This time of year is always really busy for me, and I end up dining out several times a week. The upside to this is that I have opportunities to try dishes I haven’t yet, all in the name of research and spreading good news to you, dear readers.
Speaking of good news, much beloved Mas Amigos is back in business. A decade ago, it was located on Springfield, just west of 1st Street; a few years ago it moved to University Avenue in Urbana, only to close shortly thereafter. Third time must be a charm, because it’s reopened on Neil Street in Champaign, just north of Downtown, across the street from the post office. I haven’t yet dined in — I ordered some food to go — but I can’t wait to have a seat and get some more of those chips.
As for the rest of this list, it’s comprised of two desserts (I know, I know) and a couple of dishes I can’t stop thinking about.
Happy springtime eating and drinking.
Bibimbap | Masijta Grill
At the end of February I attended a bibimbap cooking class at Japan House, and since then I haven’t been able to fully scratch the bibimbap itch. Now that I know how to make it, I could simply do just that; pre-made ingredients are even available at Green Onion. But as I mentioned, my life has been a little too busy for a dish that requires so much prep. So I ordered the bibimbap on a recent outing to Masijta Grill. I selected tofu and the hot stone bowl — I just love how the rice gets really crispy. Plus, it was still cold outside and there is nothing quite like warming up around a literally hot bowl of food. Bibimbap is very rewarding for me, because I feel like I’m eating a very well balanced meal with just enough protein, carbs, and veggies, and the side dishes make every bite different and interesting.
202 N Race St
10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Something, maybe a taco, but also those chips | Mas Amigos
Mas Amigos is back, y’all. And to celebrate, I have written this little haiku:
A welcome return
I dream of that green salsa
And those chips, so good
705 N Neil St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to midnight
Sa 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango | Sticky Rice
Yes, yes, I’m sure you’re so tired of hearing about my love of sweets. (It really is a bit of a problem for me, but that is the subject of another article.) But sweets and dessert serve many purposes, among them is balancing out a meal. After eating a satisfying and spicy dinner at Sticky Rice (that Lao style spice is no joke!), I decided to cool off my mouth with an order of the sweet sticky rice with mango ($6). The dish is simple: sweet sticky rice, perfectly cooked and not too sweet, topped with fresh mango and homemade coconut ice cream. The rice is warm, so the ice cream melts a little. It is the perfect combination of flavors and textures and temperatures. I ordered this dish to share, and that was a mistake. This is not for sharing. Get your own.
415 N Neil St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake | Destihl
Unlike the aforementioned sticky rice, this chocolate peanut butter mousse cake is most definitely for sharing ($7). It is no joke, and pulls no punches on seamlessly bringing together flavors and textures. There’s just a bit of mixed berry sauce on the plate, and its tartness is the officiant marrying peanut butter and chocolate. Destihl has the best dessert menu in C-U, in my humble opinion, so it’s not surprising that this dessert is fantastic. In fact, we actually wrote about it in 2018, though I admittedly forgot about that review until after the dish arrived to my table. So consider this a ringing endorsement of that 2018 article, and a call for you to go get some yourself.
301 N Neil St
M-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Burnt Ends | Black Dog
I’d really be remiss if I didn’t include the inaugural C-U Food + Drink Tournament winner on this month’s list. If you somehow missed the tournament, you can read up on it here, here, here, here, here, and here. In short: The editorial board narrowed down a list of C-U’s most iconic drinks and dishes to a 32-seed field. From there, you, the reader, voted to send the burnt ends to the championship round against Curtis Orchard’s apple cider donut. Black Dog eked out the win.
Those burnt ends are damn good. They are smoky. They are juicy. They are meaty. They are hard to come by if you don’t arrive at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. when they are available. If you’re ordering take-out, place your order right at those times to ensure you get a taste of the winning dish.
302 N Chestnut
201 N Broadway
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Photos by Jessica Hammie