Crane Alley is a bit of a dark horse in the running for my favorite restaurants in C-U. When folks ask me what my favorites are, I feel like it doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yet, I’ve actually been there three times in the last week. Crane is a bar with all of the bar vibe, but they have a super solid menu that goes way beyond bar food. It was an easy choice for me to check out what they had to offer for Restaurant Week.
Before even getting into the food, it should be stated that Crane Alley did Restaurant Week well. It’s important to note because not all establishments take full advantage of the week. I went for dinner, and there were a couple of options, depending on whether you were dining with yourself or in tandem. If you’re going solo then you can select one appetizer and one entree for $19. If you dine with a partner then you can choose one appetizer and two entrees for $39. All day long during Restaurant Week they are offering their Mezze Plate, a vegetarian mediterranean feast, for $10. It's typically $14, so this is a good deal for a lot of food.
Image: A narrow menu on cream colored cardstock with black leather backing. It says Restaurant Week Features at the top. The menu lists several cocktails and wines with prices and pairing suggestions for menu items. Photo by Julie McClure.
A unique addition to the week is their special drink menu. They curated a list of specialty cocktails, beer, and wine by the glass with suggested pairings on the RW menu. I was very impressed by this detail, and it sets them apart for sure.
Image: A rocks glass sits on a dark wooden table. It is filled with a cloudy light brown liquid with a layer of salt on the rim of the glass. A thin black straw is sticking out of the glass. Photo by Julie McClure.
My spouse ordered the Aquafaba Sour for $8. It was composed of bourbon, house-made vegan sour mix, brown sugar molasses simple syrup, and rimmed with smoked salt. It was delicious and I wish I’d ordered it myself. Just the right amount of sweet and sour, and the smoked salt added such a sharp contrast in flavor.
Image: A tall glass sitting on dark wooden table. It is filled with a slightly cloudy yellow liquid, with ice cubes floating at the top. There is a thin black straw sticking out of the glass. Photo by Julie McClure.
I went for the Paloma Verde for $9, with Hornitos Anejo, pineapple juice, lime, jalapeño simple syrup, and ginger beer. It was very refreshing, maybe a bit too fruity and sweet for me, but if that's your jam then I definitely recommend. I did appreciate the warmth of the jalapeño.
Image: A poster that says Champaign County Area Restaurant Week 2020 at the top. The remainder details the menu options available during Restaurant Week. Image from Visit Champaign County.
Crane Alley’s regular menu is expansive, with a little something for everyone, and they generally did the same for their Restaurant Week menu. Each menu had vegetarian choices, and each menu category features items that you can find on Crane’s regular menu, as well as some added specials. I think this is a great way to go. It gives the kitchen an opportunity to try some new things, while giving plenty of choices that you can revisit if you find something you really like.
Image: A round white plate sits on a dark wooden table. There are several large chicken wings, half are covered in a bright orange buffalo sauce and half are covered in a reddish brown bbq sauce. There are a few pieces of celery resting in between the two types of wings. Photo by Julie McClure.
For our appetizer we selected the wings. The order came with 12 jumbo wings, and we opted for half with buffalo sauce, half with bourbon bbq sauce. These things were monstrous. Seriously. They were the largest wings I’ve ever had placed in front of me, and they were very meaty and well-sauced. We both preferred the buffalo sauce to the bbq. The latter was missing something. But the buffalo was just the right amount of spice and quite flavorful. I restrained myself because if I’d kept eating these there’s no way I’d have been able to eat anything else.
Image: A square white plate sits on a dark wooden table. There is a roasted chicken breast wrapped with a piece of bacon and a collection of thin green beans resting on a bed of mashed potatoes. Photo by Julie McClure.
I was excited to try the bacon wrapped poblano mac stuffed chicken breast, one of the special items on the menu this week. I even mentioned it here. Unfortunately I was a bit underwhelmed. It was rather small, and the chicken was on the dry side, as was the mac and cheese, and the poblano flavor did not really come through. The accompanying garlic mashed potatoes and haricot verts (french style green beans), which I’ve had at Crane Alley before, were great as usual so no complaints there.
Image: A round white bowl with a wide rim. There is a scoop of white rice in the center topped with sliced green onions. It is surrounded by pieces of shrimp and sausage in a light brown sauce. There are flecks of green parsley scattered on top. A metal spoon rests in the dish. Photo by Julie McClure.
My spouse went with the etouffee, and it was excellent. Not incredibly spicy, so don’t go into it expecting that, but the creole sauce was very rich in flavor. Sometimes dishes like this skimp on the shrimp, but that was not the case here. There were enough, and they were good-sized. The portion was generous, and we took about half of it home. The etouffee is on the menu all the time, so if you happen to miss out on Restaurant Week then definitely try it at some point.
Even though my entree choice wasn’t really something to rave about, our overall Crane Alley Restaurant Week experience was a good one. They’ve created a well thought out experience that should be on your list this week.
115 W Main St, Urbana
Su-Th 11 a.m. to midnight
Fr-Sa 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.