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

A cropped photo of pad lard nar from the restaurant Sticky Rice in Champaign, Illinois. The dish has green veggies with brown noodles in a sauce. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Happy first day of May! The trees are all out there trying to get our attention with flowering spring blooms and whatnot. Maybe May will be marvelous or maybe May will be crummy, but either way, we will be eating.

This month, try these five foods and drinks that have caught my attention. They are all so delicious that I’m honestly mad I’m not eating them right now. This May, go for wonton nachos, a spicy margarita, a sizzling Indian dish, crispy Thai noodles, and a big ole slice of chocolate pie.

Alyssa Buckley

Wonton Nachos︱83 Vietnamese

Just like the restaurant’s banh mi, 83 Vietnamese’s wonton nachos ($10) were awesome. This deconstructed crab rangoon dish had warm wonton triangles with crab meat and chopped green onions with a drizzle of sweet-and-sour sauce and seasoned cream cheese. My favorite part of a crab rangoon is the crispy edge dipped in sauce, and this dish was just a basket of that crispy, saucy bite over and over. The airy pockets of the fried wontons scooped up the tasty housemade sweet-and-sour sauce. Because it wasn’t mixed into the cream cheese, the diced crab played a more prominent role than it does even in crab rangoons, and the thick wonton chips held up better than most tortilla chips do in nachos. All the flavors of a crab rangoon were there just in a yummy, creative way.

Dine in for these wonton nachos at the Vietnamese restaurant at The Crossing or call in a to-go order.

83 Vietnamese
2502 Village Green Place
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Alyssa Buckley

Mixed Grill︱Kohinoor Indian Restaurant

The whole restaurant notices when Kohinoor’s #34 mixed grill ($17.99) is ordered. Served on an attention-seeking sizzling pan, the dish had a sampler of meats: tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, garlic chicken, mala chicken, and seekh kebab with sliced tomato plus wilted lettuce and purple cabbage. With a sausage-like texture, the seekh kebab had a nice, herby flavor that didn’t need any extra sauces to taste good. The bone-in tandoori chicken was delicious; the flavorful drumstick was yummy but not spicy. My favorite bites were the big cuts of juicy chicken tikka with a peppery rub. The garlic chicken pieces were chopped chicken breasts packed with (of course) garlic flavor, and the mala chicken was the spiciest bite but not overwhelmingly so. It was great to eat a variety of tastes from just one dish, and I loved the dramatic entrance of the skillet’s loud sizzle and plume of smoke.

In case you didn’t know, Kohinoor recently served the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi Rajmohan Gandhi. You could order this dish for takeout, but this dish is definitely best eaten at the Champaign restaurant.

Kohinoor Indian Restaurant & Lounge
6 E Columbia
M 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. 
W+Th 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Alyssa Buckley

Mango Habanero Margarita︱Maize Mexican Grill

Maize at The Station serves many flavors of margaritas, but this mango habanero margarita ($10) is my go-to. Served with a Tajin rim, lime, and a de-seeded half a habanero pepper, this margarita had a sweet fruity sip with a spicy habanero ending. The chili powder and hot pepper were well balanced by the juicy, tropical sweetness. The bright mango flavor was wonderful, but the drink’s addictive prickly habanero kept me going back for more. If you don’t like spicy drinks but you do like mango, this margarita be made without the habanero.

Whether it’s at brunch, happy hour, or dinner with friends, find time to drink a mango marg this month. The dining rooms at Maize are good, but I think the margaritas taste even better on the back patio.

Maize at The Station
100 N Chestnut St
M-F 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Alyssa Buckley

Slice of Chocolate Cream Pie︱Po’ Boys

More than good barbecue, Po’ Boys makes killer pies, and the chocolate cream pie ($4.75 for a slice, $24 for a whole pie) is amazing. Served with fresh, fluffy whipped cream in little plastic cup, the slice of chocolate pie had billowy chocolate custard and a dense buttery crust with warm spices of ginger and cinnamon, which made it taste fancier than other chocolate pies I’ve had. I loved the big cocoa flavor, and I couldn’t get enough of the crumbly gingerbread-esque crust. Chilled, the slice of pie was absolutely delicious and big enough to share.

Po’ Boys pies are made by a dedicated, in-house pie-maker, and while the flavors vary a little bit, I’ve always been able to order a slice of chocolate cream pie when we’ve gone. You can order your pie online, or make a pit stop for Po’ Boys pie.

Po’ Boys
202 E University Ave
W-Su 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Alyssa Buckley

Chicken Pad Lard Nar︱Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice‘s pad lard nar ($15) dish of fried noodles, glossy sauce, and crisp veggies was as delicious as it looked. The dish had deep-fried wide rice noodles stir-fried with broccoli, yu choy leaves, and garlic in a thick soy-based sauce, plus the choice of protein; I chose chicken. The thin, bite-sized chicken had a mild Thai flavor, and the fried noodles absorbed the rich flavors of the sauce and tasted incredible. The yu choy had soft leaves with crunchy ribs, and tender broccoli florets soaked up the gravy and tasted really good, but what’s best about this pad lard nar was the textural contrast of curled, crispy noodles and soft, sauced up noodles. The crunch of the fried noodles was just so delicious and warranted searching through the dish for more crispy fried noodles.

I ordered this medium, and it was a great spicy flavor, but if you like it hot, the restaurant also offers regular hot (10/10), Thai hot (15/10), and Lao hot (20/10) options. Order online for carryout or dine in at the restaurant for pad lard nar any day but Tuesday.

Sticky Rice
415 N Neil St
M 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
W-Sa 11 a.m. to p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

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