Smile Politely

Five bites and sips in Champaign-Urbana that taste like fall

I want fall flavors — all of them. This time of year, I like to welcome fall with a list of top notch autumnal food and drinks in Champaign-Urbana. There are many places to love in our delicious twin cities, and this is the third list in the series. Read my fall list from 2021 which includes Blind Pig’s hard cider, Suzu’s Japanese pumpkin pan, a latte from Aroma Cafe, and two market finds, or check out my autumn article from 2020 for fall favorites like Curtis Orchard’s apple fritters, Art Mart’s pumpkin cookies, Jarling’s pumpkin pie snowstorm, and more.

For those who want a taste of autumn, here are five more great fall foods and drinks to enjoy in C-U: a pumpkin spice latte, cinnamon spice cookies, orchard apples, a fall cocktail, and pumpkin pancakes.

A large yellow tub of apples. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.


It’s fall, and it’s time to eat some freaking apples. There’s so many great options for apples in C-U. Go to Curtis Orchard and try not to eat an apple. The orchard offers you-pick apples from the apple orchard, apples by the bag, apple cider, apple doughnuts, apple fritters, caramel apple crisp mix, and more. Spot apples at the farmers’ markets, too. At both C-U markets, Meyer Produce offers a $7 bag that shoppers can fill with mix-and-match apple varieties. Visit Avery Farms‘ stand from Penfield, Illinois at the Saturday market or Weinzierl Fruit offering tasty apples by the box or bag at both markets. There’s also Cary’s Garden of Eatin‘ which grows unique hybrid varieties are delicious at the Urbana Market at the Square.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pumpkin Spice Latte | Cafeteria & Company

I am a pumpkin spice latte lover, but hell if I’m going to get one from Starbucks. The chain has been credited for inventing the pumpkin spice latte in 2003, but nearly two decades later, we out here supporting small businesses. Right?

I ordered a large pumpkin spice latte ($6.75 for 20 ounces) from Cafeteria & Company, and it had that iconic fall flavor. As I sipped from the big mug, the drink had a lovely aroma. This PSL started with a pumpkin pie sweetness and ended with a creamy coffee taste. The pumpkin didn’t overwhelm the coffee; the pumpkin spice was just right for me. If you really really like pumpkin, you might think it’s lacking (ask for double the pumpkin spice), but for everyone else, it’s a fantastic PSL. When I visited yesterday, the Downtown Urbana coffee shop played chill jams and had plenty of tables inside plus outdoor seating at the street curbanas. Cafeteria & Co’s PSL comes in two sizes (medium or large), can be made hot or iced, and is available to go as well.

Cafeteria & Company
208 W Main St
M-F 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa+Su 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The Sherpa Cocktail | Hamilton Walker’s

I was going to order the spiked apple cider off HW’s cocktail menu, but Hamilton Walker’s bartender Josh encouraged me to try his favorite fall cocktail: the sherpa ($10). Made with whiskey, orange bitters, allspice dram, and dry Curaçao, the cocktail had a beautiful autumnal color and even better autumn flavors. It was basically a twist on an old fashioned with a subtle finish of allspice. The orange of the bitters and Curaçao made a classic pairing with the cloves, and the lemon twist gave a complementary citrus note. The warm fall spices in the dram were made to go with the warmth of whiskey. Sit at the bar to watch Josh mix up the drink, reserve a table in the swanky dining room for dinner, or enjoy apps and the cocktail outside on the patio while the fall weather is pleasant.

Hamilton Walker’s
201 N Neil St
T-Th 4 to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Su 4 to 8 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pumpkin Pancakes | Original Pancake House

These pancakes are not on the menu all year round at the Original Pancake House, but they are offered every fall. Maybe you’re someone who has already tried these before, but last week I had my first OPH pumpkin pancakes ($10.75) and was totally impressed. The plate of pumpkin pancakes had six (!) CD-sized pancakes with a mountain of whipped cream; the gargantuan size could easily be split with four people. These pancakes tasted just like pumpkin pie. They had a deliciously buttery taste with a big pumpkin finish. No butter was provided — nor was it needed with the rich flavor of the cakes. The whipped cream must have been whipped in house because it slowly softened and melted into the hot cakes. It was insanely sweet, and while I’m sure it is considered a breakfast dish, I would recommend it for a dessert.

Eat the pancakes fresh at Champaign diner (join the virtual wait list here) or order online for pick-up or delivery.

Original Pancake House
1909 W Springfield Ave
M-F 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sa 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Su 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Spiced Molasses Cookies | Six Red Chairs Bakery

Six Red Chairs is a woman-owned home bakery that sells at the Urbana’s Market at the Square most Saturdays. I’ve writen about the French baker’s incredible kouign amann here and here, and I am now obsessed with this seasonal chewy molasses cookie (two for $4) which served fall spice realness. The soft cookie was made with all the yummy hygge spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger; it reminded me of homemade gingerbread cookies. The cookie’s warm ginger spice plus the granulated sugar grit tasted like gingerbread and sugar cookies had a cookie baby. The cracks and crinkles of the cookie had a nice texture. The cloves and ginger were too much for my kid, but I happily claimed both cookies for myself as I loved this sophisticated taste of fall. If you love cinnamon spice or gingerbread, you need these cookies.

Six Red Chairs Bakery
Urbana Market at the Square
Sa 7 a.m. to noon

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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