The Pygmalion Festival is now about a week underway, and this weekend’s music line-up is the big finish to the nine-day endeavor. With stacked programming from TECH, LIT, and MUSIC, as well as shopping at MADE, you’re bound to be hungry. C-U has plenty of good places for wining and dining. I’ve organized a list of spots for you to consider, for on-the-go snacks, portable meals, and sit-down service, both in and outside the festival proper.
Bread Company on Goodwin |706 S Goodwin, Urbana | 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This is one of my favorite spots for salad and pizza, as well as salad on pizza. Order the lemon garlic greens salad (small will do for one, $5; large for two, $7.5) and the pepperoni ($13.5), roasted garlic ($12.5), or ricotta ($14.5) pizza. Put salad on top. Eat. Enjoy. During lunch hours Bread Co. serves sammies and salads. Dinner service starts at 5 p.m.
Espresso Royale | 1117 W Oregon Street, Urbana | 7 a.m. to midnight
Surely you don’t want to miss anything because you failed to re-caffeinate in the afternoon. Espresso Royale has all your caf and decaf needs, as well as some treats to help wash that coffee down.
Manolo’s | 1115 W Oregon St, Urbana | 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
In need of a quick bite on the go? Manolo’s has pizza by the slice and empanadas. For less than $5, you can get a hot meal of two empanadas or a slice of pizza. For a little more, you can have a salad or a sandwich. Manolo’s is more or less a carry-out window, so don’t plan on sitting down for a comfortable meal. Simply walk across the street and sit on the steps of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Common Ground Food Co-op | 300 S Broadway, Urbana | deli open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Common Ground is a cooperative grocery store, which makes it perfect for getting snacks. Additionally, Common Ground has a nice deli, café, salad bar, and pre-made salad section. You can get sandwiches and pizzas to order, as well as hot and cold beverages of your choosing. (Check specific hours here.) The salad bar is pretty fantastic; pair your salad with soup and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal. How virtuous of you. If you’re looking for a buffer for all that health, saunter into the bulk foods aisle, identify the chocolate covered toffee, and throw a few of those in a bag for later. I promise you’ll thank me. Check out SP’s recent review of Common Ground’s café selections. Photo by Jim Singer.
Flying Machine Coffee | 208 W Main Street | 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Flying Machine Coffee at Cafeteria + Company has become one of the hippest places in town to get a cup of coffee. You’ll always find a scattering of folks doing work, headphones in, hunched over their drinks and computers. The coffee drinks are great — I’m a super fan of the rosemary mocha — and there are usually some specials featuring tea or juice or both.
Friday + Saturday
Bacaro | 113 N Walnut | lunch (Friday only), 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Bacaro is where the grown-ups go to eat. It’s nice, and the food is fine dining and delicious. Lunch (Friday only) this week is an omelette patty melt with chorizo, scrambled eggs, scallions, cheddar cheese, and hash browns. It comes with a fancy soda, and is $15. Dinner service starts at 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Entrées start at $18 (for pasta), but proteins are $30 and up. The tasting menu is $85 (additional $40 for wine pairings). I recommend making a reservation.
Big Grove Tavern | 1 E Main St | open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; full menu not available 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Big Grove is a “farm to table” restaurant, and serves contemporary riffs on that theme. It has a reasonably priced lunch menu, with a large variety of options including soups, salads, and sandwiches. For dinner, entrée prices are about $20 to $30, with a burger at $14. I’m a fan of the cornbread, so I usually find a way to make that part of my meal. There are plenty of brews and wines available, but the real standouts in beverages are the cocktails. They can be a little pricey, but they’re quite delicious. If you’re looking for a spot with some ambiance, this is your joint; the interior is lovely.
Black Dog | 320 N Chestnut St | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
I think just about everyone loves Black Dog, and for good reason. It’s delicious barbeque. Lately I’ve been ordering the chicken sandwich, but I’m totally into the Saturday’s smoked meatloaf special. Order the nachos to share, and if you like spicy, I recommend the ghost habanero and hot Georgia peach sauces. You can order food online for pick up (which is nice if there’s a long wait), or consider trying the Urbana location.
Cafe Kopi | 109 N Walnut St | 7 a.m. to midnight
Kopi is the quintessential downtown coffee shop; you’ll find a wide variety of people inside at any given time. The coffee and tea drinks are good, but consider Kopi for a light lunch or dinner, too.
Columbia Street Roastery | 24 E Columbia St| Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
CSR has patterned with The Pygmalion Festival and released a special coffee: The Pygmalion Blend. In addition to picking up a bag of beans (they’ll grind them for you), you can check out the wide selection of the rest of CSR’s coffees and teas, and grab a peek of the roasting room through the glass windows behind the cashier.
Farren's | 309 N Randolph St | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Farren’s has the best burgers in town. For those who don’t eat meat, check out the salads. There are usually seafood specials, too. Sandwiches come with tortilla chips; be sure to ask for potato chips or fries. They are so, so good.
Miga | 301 N Neil St # 104 | Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This Asian-fusion restaurant is another fine-dining establishment. The interior is very chic and contemporary, and dishes are plated with aesthetics in mind. I really enjoy the house salad (the dressing is great). Pasta dishes are $16-$18, and protein entrées are $25 and up. There are four seafood entrées on the menu, so if you’re looking for your fish fix, Miga is your spot.
