My love affair with Cravings started when I was in library school and I tried their General Tsao’s Bean Curd. I’d had General Tsao’s Tofu at another local Chinese restaurant, and found the sauce to be delightful, but the tofu to be a strange consistency. Not so at Cravings. Their tofu is cooked perfectly all the way through, rather than being crunchy on the outside and squishy in the middle. I would go so far as to say the tofu bounced in my mouth, but that might be an exaggeration.
When I got a new job on campus this May, I was eager to revisit this favorite campus restaurant. However, with the spring semester still in session, I found it difficult to visit Cravings during my lunch hour. The two times I tried to go, every table in the restaurant was full, and there was still a long line of people getting orders to go. So I would drool over the many menu options posted in the windows while I waited for my friend so we could relocate to a restaurant with a table.
Now that campus is less hectic, Cravings and I have been reunited and it feels so good. Cravings is a veritable smorgasbord for vegetarians. I do not have room to list everything that they offer for vegetarians on their numerous menus that are located sporadically on the walls (and a whiteboard) throughout the restaurant. But I will tell you that their menu features specialties by regions: China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam; and each region offers either a tofu dish and/or a mixed vegetable dish. There is a menu on one side of the counter that offers a plethora of eggplant dishes, including cumin curry, spicy lemongrass, and dry curry. I tried eggplant in garlic sauce, and it was excellent. Served with cooked green bell peppers and onions atop a generous portion of white rice, the garlic eggplant left me full and content and searching for a piece of gum so as to not offend my coworkers.
The next time I visited Cravings I tried the Triple Bean Jade, which was a special of the day posted on the whiteboard next to the register. This consisted of cooked green peppers, green beans, and broccoli in a brown sauce. The brown sauce had a hint of garlic, but was lighter than the garlic sauce. It was very smooth, and the vegetables were cooked perfectly. It is easy to undercook green beans and to overcook broccoli, but there were no problems in this dish.
I visited Cravings again the next day and tried a selection from India: the Tofu Red Curry (pictured above). The tofu was excellent as always. The red curry sauce started out mild, but built in heat the more I ate. Again, I got to enjoy the crisp green beans, which also went well with the red curry sauce.
One of the things that makes Cravings really special is the free hot tea. Chinese tea and Chrysanthemum tea are great complements to the meal. I prefer the sweet Chrysanthemum tea. I also appreciate that Cravings has Sriracha at every table — one of my all time favorite hot sauces. Having gone to Cravings with several meat eaters, I know that Cravings will satisfy the carnivore in your life, too. But for vegetarians, it is really a treat to see such a large quantity of items to choose from. Maybe in the future I will be brave enough to try the Tofu Stir-Fry Black Fungus & Dried Lily Flowers. Hmmm, we’ll see…
Cravings is located at 603 S. Wright St. in Champaign. They are open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.