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You can get a tasty lunch at Urbana’s VFW #630’s restaurant for cheap

The VFW #630 in Urbana, a club for veterans, is open to the public, and now has a restaurant serving lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Inside the VFW #630, there are several long white tables with white folding chairs. On the wall, several golden plaques line the white wall. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Adorning the walls of the restaurant were a variety of plaques, framed photos, and glass shadow boxes of memorabilia and medals. Along the dining room walls, there were flags and a POW/MIA table, a table set up in honor of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members. I even heard one diner talking to a veteran about his upcoming 100 year birthday party.

From the dining room, there is a hallway that leads to a dark room with games and a bar. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I stopped by for lunch on Friday to try the new restaurant's lunch. Parking is plentiful, and I walked through two doors to enter the bar. Through the bar, I walked to the well-lit dining room of white tables. I wanted to try a variety from the new menu, so I ordered the Friday special of fried fish sandwich, a cheeseburger with fries, and an appetizer.

An overhead photo shows the author's lunch: a burger meal, a fish sandwich meal, and a basket of fried green beans. There is a can of Bud Light and a plastic cup with Coke. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

All of this food was $17, and the two drinks (a beer and a mixed drink) were $6.25. It was quite an affordable — and huge — lunch.

On a light brown plate, there is a cheeseburger with pickles sticking out and a side of fries. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I ordered the cheeseburger ($6), and it came with pickles and onions plus a side of fries. The burger had two patties, smashed with lacy edges, with two slices of melty American cheese. The flavor was fantastic. The long pickles and raw onion gave a great crunch to the burger. It was piping hot and everything I want from a burger. The fries were delicious and plentiful.

On a light brown plate, there is a fish sandwich with a filet of fish that sticks out both sides, a side of coleslaw with a plastic fork stuck in it, and a side of fries. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My husband ordered the Friday lunch special: a fried fish sandwich ($7.50). The fish was so big that it stuck out both sides. The coleslaw was sweet, and the tartar sauce was good. The crispy, light batter on the fish was incredible. This fish special is definitely worth trying. The special came with a huge side of coleslaw and a side of fries. This was a ton of food for $7.50, and it was so tasty.

In a red plastic basket, there is a serving of fried green beans on parchment paper. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

We also ordered a side of fried green beans ($3.50), and they were really good. There were interesting sides like fried pickle spears and cheese curds in addition to sides of fries, coleslaw, and potato salad.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The excellent food is no surprise when you learn who is running the kitchen. Cooks Zachary Bronson and Katrina Downes are a pair from the kitchen of Radio Maria where Bronson was the sous chef and Downes was a cook and bartender.

The manager of the bar and restaurant is Brad Gould, former State Commander. Check out the full menu and peep those low prices.

The VFW #630 restaurant menu includes specials, sides, burgers, and more. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo provided by VFW #630.

Sauces were also available, and a handwritten list of the ten available sauces ranged from ranch to buffalo to sweet and sour. 

On a wooden bar, there is a cash register with a white piece of paper. The paper has a handwritten note: No Food at the Machines. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Remember to bring cash as no cards are accepted; the restaurant and bar are both cash only. It's a great little spot to go for a weekday meal. The VFW #630 has good food at cheap prices, and it's a nice place to go to remember the service of our veterans.

VFW 630
T 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.
W-Th 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.


This is a cool photo of opening night at the Virginia Theatre

The Virginia Theatre is coming up on it's 100th anniversary. They opened December 28, 1921, with a showing of The Bat, a comedy-mystery play. It's pretty cool to think about all of the performances and films that people have filled those seats for since. 

In honor of the anniversary, there will be a production of The Bat: A Mystery Drama in Three Acts on December 28-30. Here's a description of the play, from the Virginia Theatre website:

In the play, Cornelia Van Gorder (an “elderly spinster”) and her guests spend a stormy night at Cornelia’s rented summer home, searching for stolen money they believe is hidden in the house, all the while being stalked by a masked criminal known only as “the Bat”.

Showtime is 7 p.m. each night, and tickets are $16. 

Top photo from Virginia Theatre Facebook page.


Have you seen the new sculpture at the Carle Illinois School of Medicine?

