August is usually an exciting time as we prepare for a new school year: new school supplies, brand new clothes, and hopes for new friends. This August, we're still in a pandemic. One thing that always brings me comfort is good food and drink, so even if we’re not getting haircuts or sending children back to in-person learning (thank you, Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District #116), we can have some new eats and drinks for August.

This month, I’m bringing you a healthful breakfast option, a sweet popcorn treat, taco truck tacos, a spicy soup, and of course, a cocktail to get you through all the virtual, remote learning we’re about to undertake during this global pandemic. All of these items are $13 or less, so if you’re looking for some cheaper options, this is the list is for you.


A poached egg sits atop a bed of arugula and seeds on top of grits on a beige plate. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Avocado Stack | Flying Machine Avionics

Starting with the first meal of the day: breakfast. I absolutely love breakfast, but I am too cranky in the morning to cook much of a meal. Avionics has us covered with their breakfast menu and early opening at 7 a.m. My favorite thing at Avionics is the avocado stack ($9). At the bottom of the stack are house grits, then there's arugula in a light dressing with pickled grapes and seeds, topped with a perfectly soft boiled egg.

A soft boiled egg, cut open and spilling golden yellow yolk, sits on a bed of arugula and grits on a beige plate. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The soft boil is a decadent way to have an egg — and a way I cannot execute at home despite my best efforts. The egg was soft on the outside and had a creamy, yolky middle that blended well with the arugula and grits. I’ve never had pickled grapes anywhere else, and I’ll be picking up this avocado stack throughout this fall semester as I try to facilitate remote learning for my kids. I need this kind of healthy breakfast in my life. At this time, all Avionics orders are for carryout. You can order in person or call in your order at 217-600-7949 for pickup.

Flying Machine Avionics
202 S First St
Champaign
M-F 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A close up shot of caramel popcorn drizzled with white icing. Photo from CBPB Facebook page. Photo by CBPB Facebook page.

Caramel Cinnabomb Popcorn | Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop

August is National Black Business Month, and if you haven’t tried the popcorn from Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop, you need to this month. We published an interview with the co-owner last week. This caramel cinnabomb popcorn ($5 for a small, $8 for medium, $12 for family size) was so good. This treat features freshly popped (right here in Champaign) popcorn covered in caramel and drizzled with cinnamon roll icing. I will be rewarding myself with this when I have successfully gotten my kids to complete their first week of remote learning. And the second week, and the third week. 

Look at their menu here. Check out their facebook page for photos of their delicious treats. If you want to place an order, you can email your order to cbpbpopcornshop@gmail.com or call at 217-607-5397.

Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop
1506 S. Neil St
Champaign
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Su noon to 5 p.m.

Four al pastor tacos on corn tortillas served Mexican style with lots of cilantro and raw white onion on each. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pastor Tacos | Los Hidalguense

Tacos are one of my favorite foods. I reviewed Los Hidalguense food truck here, and my biggest regret was only ordering one taco. I’ve been back four times since then because I cannot get enough of this pastor taco ($2.50). This taco comes on two corn tortillas which are hefty enough to hold the taco without breaking — which is no small feat for a corn tortilla. The pastor meat is tender and sweet with just a few small pineapple chunks. The pork is so good that it’s the only meat I order from Los Hidalguense because I literally cannot get enough of it.

You can order the taco Mexican style like I do with cilantro and onion. As you can tell, they really load it up on the onions and cilantro, but I love it like that. You can also order tacos American style with lettuce, onion, tomato, and cheese. Whichever style you like tacos, you have to try this pastor taco for only $2.50. It is insanely comforting and affordable both of which are welcome during these times. You can order your tacos by phone at 217-369-4371, or you can order in person at the truck which is parked in the Hunter's Haven lot.

Los Hidalguense
1040 W Bloomington Rd
Champaign
11 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily

Two pieces of shrimp tempura rest on the side of the bowl and in the ramen. There are many udon noodles, some garnishes and a dark broth in a mint bowl on a black table. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Spicy Shrimp Tempura Udon | Sakanaya

Fall always makes me think of soups and cooler weather. We’re not quite there yet in terms of crisp autumn temperatures, but this soup is great anytime. The spicy shrimp tempura udon ($13) is a soup with a pork-based, spicy soy broth that has two pieces of shrimp tempura, udon noodles, half of an egg, dry yubu, dry seaweed, and wakame.

What I liked best about this dish was that it came separated.

A deconstructed takeout ramen from Sakanaya: two shrimp tempura in a small box, the broth in a tall plastic container, and a smaller container holding udon noodles. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The shrimp tempura was in its own takeout container that actually kept the shrimp batter crispy, even with a fifteen minute drive from Green Street. The broth was in one container, and the udon noodles were in another. I liked that I could add them all together when I was ready to eat instead of coming home to soggy shrimp.

The shrimp tempura was two crispy sticks of tail-on, fried shrimp. The broth was flavorful and herby. You can add spicy to the dish for $1, but I prefer a mild to medium spice, so I didn’t. The soup was still spicy with a warm heat in the final notes of the broth. The dish came with plenty udon noodles which I really appreciated. The egg was a bit overdone to my preference, but it was easy to enjoy the rest of the udon soup for its delicious, spicy flavors. You can either order pickup or delivery through doordash right now at Sakanaya.

Sakanaya
403 E Green Street
M-Sa 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m.
Su 4 to 9:30 p.m.

A brown cocktail is in a coupe glass on a black table. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Espresso Martini Nando Milano

I've written about drinks to go in my Booze and Food article and my followup of to-go cocktails, so you know I love a good drink with my dinner. Nando brings it with this cocktail. Their entire drinks menu is available for carryout. This espresso martini ($12) was a perfect evening drink. Made with Grey Goose vodka, Bailey's Irish cream, espresso, and cocoa, it was a great dessert cocktail. Sweet and smooth, the martini had a strong coffee flavor, but it wasn't bitter. It was a chocolate, creamy beverage that I will definitely order again. 

Being able to take a fancy drink like this home was a fun way to celebrate Friday, and the bartender did a great job by keeping my drinks in the fridge until I arrived for pickup. The drinks come in plastic cups with a straw, but it was nice to pour it into a glass at home. Nando is currently open for indoor dining, outdoor seating, and carryout. 

Nando Milano
204 N Neil St
Champaign
M-Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 4 to 9 p.m.

 

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.