Smile Politely

Boomerangs is a nostalgic bar with classic bar food

A burger with onion rings at Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Mindy Basi

My husband and I boomeranged back to the past for lunch on a Friday at Boomerangs, located off Philo on Washington Street in East Urbana. And just like I remembered from back in the good old days, the food was delicious. Inside Boomerangs, the self-described East Urbana neighborhood bar and grill gave a trip back to back to those eras when a burger joint had food that was cooked in-house with a quality hard to find these days. Our visit reminded me of an era in Champaign-Urbana when diners lined up at local campustown bars for a really good fish sandwich and a tasty burger. Boomerangs has managed to recreate the magic at this local bar and eatery.

Inside Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Mindy Basi

The decor at Boomerangs was a nod to pop culture icons of 40 odd years ago, with retro wall art and laminated table decorations featuring pictures of personalities and stars from the 70s and 80s. The interior definitely had a bar vibe featuring multiple televisions broadcasting sports games and horse racing, dartboards, a jukebox, a pool table, and a pinball machine. There was a stage for live music in the evenings. Boomerangs was clearly not trying to be upscale, just nostalgic but with modern amenities patrons expect.

Inside Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Mindy Basi

There was a full-service bar along with the table service for food. The seating was ample and utilitarian, consisting of long tables with plenty of chairs and some four-top tables. A patron will most likely share space, as there were not any two tops and just a few tables that sat only four people. The music was also retro, with lots of tune selections from the days of AM radio. It was quite charming and unpretentious, the way a neighborhood bar that serves burgers and fries ought to be. The day we ate lunch there, a convivial group of patrons sat at the bar, just hanging out on a Friday afternoon. It was a pleasant and friendly place to eat.

The menu had many burger and wrap combinations, and protein selections included both chicken and beef. There were no obvious vegetarian items on the menu, although it did appear that a patron could design a sandwich with no meat.

The burger at Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Burger at Boomerangs Bar & Grill; Photo by Mindy Basi

For my lunch, I had the classic burger with cheddar ($12.22), which included a side of fries and coleslaw, which I upgraded to onion rings and Cajun cheese balls. The third-pound, flattened-style burger overflowed the bun, which was lightly toasted but still soft. The accompaniments (onions, pickle, lettuce, tomato)  were on the side, so nothing was soggy when the burger got to the table. The lettuce, onion, and tomato were clearly fresh. The burger was excellent, with good flavor and texture. It was perfectly cooked for a thin burger, not too charred on the outside and still juicy on the inside. The seasoning was subtle, and the meat had just the right amount of salt for my liking.

The Cajun cheese balls were a tasty small bite of creamy white cheese inside a golden fried exterior, with the added bonus of Cajun seasoning giving a little spicy pop, but nothing too hot. Hand-breaded in-house, our server told us, the onion rings were excellent, fried in a light crispy beer batter. The onions were tasty and soft inside the smooth golden breading, which gave a satisfying crunch when bitten into. For an aficionado of onion rings (guilty as charged), they were on point. Both fried sides came with a creamy dip, which was good but unnecessary, given the perfection of our fried delights. It was a treat to have fried food that obviously didn’t come out of a freezer.

The fish sandwich at Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Fish sandwich at Boomerangs Bar & Grill.; Photo by Mindy Basi

My husband had the special fish sandwich ($9.88), served on Fridays during Lent. It was not on the menu, and we did have to ask about it as the server who seated us did not volunteer it was available. The fish sandwich was well worth seeking out. The generous portions of thick white fish filets, coated in the same delicious house-made batter as the onion rings, were perfectly cooked. The exterior was golden and crispy, enrobing the flaky, mild, flavorful white fish within. My obligatory bite was delicious. The portion was more than enough for a hungry diner, two large pieces on the same lightly toasted bun as the burger. Tartar sauce came on the side in a small container, just enough for the sandwich. 

Fries at Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Fries at Boomerangs Bar & Grill; Photo by Mindy Basi

The sandwich came with coleslaw and fries. The hand-cut french fries were the matchstick variety, and they arrived crispy and hot, in a nice big pile on the plate, fried to just the right amount of crispness. The coleslaw was nicely done with a creamy dressing, served in a small container on the side.  It was crunchy and fresh-tasting. My husband paired his entree with a bottled domestic beer ($4.68), which complemented the fish sandwich nicely.

I enjoyed a diet Pepsi ($3.12 for a large plastic tumbler) with my entree, which should have been a TAB, given the retro vibe. Ketchup, mayo and other condiments were delivered to our table by our friendly and helpful server, who was also tending bar but gave us plenty of attention during our visit.

Inside Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Mindy Basi

Head on back to the early 80s at Boomerang’s Bar and have a taste of what used to be a common denominator in town: a delicious house-made fried fish sandwich, a hearty burger, crispy fries, hand-dipped onion rings, and creamy coleslaw. We’ll raise our glass to you, neighbor.

Inside Boomerangs Bar & Grill in Urbana.
Mindy Basi

Follow the bar on Facebook.

Boomerangs Bar & Grill
1309 E Washington St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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