December is finally/already here, and quite frankly, I’m happy about it. This year, 2016, has been, in my humble opinion, a garbage year. There have been plenty of losses (farewell, Prince) and heartbreaks and controversies and plenty of bad feelings to go around. Since this time of year is ripe with parties — holiday, end of semester, just ‘cause — you might as well commit to indulging. Despite the relatively mild temperatures, winter is indeed on its way. The short, gray, cold days have me seriously craving heat: hot beverages, hot food, spicy things. This list contains two suggestions for hot beverages and three suggestions for hot food. I’ll leave spicy up to you.
Have suggestions? Leave ‘em in the comments.
Brussels Sprouts | Big Grove Tavern
Brussels have been on the list of hip veggies for a few years now, and I’m just fine with that. Fry ‘em or roast ‘em, they’re pretty good. Big Grove has gone through some changes in the last year or so, but the Brussels have remained on the menu in the fall/winter months. The presentation has changed some — they’re now served with the aioli drizzled/squirted on top — but the taste is just as good. They are more expensive than they used to be; at $7, they’re not a cheap appetizer, but the portion is large enough to share. Or don’t share. At least you can say you at your vegetables.
Big Grove Tavern is located at 1 E Main St, Champaign, and open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Big Grove will validate up to two hours of parking at the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Photo from BGT”s Facebook page.
Lunch combo | Brixx Wood Fired Pizza
Brixx is one of the new restaurants to open on South Neil Street, in the same complex as new grocery store Harvest Market. At lunch time the restaurant offers a combo plate (half salad, half pizza) for $7.95. It’s a damn good deal. The portion is large, and I was more than full by the time I cleared my plate. More importantly, the food was good. I ordered the arugula and pear salad (sans gorgonzola, gross), and the veggies were fresh and crisp and tasty. The dressing was sweet and tangy, and paired perfectly with the pears. I ordered the rustica pizza (prosciutto, mozzarella,
mushrooms, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, roasted garlic) and it was tasty as hell. The crust was really good. Brixx also has local brews on tap, so if you’re looking for a lunchtime brewski, you’re all set. Brixx offers gluten free, vegetation, and vegan options, which makes it an easy choice if dining with a group. The only downside is navigating that nightmare of a parking lot in and around Harvest Market. Good luck.
Brixx Wood Fired Pizza is located at 2043 S Neil St, Champaign, and open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Satuday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Photo by Jessica Hammie.
Anything | Koh-i-noor
The folks behind Sitara in Urbana have just opened up a new restaurant in Downtown Champaign. The grand opening isn’t until February, so have a little patience if you’re stopping by during this “soft” opening.
I’m pretty sure most folks already know that Sitara offers the best Indian in town, and I’m confident that Koh-i-noor will do the same. Give it a go, check it out. It’ll be a nice change of flavor from the typical holiday time fare. If you’re looking for spicy, you’ll have no shortage of options. I recommend the garlic naan as an antidote to the spice.
You can check out photos of the menu here.
Koh-i-noor is located at 6 Columbia St, Champaign (the old Escobar’s), and is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Photo by Patrick Singer.
Bubble Tea | Snow Meets Coffee
If you haven’t yet tried bubble tea, I encourage you to do so. It’s only sort-of tea, and it’s not carbonated. It’s essentially a hot (or cold) milk tea beverage that is heavy on milk and sugar. The bubbles are tapioca beads that add a chewy, if pretty tasteless, bit of texture and excitement to the drinking experience. I’m partial to taro, but you can get “plain” milk tea, or lavender, or mocha, or green tea, or Thai tea. Snow Meets Coffee offers a good handful of options. In the cold weather, hot bubble tea is sort of like a hot beverage dessert; it’s one of my favorite ways to consume sugar and stay warm. Snow Meets Coffee also delivers, so you can have your bubble tea brought right to your front door.
Snow Meets Coffee is located at 1 E Main St (suite 108) Champaign, and is open Monday through Friday, noon to midnight; Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight.
Photo from Snow Meets Coffee Facebook page.
Coffee | Columbia Street Roastery
Have you been to a cupping yet? If not, you should check out Columbia Street’s monthly coffee tasting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 17th. There are only a handful of spots available, so email or call CSR (217-352-9713) to reserve yours — it’s a free event! The tasting/cupping is a great way to try different coffees, learn new ways to talk about them, and to check out the very cool place that is CSR. You’ll be able to smell the roasting coffee from down the block, and there’s something quite pleasing about walking into the store and smelling all the coffee deliciousness.
Columbia Street Roastery is located at 24 E Columbia St, Champaign. For info about tastings, check out Facebook. The store is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Photo by Jessica Hammie.