Smile Politely

Most visited articles and SPlogs of 2022

Another year of publishing is in the books, as today marks the end of our publishing calendar for 2022. Speaking on behalf of our hardworking staff here at Smile Politely, it is always an honor to get to discuss the ins and outs of most all things Champaign-Urbana culture week in and week out. At times, publishing becomes a mystery, a true grab bag of what’s what, learning more about what readers are interested in, what they’re not, and we get a ton of surprises along the way. 

In annual year-end fashion, we’ve compiled a list of the most visited articles and SPlogs of the year, with some additional commentary to go along with each. This year, we put things together a bit differently. Typically we’ve done a list of articles and SPlogs as one, which has its benefits in showcasing how impactful a well-timed SPlog post can be mixed with social media to make it fly. As you can see below, you readers are laser-focused on all things food and drink, top to bottom, with a great mixture of politics, entertainment, social commentary, and beyond.

Thanks for helping us not only populate the articles and SPlogs we publish, but for always weighing in and being human here with us in C-U. We’ll see you in 2023.

— Patrick Singer, Executive Editor

ARTICLES

Photo by Carl Busch.

20. The Possum Trot Supper Club has excellent dinner options in Oakwood

► Published March 2nd / 7:00 a.m. / Carl Busch

The Possum Trot Supper Club has been around for a long time. But for many of us in C-U, especially those who are newer to the area, a supper club in Oakwood might not be at the top of the list for a night out. Here is where Smile Politely comes in to offer a review of an unknown entity from a trusted source. I’m curious how many of you visited the restaurant after reading the review. You can always tell us in the comments or by email. (JH)

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

19. Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: June 2022

► Published June 6th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

I’m not exactly sure what was happening in June, but you all really, really, wanted some food and drink recommendations. June’s list included arancini, bundt cakes, cinnamon kouign amann, bibimbap, and a giant ass chicken wing stuffed with mac and cheese. (JH)

Photo by Justine Bursoni.

18. Smile Politely’s Pizza Tournament: Round of 32

► Published March 21st / 7:00 a.m. / Smile Politely Editors

March Madness is a magical time of year. If you’ve followed along at all over the last few years, we’ve done our own version of bracket building and bracket busting. This year was our third time around and we chose to take on the beast that is pizza in and around C-U. It was quite fun to do, and to see Manolo’s take down Papa Del’s in the final was something. Did I mention our readers like food? (PS)

Photo by Paul Young.

17. Shiquan Hot Pot is a super-secret hot pot joint in Champaign

► Published June 30th / 7:00 a.m. / Paul Young

Everyone loves a hidden gem, and Paul was out to find something magical for one of his many treks around the C-U food and drink scene. Located inside Fresh International Market sits this restaurant, a hot pot spot that is sure to impress. (PS)

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

16. Homegrown is a fine place for brunch

► Published July 26th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

Homegrown opened this year at Atkins Golf Club. It’s owned by Ryan Rogiers of The Wheelhouse in St. Joe. While it’s still sort of figuring itself out in terms of ambience, they have a nice patio with a lovely view, and Alyssa found it a solid place to take the family for brunch. (JM)

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

15. We support Unit 4 teachers

► Published February 10th / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

It’s been a contentious year in Unit 4 for a myriad of reasons, and a big one was early this year when the teachers and the school board were negotiating the latest contract. After two especially challenging school years, teachers felt like more was being demanded of them without evidence for how it would positively impact their students, particularly regarding extending the school day. Thankfully a resolution was reached without a strike. (JM)

Photo compliation from (l-r) REUTERS/Kate Munsch; Getty Images; Regan Deering’s website.

14. Two takeaways from the Illinois Primary

► Published July 14th / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

The primary last June showed us pretty loud and clear that the Republicans in Illinois, and in our area, are sticking with the Trumpiest wing of the party. Mary Miller became the nominee in IL-15, Regan Deering overcame three other candidates to run in IL-13, and Darren Bailey became their nominee for Governor. Thankfully two of those three went on to lose in the general election. These were three candidates that perpetuated the Big Lie, either blatantly or with their refusal to affirm that Joe Biden was fairly elected. Voting numbers were predictably low, but nonetheless disappointing. (JM)

Photo by Carl Busch.

13. Horsch Radish serves outstanding German food

► Published September 20th / 7:00 a.m. / Carl Busch

Watching Bayern Stube close its doors was not something that folks in Central Illinois really wanted to see. The reaction to such news was nothing short of people being completely bummed out that it was going away. Lucky for us, there were some brave folks who wanted to go for it with their own German restaurant, Horsch Radish, which Carl went to check out and review. He said it so well: “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to open a restaurant. It takes ten times that amount to follow a legendary place and serve the same type of food.” A great story of a new restaurant doing their thing and doing it well is always a joy to see. (PS)

Photo by Alyssa Buckely.

12. Neil St. Blues buffet brunch is a smorgasbord of Southern cuisine

► Published June 21st / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

Hell yes. (JH)

Photo by Tom Ackerman.

11. A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine: Old and New

► Published April 26th / 7:00 a.m. / Tom Ackerman

Tom Ackerman’s column is a cornerstone of the SP Culture section, as it embodies the irreverence and deeply hyper-localness that we so value. While there is engaging content in all of Tom’s articles, I think it was the hidden house that drew people to this particular offering, as a stark example of just how much Green Street has transformed over the years. (JM)

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

10. Five places in Champaign-Urbana for a solid Italian beef sandwich

► Published August 25th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

Apparently, Italian beef is very important to our readers. It is important to me too. What’s not to like? Tender, well-seasoned thinly sliced beef, drenched in au jus, on a nice warm crusty roll… delicious. We are fortunate to have so many places to get this Chicago delight. (JM)

Photo by Deborah Liu.