Pekara | 116 N Neil St | 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Pekara is, first and foremost, a bakery. But it takes coffee shop-café to another level. The bistro serves breakfast sandwiches (on house made bread and bagels), salads, sandwiches, soups, and crepes. Pretty much everything is made to order, so you’re bound to get hot food, if that’s what you’re looking for. The breads are incredible. I wouldn’t judge you if you bought a baguette and gnawed on it for the afternoon. There are also baked goods in the way of cookies, quick breads, brownies, tarts, and other pastry. Pekara is basically one-stop shopping for your belly. Coffee? Check. Savory? Check. Sweet? Double check.
Pizzeria Antica | 10 E Chester St | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Neapolitan style pizza is fantastic because, at least at Pizzeria Antica, it’s enough for one, if you’re hungry, big enough for two, if you’re not that hungry, made quickly, and really delicious. Antica is a low-key spot, and in addition to pizza and salad, there’s gelato, which is great. You can drink some Italian beer, or, as the restaurant recently pointed out on its Facebook page, prosecco (which pairs wonderfully with pizza).
Seven Saints | 32 E Chester St | 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Seven Saints is a popular spot in Downtown Champaign, and I’d argue that it’s because of its accessible menu (salads, sliders, sandwiches), affordable prices, wide variety of alcoholic beverages, and excellent water-refill service. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can find something on the menu, and you can easily have a more than satisfying meal for less than $10. There are always local and regional brews on tap, as well as a hefty whiskey menu.
Watson's | 211 N Neil St | 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
If chicken is your thang, Watson’s is your restaurant. This fried chicken shack not only serves delicious fried chicken, but also rotisserie chicken, Nashville hot chicken, fried tofu po’ boys, tasty ass sides and salads, and alcoholic slushies (in flights, too!). Dessert is pie (made by Hopscotch Cakes; flavors rotate regularly), and well worth the calories. There are always specials, so ask your server or check Facebook. Do yourself a favor and order the gravy fries.
FOOD TRUCKS | inside festival
Sometimes hunger strikes at inopportune moments, like the middle of your favorite band’s set. Fear not, festival attendee: there are food trucks within the confines of the festival. Breakfast food reigns supreme at the Cracked Truck. The classic is the Morning Bender, but the other options are also really good. If you’d prefer to eat some Italian food, check out Fusilli Tony’s.
DP Dough | 33B E Green St | 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
After a night of concerts and heavy drinking, the best thing you can do to prevent the next day’s hangover is to consume 1000 calories plus of cheese, chicken wings, and breadsticks, preferably well after midnight. Lucky for you, DP Dough is open until 3 a.m., and it will deliver. You can check out the local menu here. Don’t forget to throw in a pint of Edy’s ice cream, and upgrade your crust to spicy-parma, garlic-parma, or cheddar for only $0.75 more!
Maize | 60 E Green St, Champaign | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Maize serves really great Mexican food at cheap prices. The downside? The restaurant is tiny, and parking can be quite difficult. Try to plan your visit at slightly-off peak times, or order online or by phone. The food is made quickly, and you won’t be waiting around forever. Tacos are standard fare and delicious, but try the tlacoyo, huarache, and/or the nachos.
Triptych Brewing | 1703 Woodfield Dr, Savoy | Thursday + Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m
Triptych has partnered with The Pygmalion Festival for the second year in a row to create the Pygmalion Pils, a very drinkable, tasty pilsner. You can find that around the festival grounds (and in the taproom). If you’re looking to take a break from all the activities, drive the seven minutes south on Neil Street to the taproom. You can sample a bunch of beer and relax. Bring your own food, as there isn’t any on site. Photo from Triptych's Facebook page.
There aren’t any festival events on Sunday, but you’re likely still around, certainly hungry, and maybe hung over. Before you head home or resume regular life, fill your belly with brunch. Nearly every restaurant in Downtown Champaign serves brunch (including Big Grove and Miga; see above); worst-case scenario, you can just pick the place with the shortest wait time. I’ve selected a few that top my list and encourage you to consider.
Courier Café | 111 N Race St, Urbana | 7 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
You’ll have to get up early for this one, as it gets pretty crowded. You’ll find standard diner-style breakfasts, including my favorite, buckwheat pancakes. No shame in ordering a milkshake for breakfast.
Golden Harbor | 505 S Neil St, Champaign | 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Golden Harbor is one of the best restaurants in town, serving authentic Chinese cuisine. It’s not a traditional brunch spot — you won’t find pancakes on the menu — but it’s delicious (and there are plenty of egg dishes). The menu is insanely long. Don’t worry. Read this guide. Take a few minutes to consider what you and your friends want to eat. If you have questions, ask Sophie (she’s at the register). Dishes are served family style, so be prepared to share.
Sam’s Café (cash only) | 115 N Walnut St, Champaign | 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Some might describe Sam’s as a hole in the wall. It’s a greasy spoon diner, and it’s great. Bring your cash, since the restaurant does not take plastic. Order the biscuits and gravy, if that’s your thing, or the French toast, which should be everyone’s thing. Sam’s is pretty cheap, so don’t worry about breaking the bank.
Silvercreek | 401 N Race St, Urbana | 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (reservations recommended)
Silvercreek’s Sunday brunch is legendary. It’s an insane buffet with multiple stations, including made to order eggs and pancakes, a carving station (prime rib!), standard American breakfast fare, and a dessert table that’ll leave you drooling. It’s all you can eat, for $21 per person (alcohol, tax, tip not included). The potential harm in having Silvercreek’s brunch is that you will be completely useless for the rest of the day.
All photos by Jessica Hammie except where noted.