I must have driven by I Wok countless times without ever really noticing it was there. After finally giving it a try, I regret not finding it earlier. I Wok is easily missed, nestled in a small business strip located in the City Center Place development off Dunlap Avenue in Savoy. I Wok is an Americanized Chinese restaurant that has the ever-familiar white, black, and red-inked menu that offers chicken, pork, beef, and shrimp dishes with different vegetables and sauces as well as chop suey, lo mein, and egg foo young, among other offerings. While there are potentially more traditional Chinese options in Champaign-Urbana, sometimes the Americanized fare is exactly what you want.
Walking into the restaurant for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. It is a small space with a large ordering counter complete with a colorful, back-lit picture menu, a cooler with plenty of drink options, and about eight tables of various sizes for parties that want to dine-in.
I asked what dish would be best for someone who likes a bit of heat. The woman working at the counter was eager to discuss the dishes on the menu in detail, noting the fresh vegetables used in each dish. I settled on the Mongolian beef, which was explained as having generous pieces of green onion that gives the dish a strong flavor. My lunch-sized portion (which was huge) came with an option of pork fried rice or white rice and either a can of soda or fried pork egg roll. I went all-in with the fried rice and egg roll. The kicker? This whole meal cost $6.50. Not knowing the portion size of the lunch dishes, I went ahead and ordered the fried wontons with beef filling as well ($4.25 for 10 pieces).
Before I could finish pursuing the menu for their dinner and chef specialty dishes (around $8-$12 per entry), my piping hot lunch plate and appetizer was brought out. As I was enjoying my lunch, the staff was friendly and checking in to make sure I liked the dish.
The beef was flavorful and chewy with a nice bit of fat that gave it exceptional flavor. The brown Mongolian sauce was pretty tangy, but not too overpowering. The woman I spoke with was absolutely right — the thick, crunchy bites of green onions made the dish taste fresh. The white onions and button mushrooms were stir-fried perfectly, cooked the way that is seemingly impossible to replicate at home. However, the real show-stopper was the pork fried rice. It was amazing! The rice was a little sticky and had chunks of pork and vegetables you could actually see and taste.
Although the lunch portion was more than enough, I am glad I ordered the fried beef wontons. They were super crispy and fresh from the oil. They were served with a generous to-go container of sweet and sour sauce. I prefer soy sauce as my dip of choice, which they have on each table, along with sriracha for those who like heat with their dish.
Beyond their normal menu, I Wok offers a second menu with low carb diet options. This is perfect given the constant battle with holiday weight this time of year. You pick your portion size of protein (chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, tofu) then choose your vegetables and low-carb/low-sugar sauce to create your own perfect and healthy stir-fry. They have mala sauce if you are into the numbing peppercorn taste, which is a personal favorite and what I will be trying on my next visit.
There are many options on how to enjoy I Wok. You can grab a table at their cozy restaurant. For those who dine-in, they offer free ice water and hot jasmine tea. You can take your order to-go. If you choose this option, they have a cooler of different Pepsi and Coke products (including 2-liter bottles) and a packing station with sauce packets, chopsticks, napkins, and fortune cookies to take with you. You can order a meal for delivery with the Beyond Menu app, linked through their website. There is a minimum order amount of $10 and a $2-$3 delivery charge depending on how far you are from their location. They offer delivery to Champaign and Savoy until 9:30 p.m. every day except Mondays.
All in all, I Wok was a hit. If you need a dinner or lunch option that is hot, fast, affordable, accessible, and delicious, you can’t go wrong with I Wok.
113 Calvin St
T-Sa 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Photos by Madeline Trimble