This year, PYGMALION celebrates 15 years. That’s pretty incredible. This year marks the second year the entire festival is taking place in Urbana. Finding affordable and appetizing food in the festival areas is convenient.
I’ve included places that are just adjacent to the venues, as well as restaurants that are a short walking distance away. I’ve also included a few that will require transportation away from the festival.
Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of all of the eating possibilities in Champaign-Urbana. Check out the rest of Smile Politely’s Food & Drink section (restaurant and bar reviews, specifically) for a fuller picture of your options while you’re in town.
KRANNERT CENTER DISTRICT
The Bread Company
My favorite items at The Bread Company are the roasted garlic pizza with the lemon garlic greens. I put the greens on top of the pizza. It’s the best. The pizza and small greens are more than enough to feed two people, and it’s an affordable dinner. This is an easy place to visit with diners with differing needs, as there are several vegetarian and a few vegan options. Just recently, Bread Co. has started serving tapas from 3 to 5 p.m. Lunch is much more casual, with sandwiches, soups, and salads.
706 S Goodwin Ave
M-Th 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
This will be your go-to spot for coffee and a pastry, especially if you’re getting them before perusing the festival area. There are premade sandwiches and wraps, and you can also find snacks like avocado toast.
1117 W Oregon
7 a.m. to midnight daily
Gregory Place Eateries
Gregory Place features several eateries on one very small block — it’s incredibly convenient and wonderful. You’ll find a wide variety of flavor: J. Gumbo serves Creole food; Basil Thai is the place for Thai food; Bab+, Caffe Bene, and Premium BBQ Chicken all serve Korean food in some capacity. Caffe Bene also serves bubble tea, which is quite delicious. If you’re in the mood for sushi, try KoFusion. Rosati’s has pizza and other Italian delights in a dine-in setting (but carry-out is also available).
Intermezzo Café at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Intermezzo is an unassuming café within the space of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The food is good and affordable. When you’re don’t with your meal, scoot across the lobby to Stage 5 for a drink.
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Ave
Th + F 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Maize is beloved by many in this community, myself included. The food truck will be out and about at PYGMALION this weekend, and the restaurant makes my favorite tacos, so don’t skip those. You can’t go wrong with whatever you order. If you’re left wanting more than the food truck offers, visit Maize on Green Street or Maize at the Station.
Manolo’s is the best place in the area to find a slice of pizza, and you can also pick up a couple of empanadas. It’s basically a walk-up spot, with only five or so stools inside, so eating on the go is pretty much your only option. Just walk across the street to the massive outdoor staircase at Krannert Center, and you’ll be all set.
If you can, get slices of a couple of the specialty pizzas — I’m partial to BBQ meats and spotted goat, though the apple butter bacon is quite seasonally appropriate, too.
1115 W Oregon St
11 a.m. to midnight
Merry Ann’s Diner
Merry Ann’s is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s diner food at diner prices, which is likely the exact thing you need after drinking and dancing and otherwise enjoying yourself.
701 S Gregory St
The Red Herring
The Red Herring is a vegan restaurant serving wonderful breakfasts and lunches. Enter through the basement to a very relaxed and welcoming space. Menu standards include salads and wraps, stews and soups, plus weekly specials. It’s only open until 2:30 p.m., though, so plan accordingly.
1209 W Oregon St
Th + F 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
This classy, old school Italian joint serves up house-made pastas, pizza, and all sorts of meat entrées. Lunch is a good option to keep your budget in check and to avoid feeling stuffed to sleepiness. For dinner, allow yourself some time to enjoy a full meal, with wine and dessert.
710 S Goodwin Ave
Th+ F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Th 5-9 p.m.
F + Sa 5 to 10 p.m.
Black Dog arguably serves the best barbecue in C-U. This is not the best spot for vegetarians or vegans, though there are some options available for them. I’m a fan of the sauces, though the meat is good enough to order sans sauce. I also really enjoy the Texas caviar as an appetizer. A sandwich with one side is enough food, but if you’re a hungry person, order the multi-meat platter.