Earlier this fall, The Carle Illinois College of Medicine unveiled a new sculpture chosen from its recent call for submissions. "Structural Mechanics," created by Alabama sculptor Ted Metz, is described as follows on the College's website.

"The structure resembles much more than the anatomy of a hand and reflection of what aspiring physicians might do when they walk into the building. The cast bronze portion is immediately recognizable as solid figurative hand.  However, the bones show the negative space within the stainless plate.

It shows the familiar, but also an X-ray view of an interior where a problem in need of a solution might live- much like the problems and “empty spaces” inside the medical field that Carle Illinois is determined to solve as the world’s first engineering-based college of medicine."

Find out more about "Structural Mechanics" here.

Top image from the Carle Illinois College of Medicine website.


Pick up grab-and-go Thanksgiving sides and desserts at Common Ground

In between Common Ground's Cafe and the produce section, enjoy Thanksgiving dishes made with local and organic ingredients at the co-op's grab-and-go section. In my Thanksgiving guide, I recommended Common Ground as a great place to find sides, and I picked up a few for my holiday.

Find dishes like stuffing, veggies, pumpkin bisque, cranberry sauce, pies, cookies, and rolls. No pre-order necessary, and no cooking required. Vegan and wheat-free options are available.

On the shelves at Common Ground, there are half pies in a tin with a plastic cover and full pies in a tin with a plastic cover. The transparent covers reveal a variety of pie flavors. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

On two shelves, tall cylindrical plastic containers hold orange soups and sauces for sale at the grab-and-go section of Common Ground. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

On a metal shelf, there are plastic containers of grab-and-go noodles and soups. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Vegan and wheatfree options are available in the grab-and-go section at Common Ground. There are little orange signs with the names of the dishes. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I picked up some Bakehouse bread, and I also tried the savory seitan. Sliced into thick discs for easy re-heating and serving, the seitan had a great breakfast-sausage flavor despite being vegan.

A photo of the metal cooled shelves at Common Ground in Urbana. The shelves are full of plastic containers with organic dishes for Thanksgiving. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Thanksgiving options will be available until Wednesday, November 23rd. Check out the menu of all offerings here.

Common Ground
300 S Broadway Ave
7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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Do not sleep on Kohinoor’s thali lunch special

If you are wanting a warm, filling lunch, Kohinoor's thali lunch special of Northern Indian dishes, rice, and naan hit the spot. In the Hindi language, 'thali' means 'the plate,' and the lunch is served on a metal platter with small metal bowls of different dishes. There are four versions of the thali lunch special at Kohinoor: vegetarian, special vegetarian, non-vegetarian, and special non-vegetarian.

I ordered the special non-vegetarian thali lunch ($14.99). It included lamb curry, dai makhani, chicken curry, tandoori chicken tikka, one samosa, naan, rice, and kheer. 

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Starting on the left, the first dish I ate was the lamb curry which was topped with cilantro. The lamb was tender, and the curry was mild, meaty, and outstanding. The dai makhani was a lentils dish with great hearty flavor. The chicken curry had lots of tender chicken bites soaking an amazing spicy, peppery curry. To me (as a fan of spicy food), this chicken curry nailed the heat level: a soft warmth on the palate that required rice, naan, or the cooling sauce to balance. The bright red chicken tikka had two piping hot cuts of boneless chicken served over lettuce. This was spicy but so good especially when dipped in the cooling sauce. 

The naan was warm, and the rice was cooked well. I loved the samosa which had a flaky pastry exterior wrapped around a savory filling with potatoes, peas, and a deep, developed spice. The kheer was a white, tasty rice pudding which gave a little sweetness.

As far as the lunch specials go, the regular vegetarian lunch ($12.99) also sounded good to me. It includes paneer makhani, yellow dal, mixed vegetable curry, chana aloo, rice, naan, and dessert. It's the only lunch with a dessert, and so I'm going to have to order that next.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pointing to the sauces, the naan, and the curries, my server told me that they make everything from scratch daily; the staff arrives at 7 a.m. to prep everything for the day. I could taste the hard work and the care that went into my food: it was terrific.

