Smile Politely

Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: July 2022

This summer is flying by. Already Target has opened school supply shopping, and I am not ready. I want us to cling to summer as best as we can before fall semester arrives. 

This July, let’s go to the market to find ingredients for dinner. Let’s have sushi in Downtown Urbana and eat lamb korma in Downtown Champaign. This month, let’s gather with friends on the patio of Seven Saints and eat appetizers. Let’s skip dinner and pick up a fried chicken sandwich from a food truck. Let’s save school shopping for later and try summer food adventures in Champaign-Urbana.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Fresh Produce, Cheese, Sauce, Bread + Meat | C-U Farmers’ Markets

This month, everything is in season and at the farmers’ markets: tomatoes, peaches, sweet corn, green beans, and more. Walk the markets and find your favorite vegetables at a variety of farmers’ tables. Add market veggies to your salad, pizza, or roasted for a side dish. 

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If you eat meat, check out Harden Ranch, Ruhter Bison, Allison Centennial Farm, Moore Family Farm, and Triple S Farms; you can find bison burgers, lamb chops, chicken breasts, bacon, and summer sausage at the market. Do you like cheese? Get your next cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. The award-winning goat cheesemakers sell chevre, bloomy rind cheeses, feta, and more at the Urbana Market at the Square. Do you use hot sauce? Pick up a bottle of the Regal Gecko‘s Clásico, a mango-habanero flavored hot sauce or buy one (or a few!) of the creative hot sauces by The Weird Meat Boyz. If cooking isn’t in your wheelhouse, buy a pint of berries and serve in a pretty bowl. 

Champaign Farmers’ Market
Tu 3 to 6 p.m.

Urbana Market at the Square
Sa 7 a.m. to noon

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Chicken Tikka Masala + Lamb Korma | Himalayan Chimney

Himalayan Chimney offers upscale Indian cuisine in Downtown Champaign, and the food is awesome. Try the chicken tikka masala ($14.99) and lamb korma ($16.99). Both dishes came with a choice of rice or naan. The chicken tikka masala had chopped chicken in a creamy gravy. The orange sauce had a nice tomato and cumin taste, and the saucy, marinated chicken had so much flavor. The korma dish had very tender, delicious lamb bites in a mild gravy. The spiced sauce with lamb on rice was fantastic. We also ordered garlic naan ($2.99) which was served hot and super garlicky. The charred blisters and chopped fresh herbs on the pillowy bread was heavenly. 

If you dine in at Himalayan Chimney, you should order the lassoni gobi, too. It’s an appetizer of fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet and tangy garlic-tomato sauce — and it’s amazing.

Himalayan Chimney
134 W Church St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Sushi Rolls | Sakura Japanese Cuisine

Sakura is a chic spot for a dinner in Downtown Urbana, and after the closing of Crane Alley and Dancing Dog, let’s try to eat in Downtown Urbana more often. Last week, we went for sushi: the cherry blossom roll, jalapeño roll, spicy tuna, and the Urbana roll — but you can order whatever kind of sushi you like. The sushi menu has rolls with cooked fish, raw fish, nigiri, sashmi, and even deep-fried rolls. The restaurant has wine, beer, sake, tea, and Pepsi products. 

Starting on the right, the cherry blossom roll ($14) had raw salmon and avocado topped with raw tuna. This was the best bite: soft avocado with delicate salmon and fresh tuna plus a little pop from the roe. The jalapeño roll ($15) needed no wasabi because it was pretty spicy. The roll had avocado, cucumber, jalapeño, and tempura flakes topped with yellowtail, Thai chili, green onions, ponsu sauce, and seasonings. The bright heat from the jalapeño and teeny chili slices paired well with the cucumber, and the white fish absorbed the spicy flavors. The Urbana roll ($16) was a big, hot bite. It had raw tuna, raw salmon, and white escolar inside rice, battered, fried, and topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce. I loved the way the fish trio tasted and how scandalous it felt to eat deep-fried sushi. Lastly, the spicy tuna roll ($8) had raw tuna dusted with spicy seasoning, and it was a solid tuna roll.

Sakura Japanese Cuisine
132 W Main St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Chicken Flautas | Seven Saints

Patio season is here, and Seven Saints’ beer garden is a lovely place to meet up with friends. The entire appetizer menu is on point at Seven Saints, and these chicken flautas ($14.99) were mindblowingly good. I love flautas, but I had never had Seven Saints’ flautas until this plate. The app came as a platter of flautas filled with peppered grilled chicken, cheddar-jack cheese, and a black bean and corn salsa. The stuffed flour tortillas were fried and topped with mango salsa and sour cream drizzle, and there was a cup of jalapeño sweet sauce for dipping.

The fresh flavor of the mango salsa and the grilled chicken tasted great especially with the crisp flauta. The jalapeño heat was tempered by the sweetness in the sauce, and it made a good dip without being spicy. The cheesy chicken filling was just perfect. The appetizer came out piping hot and was terrific with our cold beverages on a summer evening out. 

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

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Fried Chicken Sandwich | Watson’s Food Truck

Watson’s fried chicken sandwich is my go to at the Downtown Champaign restaurant, and the food truck’s version of the classic sandwich ($12) was just as delicious. All sandwiches from Watson’s truck are served with seasoned waffle fries — and I like them more than the wedges. The classic sandwich had a battered, fried chicken thigh topped with mixed greens, sliced dill pickles, and herb mayo on a brioche bun. The crunch of the batter and the brined thigh tasted awesome, and the mayo spread and pickles complemented the fried chicken well. I love the seasoning on the fries, and I like dipping these fries in one of the restaurant’s signature sauces. All sauces from the truck are 75 cents, and it’s worth ordering a few. There’s black pepper ranch, Carolina gold, comeback, buffalo, and honey mustard. 

The chicken shack posts the food truck’s weekly schedule on socials, so be sure to follow Watson’s on Instagram and Facebook to see where they will be.

Watson’s Food Truck
locations vary

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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