwich was so tasty, mostly because the large portion of fried shrimp was superb: both meaty and breaded.

The shrimp and grits ($18) had a five huge, tail-on shrimp in a creole gumbo roux with an awful lot of bacon pieces (not crumbles, I'm talking actual chunks of thick bacon) on cheesy grits. The grits had no grit like diner grits; these upscale grits were creamy, cheesy, and excellent. It was a generous portion that heated up really well the next day for breakfast. We paired our dinner with beer and wine from our fridge since Neil St. Blues does not offer carryout alcohol at this time.

If you have not had the shrimp at Neil St. Blues, you must; it is insanely good. Their shrimp is great quality and always cooked plump and tender, no matter which dish it's in. Order your next date night from Neil St. Blues online here

Neil St. Blues
301 S Neil St
Champaign
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Po' Boys

Our Po' Boys date night was fantastic. We ordered the breadsticks, po boy, pizza, and cocktails — all to share between me and my boo. The breadsticks ($7.25) were a great appetizer that came with a delicious cup of garlic butter. The shrimp po' boy ($10.95) was big enough to split between the two of us — and so were the curly fries that came with it. We added a side of onion rings for $3.75 to split as well. We also ordered the 12" Po' Boy pizza ($19.50) which came with a choice of sauce (mild, hot, or mixed of the Po' Boy original barbeque sauce and mild, hot, or mixed of a thick BBQ sauce) and choice of pork or beef for the meat. We chose the mild original Po' Boys barbeque sauce with pork, and we have no regrets.

In addition, we ordered some cocktails. We tried the Manbana ($6.50) which was made with Makers Mark, sweet vermouth, and a splash of cherry juice. It was not a very strong cocktail; there was no bourbon bite, just a lot of cherry flavor and more of a fragrance of whiskey, but it was still good. The second one we tried was the Po’ Boys Cosmo ($5.50) composed of Absolut vodka, Patron Citronge, cranberry juice, and lime juice. This red cocktail made two drinks, and it was really sweet without much of a boozy flavor. The final cocktail was Mary's Tini ($6), a chocolate martini with no ingredients listed on the menu. The clear cocktail had a sweet chocolate flavor, sort of like Andes mints minus the mint, with a little aftertaste of liquor — making it our favorite of the cocktails. 

Place an order for your date night dinner at Po' Boys' online ordering site, and if you want to order drinks with your dinner, you need to call in your order to 217-367-2255.

Po' Boys
202 E University
Urbana
W-Su 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Sushi Kame

Our favorite date night dinner in the Before Times was sushi. We'd go all over town, and now, places from all over town have come to our dining room table. Sushi Kame is a new favorite after this date night. We ordered scallops and vegetable tempura, several sushi rolls, yaki udon, and an appetizer called korokke.

The korokke ($3.50) was a Japanese potato patty that was filled with mashed potatoes, diced carrots, corn, and peas. It was not salty like I'm accustomed to expecting with fried dishes, and I liked the panko crust and the super creamy filling. We had the scallops and vegetable tempura ($7) off the appetizer menu as well. These were the best thing of the night. I love scallops, and this app had 8 scallop discs deep fried in a light batter. The scallops were so tender and delicate — even after frying. There was an even ratio of scallops to veggies which was amazing for $7.

We ordered several rolls: sweet potato tempura roll ($4.95), spicy tuna roll ($5.25), spicy shrimp tempura roll ($5.95), and the Canada roll ($7.95), and they were all top notch. Expertly rolled and beautifully presented, Sushi Kame's sushi was a real treat. Check out the menu and put an order in here.

Sushi Kame
39 E Green St
Champaign
T-Sa noon to 3 p.m., 5 to 11 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m., 4 to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.