Ah, August: A warm month that often marks the end of carefree summer bliss and the arrival of the new school year. For many around the country, the academic calendar means nothing. But in C-U, August means three things: Taste of C-U, Sweetcorn Festival, and the arrival of UIUC students. Find some time early in the month to take advantage of those Campustown eats, as well as shopping at your favorite box stores before move-in weekend. Have a favorite bite? Tell us in the comments.
Winey Mary | Sleepy Creek Vineyards
Sleepy Creek Vineyards has new owners: Janet and Erik Plotner. The Plotners pledge to continue the traditions and festivities originated by Dawn and Joe Taylor, and this likely includes the production of Winey Mary.
Winey Mary is a strange gal, but one you’re likely glad to know. She’s made of tomatoes and jalapenos, and is the perfect date for Bloody Mary mix. Winey Mary provides a rare opportunity to say to a friend, “I have this weird thing I want you to try, but I promise you’ll like it,” and not have it be inappropriate or life threatening. Pick up a bottle at the vineyard (which is lovely this time of year), or at Urbana’s Market at the Square.
Sleepy Creek Vineyards is located at 8245 E 1425 North Road, Fairmount, and is open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Guacamole | Maize
The guac at Maize is a thing of wonder: I wonder if I can eat it all? I wonder how it’s so good? I wonder how I ate it all?
An order of guacamole ($7) could easily be a meal, but then you wouldn’t have an opportunity to eat all the other delicious things at Maize. If I’m ordering for a crowd, one or two orders is a must. But if I’m just getting something for myself, then I find a way of ordering something that comes with guacamole. My recent obsession at Maize is the nachos, which comes with some guac on the side. It’s perfect, because I get a taste of a lot of things and I get to eat the guac on and with those things.
Something, anything | Taste of C-U
Taste of C-U has been steadily improving over the last few years. It’s still an expensive event, and quite frankly, you’re not very likely to taste anything new. But if you’re willing to roll with it, and expect to spend about $10 to $15 per person if you’re looking to sample a few things, it’s a pretty good time. Caribbean Grill and Manolo’s are solid options. I suggest going out on a limb and sampling something from a place you have never been, or something that challenges your palate. Every food vendor has to offer at least one item at “taste” size (1-2 tickets), so you’re not losing too much money there. Try something, anything. Last year’s Craft Beer Festival is now participating in Taste, so the local craft booze will be flowing. Oh, and did you hear? Kurtis Blow and Vertical Horizon are headlining, so if all else fails, you can drink your beer and get all nostalgic (that is, if you’re of a certain age).
Taste of Champaign-Urbana is Friday August 19th and Saturday, August 20th. Tickets should be $1 or $1.25 each. All food is between one and eight tickets. For more info, check out the Champaign Park District website, or the event’s Facebook page.
Sweetcorn | Urbana Sweetcorn Festival
It’s mildly disgusting. It’s messy. It’s sweet. It’s buttery. You just have to do it. This is perhaps the only time to eat corn on the cob in public whilst not worrying about making a fool of yourself. That is, unless you’re reporting a story for the local news and forget to actually eat it.
So just eat it, for the love of Pete.
Meat and/or Eggs | Meat Science Lab
The Meat Science Lab on the UIUC campus is one of those well-known local secrets. The somewhat disturbing name is a little misleading — think of it as a butcher shop located on campus. The offerings vary, but you can find cuts of most animals, as well as sausages, eggs, and jerky. Prices are good, and in line with most other places in town. The hours are limited: Tuesday and Thursday, 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can subscribe to the mailing list here, which outlines availability of items weekly. Get the jerky if you can find it. And the bacon. And the brats.
The Meat Science Lab is located at 1503 S Maryland Dr, Urbana. Hours are listed above.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.