Smile Politely

C-U snacks for your next road trip

Spring break is here. The weather is much nicer than last month, and perhaps you have travel planned. Maybe you have a place to visit, some family to see, or a much needed vacation. Whether you’re driving two hours or sixteen, you’re going to need some snacks. It’s a recipe for disaster to be hungry on a road trip. Fast food places are ubiquitous, but taking an exit for fried food is lame when you can pack some delicious C-U foods and drinks.

As you prepare to travel, here are five snacks you might want to take with you.

On a small white plate, there is a ham sandwich on a pretzel roll. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Ham and Smoked Gouda on a Pretzel Roll | Art Mart

Whether you leave at dawn or late morning for your trip, you’ll want to pack something for lunch. Swing by Art Mart’s grab-and-go case and pick up this ham and smoked Gouda on a pretzel bun ($5.75). I hesitated writing about this sandwich because I love it so much and it’s already often sold out, but it really is the best lunch for a road trip. This cold sando travels well because the soft pretzel bun holds up for hours (and even overnight!) in a cooler. The sandwich is wrapped securely, so no leaks during travel.

There was a good amount of savory ham on the sammie, and the slice of creamy Gouda has an awesome smoky flavor. The veggies on the sandwich were minimal: two pieces of lettuce and three very thin red onion slices, and they provide just a little crunch. The bottom of the sandwich has an amazing dijonaise spread which made the sando saucy without overtaking the delicious taste of the smoky cheese and the salty ham. I love the pretzel bun; it’s so fresh, and it has a great chew. There are lots of prepared food and drinks to grab from Art Mart’s cold case in addition to bags of chips and bottled drinks (coffee, soda, juice, and kombucha). 

Art Mart
1705 S Prospect Ave
M-Sa 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There is a to go cup of coffee with Cafe Kopi written on it. There is a black sharpie writing

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Coffee | Cafe Kopi

Anyone on a road trip needs coffee. Skip the national chains and go for a local coffeeshop. Try a cup of joe at Cafe Kopi, a Champaign coffeeshop that’s been around since 1993. Kopi makes fresh-brewed house blend Black Velvet or Boneyard Blend Day coffee daily, and orders can be placed in advance. The coffee here is $2.60 for a small, $3 for a medium, and $3.40 for the large 20 ounce cup.

Stopping for coffee is the first destination of any road trip; how else will the driver stay alert? I like to put in a pick up order at my departure time (to encourage myself to be on time). Then park in one of the short term parking spots on Walnut Street, grab my coffee, and be on my way in less than a minute. Kopi’s coffee has always been ready when I arrive, and that’s so much faster than waiting in a drive through line. Cafe Kopi’s online ordering allows scheduled pick up times — up to two weeks in advance. The coffeeshop’s breakfast options are solid, too, so if you want a breakfast for the road, add a bagel sandwich to your pick up order. My go-to bite at Kopi is the sunrise sandwich, but I recently tried the smoky sandwich with bacon, cheese, egg, and a chipotle sauce on an everything bagel. It was spicy and so good.

Cafe Kopi
109 N Walnut St
7 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily

In the bulk aisle of Common Ground, there are rows of bulk foods. There is a white man facing away, serving some snacks into a plastic bag. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Snacks in Bulk | Common Ground

For long road trips, you obviously need lots of snacks. A fun way to get a bunch of different snacks (or a lot of one favorite snack) is to visit Common Ground. There is an entire aisle dedicated to bulk snacks. Find salted pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, candy, chocolate-covered pretzels, trail mixes, organic crystallized ginger, and much more by the pound. Make sure to write the item’s number down, so the cashier can easily ring up your snacks.

Go for the garlic sesame sticks ($3.39 a pound); they are crunchy, salty, a little garlicky, and my favorite snack to get at CGFC. I scooped up enough for a short trip to Chicago, and it was a little over a quarter pound for only $0.92. Take a few minutes before your trip to browse Common Ground’s bulk aisle to see what looks yummy to you.

Common Ground
300 S Broadway Ave
7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

More Snackies | Far East Grocery

I took a shopping adventure at Far East last week, and I’m still enjoying the snacks. I bought some garlic onions rings, sesame egg rolls, shrimp snacks, and fruit chews. The onion rings ($2.99) are a product of Korea, and they were fantastic: airy, crisp rings with a very strong onion flavor. I thought they were a smoother, more flavorful version of the American snack Funyuns, and I would absolutely take this on a trip. The sesame egg rolls ($1.79) were sweet rolled wafers with a dominating sesame flavor. The rolled snack was made in Taiwan and had little black sesame seeds throughout. The shrimp snacks ($2.99) were recommended by the cashier at the grocery. From the first bite, the crispy, light chips had a shrimpy flavor that paired well with the garlic and onion seasoning. Lastly, the bag of fruit chews ($2.49) from Malaysia are probably the most perfect road trip snack. The little sweets were individually wrapped and came in four flavors: mango, pineapple, strawberry, and guava. The sweet snack was harder and chewier than similar fruit chews I’ve had before, each enjoyable for a long time. Each fruit flavor was distinctive, and having a bag of these would be a sweet way to savor the miles on a trip.

There is way more at this grocery than just these four snacks. Wander the aisles of a small grocer for snacks you definitely won’t find at the roadside gas stations.

Far East Grocery
105 S Fifth St
10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Shortbread Cookies | Suzu’s Bakery

Why not bring a little piece of C-U with you on your trip? These four cookies ($4) from Suzu’s Bakery would make a great host gift — and if you’re not visiting anyone, treat yourself (or your passenger). I love these shortbread cookies for travel because they won’t melt and aren’t easily crushed, and I love to gift these cookies because they are so unique to C-U.

The vanilla sandwich cookie had a very thin strawberry filling, and the buttery vanilla shortbread paired well with the sweet, fruity frosting. The chocolate puppy cookie was not very sweet; it had a big cocoa flavor and a tasty shortbread crumble when bit. The matcha frog cookie had a lovely earthy sweetness and a beautiful green color; it’s a great example of the inimitable desserts you can find at the Japanese bakery. The pink bear cookie had a chocolate heart on the belly and burst of a bright berry flavor. The shortbread cookie was infused with strawberry sweetness and had a wonderful buttery taste. Where else have you seen a froggie matcha cookie and a strawberry bear cookie? You can only get this pack of cookies (also available in packs of six, ten, and twenty cookies) here in Champaign — and it’s worth packing a taste of home on your next trip.

Suzu’s Bakery
114 N Walnut St
W-Sa 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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