Smile Politely

There is something for everyone at the Esquire Lounge

A flat pizza on a white plate with melty cheese covered in small pieces of sausage and slices of red onion.
White garlic pizza at Esquire Lounge; Photo by Tayler Neumann

From 21-year-olds celebrating their birthday to old men holding up bar stools, there’s every type of person patronizing Esquire Lounge. Located on the northeast corner of Chester and Walnut, the entrance to Esquire is on Walnut Street. A staple of Downtown Champaign since 1975, I heard tell from my grandfather, a Champaign police officer, that Esquire used to be a cop bar when the station was across the street. The original exterior was a bit bleak, but the owners have done a great job updating throughout the years. The exterior now boasts two patios as well as covered awnings. Though I do wish they had kept the original sign.

Walking into Esquire, I was greeted by a large horseshoe bar in the middle with booths and high-top tables surrounding it, as well as plenty of TVs. Heading towards the back left will lead to another room with low and high-top tables, another bar, pool tables and more TVs. These accommodations are part of the reason that Esquire has stayed successful throughout the last 49 years. 

A yellow plastic basket lined with white paper filled with fried small dumplings and a paper container filled with sauce.
Asian dumplings at Esquire Lounge; Photo by Tayler Neumann

Everyone I know who loves the Esquire loves the Asian dumplings ($8.50). My friend Libby introduced them to me years ago and ever since they have been a go-to item. An order comes with 16 pork and veggie dumplings, deep-fried. They were crunchy, a little oily, and small enough to pop in my mouth. Served with sweet chili sauce, they were the perfect snack to share with the table or if dining alone, enough food to be considered a lunch item. The appetizer menu at Esquire is solid, and I recently learned that customers can order half apps for when it’s too tough to decide on one. 

A flat pizza on a white plate with melty cheese covered in small pieces of sausage and slices of red onion.
White garlic pizza at Esquire Lounge; Photo by Tayler Neumann

I was excited to review the Esquire because it meant I could write about their white garlic pizza ($11.95). It is my favorite item on the menu and one I have ordered too many times. A 10-inch thin-crust pizza with plenty of garlic, mozzarella, Italian sausage, and sliced red onion, the proportions of each ingredient were ideal with nothing overpowering the other. The crust was the dream cracker-crust that was crispy and salty, and the sausage was small and crumbly providing a lot of texture to the pizza. I’m always happy with my choice of the white garlic pizza whether I order it for lunch, dinner, or a snack while drinking. Upon studying the menu for the first time in years, I noticed they have a diverse selection of specialty pizzas (all $11.95) including a Greek pizza and a bleu-pear pizza. Both of which I am now anxious to try next time I visit. 

A yellow plastic basket lined with white paper the right half filled with french fries and a sausage sandwich on an onion bun on the left half.
at Esquire Lounge; Photo by Tayler Neumann

My partner ordered the Polish sausage sandwich ($6.95) and upgraded to fries ($3.25) instead of the included chips. The Heinkel (a Decatur, Illinois producer) sausage was split and grilled, then served on a toasted onion roll. Esquire has a little self-service station that allows diners to apply the traditional toppings to sandwiches. The sausage was hot and crispy without being dry, and the onion bun was soft and flavorful and a good combination with the sausage. The classic fries arrived hot and crispy with a soft center and plenty of salt. Overall, it was a nice sandwich and plenty of food for the price.

The side options for the sandwiches were incredible. Customers have a choice of some classic sides: tater tots, fries, onion rings, cottage cheese, and cole slaw. Or upgrade to appetizers: fried pickle chips, fried mushrooms, or Asian dumplings. All have different price points, but I do not know many places that let you add apps to a sandwich.

A pint glass on a wood table filled with yellow liquid and ice. There is a pineapple wedge on the edge of the glass as well as a straw.
at Esquire Lounge; Photo by Tayler Neumann

No matter what, the first drink I always order at the Esquire is pineapple margarita ($6.25). They infuse the tequila with fresh pineapples in-house. The margarita came over ice, and it can be ordered with a salt or sugar rim. Flavored margaritas are not usually my type of drink, but this is the exception as it is the right combination of sweet and tart while still tasting the alcohol. They also have ten beers on tap including beers from our local breweries Riggs and Triptych. With a deep well of liquor, there is something that will surely tickle anybody’s fancy. 

As always a nice experience dining at Esquire Lounge, we went around 5:30 on a Wednesday evening and despite already being busy, we found a booth easily.  Our bartender and food runners were prompt and polite. 

Esquire has a daily lunch special which you can find on their website. Of course, Friday is for the fishes, so they generously offer a clam chowder and a cod fish sandwich on special every week. 

Esquire Lounge
106 N Walnut St 
10 a.m. to midnight, daily

More Articles