201 N Broadway
Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Common Ground Food Co-op
Common Ground is a cooperatively owned grocery store. You’ll find a variety of organic produce, a café and salad bar, as well as tasty snacks and individual bottles of beverages. I might suggest picking up a baguette, some local cheese (Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese or Ludwig Farmstead Creamery), and maybe some cured meat or fresh fruit and have yourself a little picnic in the outdoor seating area. If that’s not your thing, there are soups and sandwiches (made to order), pizzas, and premade bites and baked goods. Hot beverages are available, too.
Lincoln Square Mall [east side]
300 S Broadway Ave
7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Courier Café is a low-key spot that serves everything from burgers, sandwiches, lasagna, and fish tacos; there’s something for everyone. I really love having breakfast there, but that’s only served until 11 a.m. From then until 4 p.m. you can take advantage of the salad bar, and dinner starts at 5 p.m. For savory items, I recommend the skinny dippers, Courier’s version of potato skins. And do save room for dessert: the brownie special and the milkshakes are not to be missed. There are plenty of vegetation options, and there’s a gluten-free menu (just ask for it). Courier Café staff are always happy to accommodate.
411 N Race Street
Su-Th 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
F + Sa 7 a.m. to midnight
Crane Alley is a pub that serves a lot of different and interesting beer and really good food. The vibe is very chill, and the outdoor patio is one of the best in all of C-U. There are options for omnivores and vegetarians. It’s located right next door to Blackbird, so you won’t need to go far to refuel between sets.
115 W Main St
11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily
If you’re in the mood for Korean food, this is your restaurant. It’s just across a parking lot from Rose Bowl Tavern, and just across the street and a parking lot from Blackbird. The food is excellent. I’m partial to the hot stone bowls, but if you’re with friends and have some time, go for the tabletop barbecue. It’s fun, it’s delicious, and it’s enough to feed everyone.
202 N Race St
10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
TAKE A WALK, GRAB A RIDE
Campustown eateries, clustered on and adjacent to East Green Street in Champaign, are just under a mile walk from the festival area. It will be crowded with students, so if that is an experience you’re craving, by all means, head that way. You’ll find a whole lot of cheap options, and a wide variety of Asian restaurants (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian). Try Cracked for breakfast foods, and Sakanaya for sushi and ramen. There really is a bunch of stuff over there, including bars, so you’re sure to find something for everyone in your group.
Golden Harbor is one of the best restaurants in town, serving about a million and a half Chinese dishes. There are traditional dishes and more Americanized ones; you can’t go wrong with either, but don’t overlook the menu items that are on posters around the register. It can be very overwhelming; the menu is insanely long. Don’t worry. Read this guide. View some of the dishes on my Instagram page. Take a few minutes to consider what types of things you and your friends want to eat. If you have questions, ask. Dishes are served family style, so be prepared to share (and bring home leftovers).
505 S Neil St
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, NAYA is your spot. The Italian/Italian fusion restaurant offers really delicious food. I’ve written about it here and here; whatever you choose, I’m certain you will be pleased. Don’t skip out on those tasty cocktails — they’re worth it. It’s just about a mile walk each way to and from the festival area. If you’re ready to be rolled out after your meal, just call a car.
212 E Green St
M-Th 5 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 10 p.m.
This downtown Champaign restaurant serves Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and they are absolutely delicious. I love the diavola, and the cantalupo. If you’re hungry, order your own pizza. If you’re just nibbling on a snack, share one, and maybe a cheese and meat platter.
10 E Chester St
M-Th 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Urbana’s Market at the Square
We have a pretty great farmers’ market every Saturday morning in Downtown Urbana. There are a bunch of food trucks and produce vendors, plus plenty of other crafts and goodies. Check out our recent review of many of the food trucks you’ll find there, and look over our monthly Market Watch column outlining what you can expect to find in season.
Corner of Illinois + Vine
Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon
Photos by Jessica Hammie