Smile Politely

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

Ariel's Garden cocktail by Seven Saints for the June Five things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

From a whole freaking cake to sweet-and-spicy coffee, this month’s picks are all delicious, treat-yourself food and drinks of Champaign-Urbana. There are a lot of holidays in June, but it’s also my birthday this month. Being one of those insufferable birthday-loving babes, I want us all to celebrate me the month of the June with memorable eats and libations.

Along with an entire cake and a local latte, my birthday list this year includes a steak date, a spicy chicken dish in Urbana, and a brand new gin cocktail in Champaign. This month, treat yourself to these five delicious bites and sips in honor of your foodie friend Alyssa’s birthday.

Five delicious things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana
Alyssa Buckley

Sweet Heat LatteFlying Machine Avionics

On First Street in Champaign, Avionics coffee shop makes damn good coffee. Though drip coffee and the harvest moon latte are my usual orders at the cosy coffee shop, I treated myself to a sweet heat latte ($5.75) last week, and it’s my new favorite. Made with honey, chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne, the latte started sweet and finished with a little spiciness. That spicy dash made me crave more of the creamy flavor at the start of the sip, and thus, the coffee was easily (and quickly) finished because the tasty sip-cycle: sweet, then spicy, then sweet. I loved the latte art and the big mug, too.

Avionics’ relaxed ambiance makes it an easy spot to linger. Try the sweet heat latte inside the Champaign coffee shop or sip it outside on the new extended patio.

202 S First St
M-F 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Five delicious things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana
Alyssa Buckley

Sirloin Cap-Strip︱Hamilton Walker’s

Special occasions can be a time to go all out with a nice steak dinner, especially in June since it’s (apparently) National Steakhouse Month. At the ritzy steakhouse in Downtown Champaign, Chef Zach and his team expertly cook steak; this twelve-ounce sirloin cap-strip ($39) was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a red center and a great sear. The quality of the meat and simple seasoning allowed the delicious, tender steak to be the highlight — though sauces like peppercorn and different crust options like horseradish, Parmesan, or black truffle could be added.

Hamilton Walker’s knows how to make guests feel special whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or nothing at all. The friendly general manager Nathan checks on tables, and the servers are very fancy — they wear vests! The cocktails are great; the kids’ menu is on point, and the patio is lovely this time of year.

Hamilton Walker’s
201 N Neil St
Su-Th 4 to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 4 to 8:30 p.m.

Five delicious things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana
Alyssa Buckley

Spicy Korean Chicken︱KoFusion Campus

Only available at KoFusion‘s counter-service campus location, this spicy Korean chicken ($12.75) has no business being this delicious, but it is. I absolutely love this dish of three hand-breaded crispy chicken breast strips coated in a sticky, sweet-and-spicy sauce. No veggies, no extras, just hot chicken and rice. The chicken portion was big, and the batter on the fried chicken was really crunchy even after being sloshed with the firey Korean hot sauce. The stinging heat was addicting, and the white rice was necessary (for me).

No matter how many times I’ve eaten this dish, I still love it. Dine in person at the casual sushi joint, or order it to go. Since the majority of university students are gone for summer, this month is a great time to treat yourself to a big bowl of spicy chicken on campus without crowds.

KoFusion Campus
701 S Gregory
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

five things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana
Alyssa Buckley

Tres Leches Cake︱Rick’s Bakery

Is it even a birthday celebration without a cake? I bought this beautiful full-sized tres leches cake ($30) from Rick’s Bakery, and it tasted as good as it looks. It had two layers of spongy vanilla cake with whipped cream and strawberries between, all of it saturated with sweet, milky deliciousness. The sliced strawberry toppings had a jelly-like squiggle that added extra sweetness, which all cakes totally need. Each slice had a super soft, delicious crumb with little fruity bursts of berry and sweet, creamy whipped frosting, and it tasted like a birthday.

If a whole-ass cake is too much, the Downtown Urbana bakery offers tres leches by the slice (as well as other full cakes and individual slices) five days a week until sold out.

Rick’s Bakery and Café
124 W Main Street
T-Sa 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

delicious cocktail for five things to eat or drink in Champaign-Urbana
Alyssa Buckley

Ariel’s Garden︱Seven Saints

I ordered this cute cocktail called Ariel’s Garden ($12), and it was super refreshing. One of three new seasonal cocktails at Seven Saints in Downtown Champaign, Ariel’s Garden has gin, ginger liqueur, ginger syrup, and lemon juice. The gin’s taste was subtle against the double dose of ginger flavor from the housemade ginger syrup and the ginger liqueur. While it was a very ginger-forward beverage, I thought the lemon’s citrus balanced the zesty ginger flavor enough that it wasn’t too intense. As someone who likes ginger and really likes gin, I loved this cocktail. With the recent release of the new Little Mermaid, it feels like a cool time to drink a drink called Ariel’s Garden.

Seven Saints is a stylish restaurant with many food options and a great patio. Though the restaurant has no reservations, if there’s a long wait for a table, you can check if there are seats available at the bar — especially if you’re there just for a cocktail.

Seven Saints
32 E Chester St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to midnight

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