Smile Politely

Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: July 2023

A delicious burger and fries with a side of purple coleslaw is on an old McDonalds plate in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Lately, it’s been so dang hot outside, and it’s got me craving all the things that taste good on a sticky July day in Champaign-Urbana. Bet that this month’s list includes delicious midsummer musts like cold beer, ice cream, and two tasty coleslaws.

This July, eat and drink all the the things that scream summer. Go for Southern fried chicken, catfish, and coleslaw in Champaign and wash it down with an Urbana beer. Treat yourself at a pink ice cream parlor, fill your belly with burger and fries from a new restaurant, and stop by the market for cheese and tomatoes for an easy summertime lunch at home.

A pour of a blood orange kolsch by 25 O'Clock Brewing sits on the bar in Urbana, Illinois. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Gussied Up︱25 O’Clock Brewing

Right off the bat, I loved the name, and this pour of Gussied Up ($6), a blood orange Kölsch brewed by 25 O’Clock Brewing, tasted so smooth. Dry and delicious, I liked the beer’s light fruity flavor and the crisp finish. This beer was a perfect drink on a hot summer afternoon. If you’re not into Kölsch beer, the Urbana brewery has other options: pale ale, an oatmeal coffee stout, sour ales, seltzer, and more; the brewery even makes their own ginger ale, which is used in the shandy (half ginger ale, half beer). Plus, 25 O’Clock Brewing has Cafe Kopi nitro cold brew and Cloud Mountain kombucha on tap. The bar is just steps from Downtown Urbana beside Best of Africa food store and Mama’s African Kitchen restaurant.

25 O’Clock Brewing
208 W Griggs St
T-Th 3 to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 3 to 11 p.m.
Su 3 to 10 p.m.

Two delicious ice cream cups from La Michoacana Express in Urbana, Illinois sit on a white table in front of a pink and white booth. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Ice Cream︱La Michoacana Express

Visiting this pretty pink ice cream parlor should be on your summer bucket list for the ambiance alone, but the made-in-house ice cream at La Michoacana is so, so good. My son and I each ordered one scoop in a waffle bowl ($3.39 each). He ordered the bubblegum, a vibrantly blue ice cream that was sweet and velvety. I had the angel’s kiss, a berry ice cream with mini marshmallows, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, coconut, almonds, and pecans. The add-ins gave this scoop a delicious texture; frozen shredded coconut, bursts of maraschino cherry, almond slivers, pillowy marshmallows, cold blueberries, and crushed pecans were so yummy together. Each bite consisted of a different combination of flavors and feel, and it was fantastic.

The shop sells a variety of ice cream from pistachio to chocolate to cheese in addition to housemade fruit pops in flavors like mango and spicy cucumber. For more about the Urbana Mexican ice cream shop, read Matt’s April review of a strawberry drink, chocolate ice cream, mango gomichamoy, and two fruit bars.

La Michoacana Express
1508 N Cunningham Ave  
T–Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
Su 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A plate of delicious fried chicken and catfish from Neil St. Blues. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Two Meat Combo Platter︱Neil St. Blues

I ordered this two-meat combo platter ($22) at Neil St. Blues for my birthday dinner, and it was super delicious. With three fried chicken wings, one catfish fillet, two sides, and a roll, this was a miscellany of tasty Southern cuisine. The fried chicken wings were full wings with drums and flats connected. The chicken was juicy with a salty, crunchy batter, and the flaky fish had the most amazing salty, gritty cornmeal crust. It was awesome to have both wings and fried fish on the same plate. The creamy slaw tasted yummy, and the sweet potato fries had a crisp exterior and a soft, piping hot center. When I can’t make the Downtown Champaign restaurant’s Sunday brunch buffet, this combo platter hits all the highlights for me.

Neil St. Blues
301 N Neil St
T-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A photo of feta cheese, tomatoes, basil, and crackers in Champaign-Urbana. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Feta Cheese by Prairie Fruits Farm + Market Tomatoes︱Urbana Market at the Square

Have you had the feta cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery? If you haven’t, try some this month. This feta ($7.50) is my summer obsession. Packed in brine, the cheese was tangy with some grassy undertones and a subtle saltiness. Most storebought feta is too salty for me (and I usually avoid it), but PFF’s feta is everything. Triangles of this cheese go wonderfully with any food, especially slices of tomato. I freaking hate winter tomatoes, but tomatoes in the July? Gimme. A little feta with tomatoes and fresh basil — there’s something super summery about a casual lunch of farmers’ market buys.

Find this yummy feta at the Urbana Market at the Square on Saturdays, at the Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery store, and sometimes at Harvest Market; buy tomatoes at the Urbana market from several vendors.

Urbana Market at the Square
401 S Vine St
Sa 7 a.m. to noon

A delicious smashburger from The Space restaurant in Downtown Champaign. Photo by Alyssa Buckley
Alyssa Buckley

Oklahoma Burger with fries and slaw︱The Space

At the new Downtown Champaign restaurant and music venue, I ordered The Space‘s Oklahoma burger ($14) with fries ($2 upgrade from chips) and a side of coleslaw ($2.50). The Oklahoma had two smashburger patties with griddled onions, gooey American cheese, and special sauce, and my god, it was insanely good. The house-ground brisket patties tasted delicious, and the edges were crispy from the (former Merry Ann’s Diner) griddle. The soft bun sopped up the beefy flavors and did its best to contain the double cheeseburger, but what made this burger top notch was the abundance of soft onions, adding a great texture and flavor. The hand-cut fries were yummy and a classic complement to a burger. Lastly, I liked the creamy dressing on the slaw; the cold carrots and purple cabbage were a satisfying contrast to the hot burger and fries.

The Space
1 E Main St
W 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Th-Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

More Articles