9. Cars are killing us, but Florida Avenue is a precious chance to make better choices

► Published June 17th / 7:00 a.m. / Deborah Liu

Urban planning and design is a fairly regular topic at SP. You all feel very strongly about these things, and that’s wonderful — this is exactly how change is inspired and enacted. The proposal to replace the stop signs on Florida Avenue with stoplights has many concerned. Faster traffic moving on a narrow portion of that street? Youwere very interested in Deborah Liu’s take. (JH) 

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

8. The story of corner-shop Japanese restaurant ISHI + Kaori’s Oven

► Published February 23rd / 7:00 a.m. / Xiaohui Zhang

Out of the former Yellowfin location has blossomed this absolutely wonderful experiential dining spot by Ken and Kaori Ishibashi. Xiaohui told the story back in February, Alyssa has highlighted it in BEST Food + Drink 2022, and Paul give us a full spin top to bottom on what it entails. It is no surprise it ended up on this list. I can’t wait to go try it myself, if I can snag one of the eight coveted seats. (PS)

Photo by Sam Logan.

7. Imagining the future of Downtown Urbana

► Published July 21st / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

While it might not appear as though a ton has changed that meets the eye, there’s been quite the stir over in Downtown Urbana this year given the changing lanscape of restaurant openings and closings, changes in ownership, debates on parking lots, and much more. The Editorial Board wanted to take a moment to dream up what they see as positive paths forward for the centerpiece of Urbana. (PS)

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

6. The reasons we’re voting for Democrats this election

► Published October 6th / 7:00 a.m. / Editorial Board

As if we needed to provide a rationale…but we did. And it looks like we are preaching to the choir, though we hope we have been able to sway some people. You voted blue this election, all the way down the ballot. (JH)

Photo from Lucinda WIlliams’ Facebook page.

5. A good soul: Chatting with Lucinda Williams before her show at The Virginia Theatre

► Published April 5th / 7:00 a.m. / Sal Nudo

While legends are no stranger to C-U stages, it isn’t often that we get one that is quite as influential as the great Lucinda Williams. Sal had the opportunity to chat with her ahead of her performance in Champaign, and it just goes to show that when articles like this are shared across social media, they can really burn and create traction. (PS)

Photo from Carle’s website.

4. The pandemic profitability and politics at Carle Hospital

► Published February 9th / 3:00 p.m. / Elizabeth Holder

This Opinion article was submitted by community member Elizabeth Holder, and it’s clear her research, experience, and sentiment resonated with many of you. There are many, many things to dislike about Carle, while also acknowledging that there are plenty of good and decent and rational people who work there. It’s also true that COVID has continued to put a lot of pressure on our healthcare systems, which makes things terrible for both patients and employees. (JH)

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

3. How C-U’s Espresso Royale coffee shops were saved by Café Kopi

► Published June 15th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

If you’ve been around C-U for any amount of time, you’ve likely relied on one of these local coffee shop staples for your caffeine fix. There are many of us who are endeared to them, so it’s not surprising to see this article take off. Things were a bit precarious for a minute when it looked like Espresso Royale would no longer exist here. Thank goodness they are still here, and expanding. (JM)

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

2. Five more lunches in Champaign-Urbana for less than $10 

► Published May 24th / 7:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

Who doesn’t love an affordable lunch, especially in this economy? No one in C-U, that’s who — you’re all ready for a $10 lunch. This article was a follow up to 2021’s Five filling lunches in Urbana for less than $10. (JH)

Photo by Patrick Singer.

1. Here are your 2022 election results (with updates)

► Published March 2nd / 7:00 a.m. / Smile Politely Editors 

We are very grateful to have a readership that is invested and interested in the local political scene. Over the past few elections (since the start of the pandemic, really), reporting on election results has been a bit of a slow drip rather than a firehose of information. It’s less exciting, sure, but it also means that people are utilizing vote-by-mail and that is a good thing. Hooray for a state and county that prioritizes access to voting. (JM)

SPLOGS

As you can see below, here are the SPlogs that racked up views this year. It comes to no surprise that you all love restaurant closings and openings. Enough said, and we will keep them coming as we do our best to keep our finger on the pulse. (PS)

10. An ice cream and cereal bar called Heavy Spoon Co is coming to Champaign

► Published September 27th / 9:25 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

9. Martinelli’s Market Bakery & Deli opens tomorrow in Downtown Champaign

► Published November 28th / 8:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

8. The Courier Cafe will have new ownership soon

Published  November 3rd / 10:00 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

7. CMT Ventures and Nieto Enterprises will be sold to another hospitality group

► Published November 8th / 8:26 a.m. / Jessica Hammie

6. Ladro Enoteca is now open in Downtown Champaign 

► Published April 29th / 8:14 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

5. There’s a mountain lion roaming Central Illinois

► Published October 25th / 1:17 p.m. / Julie McClure

4. Here are some C-U Black-owned restaurants to support this Juneteenth 

► Published June 16th / 7:30 a.m. / Alyssa Buckley

3. Red Lion is changing locations

► Published August 10th / 7:12 a.m. / Julie McClure

2. Crane Alley is closing

► Published June 5th / 3:07 p.m. / Julie McClure

1. Alexander’s Steakhouse is closing permanently

► Published February 11th / 5:24 a.m. / Julie McClure

Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer contributed to this article.

Top image by Smile Politely.