The lunch was served with a trio of sauces plus a cucumber-yogurt cooling sauce ("If the food gets too spicy for you!" my server said). The red tamarind sauce was my favorite; I put it on everything! Plus, all the wines (and there were quite a variety) were only $8. Both American and Indian beers were available as well. If you want something fruity and refreshing, Tias recommends the mango lassi.

Thali lunch at Kohinoor is a great way to sample many dishes all at once. As someone with a short attention span, I loved having a bite of the lamb curry, then chicken curry, then chicken tikka — and a samosa, too. On a cold day, you need to try Kohinoor's lunch special and let it warm you up.

6 E Columbia
M 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. 
W+Th 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo / Word

Phil Strang's Wild Phil book release party is at the Esquire on November 19th

This Friday, have your happy hour at the Esquire Lounge, where artist Phil Strang will be selling copies of his new book, Wild Phil, along with cards and prints and copies of his 2022 calendar. Music will be provided by John Coppess aka The Limping Cowboy. 

Wild Phil Book Release Party
Friday, November 19th, 6-8 p.m.
Esquire Lounge
106 N Walnut St in Downtown Champaign

Top photo from Facebook.


Sushi Man on Green Street is now open

Have you tried the new sushi restaurant on Green Street? Opened last month by the same owner as Paris Super Crȇpes, Sushi Man serves Japanese appetizers, sushi rolls, sashimi, poke bowls, tiramisu, and cheesecake.

The apps on the new restaurant's extensive menu include edamame, fried oysters, and takoyaki, a Japanese snack made with octopus. The sushi roll selection includes classics like tuna, salmon, crab, and eel in addition to lobster salad, red snapper, and smoked salmon. There are specialty rolls with fun names like Dancing Tuna, Snow Man, Spicy Girl, and Sushi Man. You can order cooked rolls with chicken tempura, salmon tempura, or shrimp tempura. There are deep-fried rolls and party trays on the menu as well.

You can order online here for pickup or enjoy the food at the Green Street restuarant.

Sushi Man
308 E Green St
M-F 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top image from Sushi Man's website.

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Happy birthday, Jupiter’s Downtown

Opened in November 1997, Jupiter's in Downtown Champaign is celebrating its 24th birthday. The restaurant has long been celebrated for its solid pizza and beer. We love the steak-n-chz grinders, too.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

The next time you're in the mood for pizza, stop by Jupiter's and have a slice (and a drink) to celebrate.

Jupiter's Downtown
39 E Main St
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily

Top image by Jupiter's Downtown's Facebook page.


I would eat this pumpkin pie from Jarling’s

Jarling's Custard Cup has a selection of pies and cakes that are available for purchase year round, but they bring out their version of a pumpkin pie this time of year. 

I'm going to be honest. I feel...meh...about regular pumpkin pie. I do enjoy pumpkin flavored things in general, but I think it's the texture that doesn't jive with me. If it's the only dessert option, I'll have a little piece. 

However, this pumpkin pie? With pumpkin custard and all those Nilla wafers? Okay, yes. It's not ideal if you have to travel a bit for your holiday dinner, but also who says you have to share it with other people?

Jarling's Custard Cup
309 W Kirby
Sun, M, W, Th 3 to 10 p.m.
Fr + Sa 3 to 11 p.m.

Top photo from Jarling's Custard Cup Facebook page.

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Check out Tasty Tart’s new espresso bar

Tasty Tart, the little tart shop on Neil Street, has added espresso to their menu. The coffee can be enjoyed at one of the tart shop's indoor tables (with wifi!) or ordered to-go. 

A cup of coffee is $2.49, and Tasty Tart gives free refills of brewed coffee to guests who dine in. The new espresso machine can make Americano, latte, cappuccino, mocha, latte drinks, hot chocolate, and seasonal hot marshmallow chocolate. The drinks are all $5 or less — except the large Americano with four shots of espresso which is $5.50.

When you order Tasty Tart drinks online, you can customize the sweetness level and the amount of ice for each drink. Don't forget to add tarts or one of the cloud drinks to your order. You can also just call or text 331-303-2477 with your order as well. 

Tasty Tart
405 S Neil St
T-Su 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo from Tasty Tart's Facebook page.