Another popular “neighborhood” sports bar and grill is Pia’s, located on West Springfield Avenue in Champaign. My husband and his buddies will sometimes frequent the place, especially for Blackhawks games. I had never been until now, but I’m always up for cheap food and beer. 

Pia’s Sports Bar and Grill has a pretty decent website to their name. They boast party planning and event hosting, big screen televisions for game days, video poker, and darts. The menu is pretty extensive, too, with a large selection of appetizers and sandwiches — everything from nachos and fried mushrooms (my weakness….one of many) to build-your-own salads and pulled pork and Italian beef sandwiches. I also love when places like this tout items like their “famous burgers” or “best wings in town,” or something to that effect. Pia’s has lots of items like this listed on their menu and it did its job in holding my attention because I definitely want to go back and try ‘Pia’s Famous Fish’ Friday special and check out the “best wings in town.” There could be an entire article written on the best wings in town (note to self).

It wasn’t too busy yet so we sat at a table next to the bar and we were greeted promptly and warmly. The night we stopped in, they didn’t have too many specials going on apart from a pitcher of Miller or Coors light for $7.25. We got a pint each of Bud Light ($2.75). While perusing the menu, the “Mound” appetizer was calling our name: one big pound of Cajun fries covered with cheddar jack, bacon, and green onions served with a zesty sauce ($7.25). While I very much should have chosen to build my own salad, I went with the fried shrimp and fries basket instead ($7.25). You can choose to have them come with or without their famous wing sauce and either tossed with or have it come on the side. I ordered it on the side. My husband, during his previous visits, had seen others order the pork tenderloin that “is so large it takes two hands to eat” and so he had to try that ($9.25).

While we were waiting for our food, we saw lots of regulars come and go. Those who would just sit down and the bartender immediately brought over their usual drink of choice. We watched our bartender expertly walk extremely full pitchers of beer up and down the stairs without spilling a drop. I wish I would have gotten a picture that; it was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the jukebox was playing Toby Keith and other bubble gum country songs. I’d much prefer my dive bars to be blasting AC/DC, but to each his own.

Our appetizer and sandwiches came out fast and all at once. It was a table full of fried gold. The Mound was probably my favorite out of everything. They didn’t skimp on the bacon or cheese and the ranch and zesty ranch were great dipping options. I ended up dipping my little fried shrimp in the ranch. The Cajun fries were really good. They are offered as a half or full order on the menu as well. The shrimp basket came with cocktail sauce and the wing sauce on the side. The cocktail sauce was different than I was used to as it was thick and chunky, but still tasty. The wing sauce wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a very thin, vinegar based sauce and I much prefer the thicker, sweeter BBQs, but I’m glad I tried it. My husband really like it though as he kept dipping his tenderloin in it. It also came with crinkle-cut fries which are my favorite. The pork tenderloin was indeed two hand worthy. It also came with fries. My husband was happy with it. I tried a bite and I have to say, I think I liked my pork tenderloin at Huber’s a wee bit better. It just had a better flavor.

We certainly got our money’s worth though, as we couldn’t quite polish off all of the fried goodness. All in all we were pretty happy. The staff and patrons were all very friendly which I think is more important than most anything else. There is still a lot on the menu I’d like to try, and it was a comfortable environment to hang out in, so I know we’ll make our way back to Pia’s sometime soon — especially with a tagline like “Home of the largest nacho plate!”

Pia’s Sports Bar and Grill is located at 1609 West Springfield Avenue, Champaign and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.