Happy Black History Month! February is a great time to reflect and honor the contributions Black individuals have made to our country. This month, my food recommendations celebrate Black excellence in the Champaign-Urbana food scene. This February — and all year long, seek out businesses, restaurants, food trucks, and bakeries run by Black entrepreneurs and eat amazing food. If you’re not sure where to go, check out more than 150+ businesses on Buy Black Chambana’s website and follow the community organization on Facebook.
In this list, I’m highlighting five delicious things to eat in Champaign-Urbana: two desserts, a Chicago sandwich, African beef steak, and a romantic side dish. If you want to read about more tasty bites from Black-owned restaurants in C-U, take a look at my previous February lists (2022 and 2021).
Chocolate Covered Pretzels︱Cool Bliss Popped Bliss
Starting off with a treat from Cool Bliss Popped Bliss, I love this four-pack of milk chocolate-covered pretzels ($3.50). The pretzels had a good crunch, and I liked the salt crystals with the chocolate. Every bite was sweet and salty deliciousness. The milk chocolate coating completely covered the pretzel on all sides — even the bottom— and had an extra drizzle of hardened chocolate.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, this popcorn shop is a lovely place for treats and snacks. I also love the cheesy bacon popcorn and the chocolate-covered Twinkie here.
Cool Bliss Popped Bliss
1503 S Neil St
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bulls Beef︱Garro’s Taste of the City
In December, we named Garro’s Taste of the City the BEST New food truck of 2022, and I keep returning to the red truck for lunch. My favorite thing to order here is the Bulls Beef combo ($9.99), the truck’s Italian beef sandwich with fries and a can of Faygo soda. This amazing mess of a sandwich had juicy, shaved beef and came topped with mild giardiniera. The soft, soggy bun was utterly delicious with the tender Italian beef and made-in-house giardiniera. The crinkled carrots, celery, and pickled peppers added a sour crunch to the hearty beef, and the chopped veggies were so good that I ate every single one that fell out of my sandwich.
The sandwich was double wrapped in tin foil, so it would probably still taste warm for a while, but I like to stay parked at the Shell station lot and just eat it in my car while the seasoned fries are fresh. Check out the menu here or on the truck’s Facebook page.
Garro’s Taste of the City
1511 E Washington St
W-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ice Cream & a Milkshake︱Heavy Spoon
New to Downtown Champaign, Heavy Spoon is an ice cream and cereal bar with a ton of wildly fun desserts. I ordered the Heavy caramel drop ($10.75), and my kid had the cup of ice cream ($7.50). My milkshake’s cup was adorned with French toast cereal affixed with frosting, which I found equal parts hilarious and genius. The milkshake’s playful cereal decoration tasted great: fresh and crisp, not stale in the slightest. This milkshake’s delicious cinnamon and rich caramel flavors were so very good.
The cup of ice cream had two scoops of any ice cream with a choice of three toppings. My son chose cookies and cream ice cream topped with Reese Pieces, hot fudge drizzle, and Cap’n Crunch peanut butter cereal. It was sugar-overload but in the best way. The crunchy cereal with the milky ice cream was really yummy, and having toppings like candy in addition to all the cereal options was cool. The dessert restaurant has a fun vibe inside with cereal mascot decorations. Watch for Matt’s review of Heavy Spoon which will publish tomorrow morning.
118 N Neil St
Tu-Th 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
F + Sa 10 a.m. to midnight
Beef Steak with Fried Potatoes︱Les Gourmets Cuisine
The Congolese restaurant Les Gourmets Cuisine opened last summer in Broadway Food Hall, and this beef steak lunch special ($14.50) was awesome. The delicious garlic and black pepper flavors were infused in the steak, which was a thin cut but a good size for lunch. I was obsessed with the seasoned onions and yellow bell peppers on top of the steak; they were sautéed soft but still tender crisp and had robust flavor. The side of fried potatoes was huge, and I couldn’t finish them — even though I wanted to. These fried potatoes tasted a lot like slices of baked potato, and I enjoyed the salty, oily taste of these potato wedges.
Les Gourmets Cuisine serves a variety of African cuisine, and if you want steak and potatoes for lunch, this is a great option.
Les Gourmets Cuisine
401 N Broadway Ave
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 2 to 8 p.m.
My Girlfriend’s Not Hungry︱Wood N’ Hog
This add-on is fitting for Valentine’s Day. For $5.65, Wood N’ Hog has a My Girlfriend’s Not Hungry side dish. The side included a small basket of fries and a choice of fried chicken wings or a snack size of rib tips, plus sauce. I ordered mine with mixed sauce on the side, and obviously, I got the wings. The chicken was delicious, especially with some of the tangy, spicy barbecue sauce poured on top. I loved the salty, crispy skin on the chicken and how easily the meat came off the bone.
This side is only available as an accompaniment to an entree, but it’s a fun option to have if you need to appease a snacky companion. Wood N’ Hog has two locations: one in Urbana and one in Champaign, sharing a space with Zambian restaurant Stango Cuisine.
Wood N’ Hog
101 W University Ave
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.