Smile Politely

What we ate during Restaurant Week 2024

Crispy fried chicken at A Taste of Both Worlds for Restaurant Week 2024 in Champaign-Urbana.
Alyssa Buckley

As Restaurant Week 2024 comes to close this Saturday, February 3rd, here’s a quick recap of the Restaurant Week foods we ate this week. Feel free to share what Restaurant Week foods you ate via email or in the comment sections of our socials.

A round plate with mashed potatoes topped with a beef short rib and flanked by green beans. It's covered in a brown sauce.
Julie McClure

Watson’s beef short ribs with Pappy Van Winkle honey bourbon glaze

Julie went to Watson’s Shack and Rail pretty much just for this main dish: beef short ribs with a Pappy Van Winkle honey bourbon glaze and a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. In her review that published yesterday, she called it comfort food on a plate and wrote:

The beef was tender and pulled apart easily, and was just perfect with a forkful of the warm and garlicky mashed potatoes…And these green beans were stupendous. Not too firm, not too mushy, perfectly seasoned. Tying all of these hearty foods together was a slightly sweet, slightly tangy, super flavorful bourbon sauce made with a bourbon that certainly does not come from the bottom shelf.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sticky-rice-04.jpeg
Louise Knight-Gibson

The Curry Flight at Sticky Rice

Louise went to the Lao-Thai restaurant in Downtown Champaign Sticky Rice for the first time and tried three curries, sticky rice, and two drinks with her daughter. She said the Panang curry’s spices gave a cozy, warming sensation, and she thought the yellow one was the perfect thing to eat on a chilly winter day. Read her full review of Sticky Rice’s RW specials here.

The burrata appetizer at Chophouse on Main in Mahomet, Illinois.
Stephanie Wheatley

Burrata Bruschetta at Chophouse on Main

For Restaurant Week 2024, Mahomet’s Chophouse on Main had an appetizer of burrata bruschetta. Stephanie said, “Locally-made whole grain bread with cranberry-orange compote, burrata mozzarella, honey, and candied pecans made for a burst of flavor mash ups in my mouth. Yes, it both looks and tasted like dessert. The whole grain bread could have been more heavily grilled or toasted in my opinion, but overall it was a great little appetizer.”

Glazed and confused burger at Smith Burger. Two smash patties with bacon and melted peperjack cheese served between a split glazed doughnut bun. There is a small side of French fries on the right.
Jessica Hammie

Smith Burger Co’s Glazed and Confused Burger

Jess tried the beloved glazed and confused ($14.50), served with a side of fries. She’s had the glazed and confused before — it’s a double smash patty burger with pepper jack cheese, bacon, and a sweet chili aioli served on a glazed doughnut bun. After trying the Restaurant Week 2024 version, she confirmed: “It’s amazing: a little spicy, a little sweet, really savory and meaty burger patties. It feels like an indulgence because it is, but it’s so worth it.”

Fried chicken sandwich, dipped in Nashville hot sauce. On a platter is a side of mayo-based slaw and a side of French fries. There is a pickle sticking out of the bun on the sandwich.
Jessica Hammie

Smith Burger Co’s Smashville Hot Sandwich

Jess actually enjoyed two of Smith Burger’s Restaurant Week menu items. She also tried the smashville hot ($14.50), and as much as she loved the glazed and confused, she said, “The night’s winner was actually the smashville hot: fried chicken dipped in Nashville hot sauce served with pickles, mayo, and and slaw. I don’t do mayo, so those were not on my sandwich, but it did not suffer. The chicken was perfectly fried and crispy but still moist and delicious. The sauce was balanced and spiced, a very Goldilocks sauce: not too hot, not too oily, not too tangy. I’d eat about ten more of those if my digestive system would allow it.”

A single arancini at Nando Milano in Champaign.
Derrick Philips

Arancini di Riso at Nando Milano

Derrick tried Nando Milano’s tasting menu, which included the trattoria’s delicious arancini. In his review that published this morning, he wrote: “The outside of the arancini had a perfect texture and crunch. Taking another bite toward the middle, I exalted in the pleasure of gooey, smoked mozzarella melted around bolognese meat sauce. Given the size of the arancini, I only longed for a bigger puddle of the marinara to give it the perfect tomato-taste ratio to the experience.”

A large round white plate with chunks of chicken and a small pile of rice. It's covered in a dark reddish sauce.
Julie McClure

Maize at The Station’s Pollo en Mole

Today, Jess and Julie wrote about their Restaurant Week at Maize at The Station. They each had a soup and entree from the special menu. The pollo en mole came absolutely smothered in sauce plus a side of rice and a several tortillas. Julie wrote, “That mole sauce is magical — slightly sweet, thick, rich and very satisfying. I honestly think there could have been anything on that plate, and I would eat it covered in that sauce.” Check out all the Restaurant Week specials at Maize here.

A pizza pie with garlic cream sauce and pickles, sliced but no slices taken.
Alyssa Buckley

Pickle Pizza at Po’ Boys

Probably my favorite thing that ate during Restaurant Week was this pickle pizza at Po’ Boys. I like pickles, but I’m not crazy about pickles. I love fried pickles and pickles on sandwiches, and now I know I love pickles on garlic cream sauce thin-crust pizza. The center pickle placement ensured there was no waiting for what pickle pizza tasted like. Every slice started with little pickle teaser on the first bite, which was awesome. Po’ Boys made the pickles in-house especially for Restaurant Week, and after baking in the oven, they softened a bit but not so much as to lose that satisfying sour crunch. Read my full Po’ Boys RW review here.

The banh mi burger at A Taste of Both Worlds.
Alyssa Buckley

Num Pang Burger at A Taste of Both Worlds

This Cambodian burger by A Taste of Both Worlds in Urbana was amazing. In my SPlog yesterday, I shared about this Restaurant Week special: a double beef patty cheeseburger topped with the restaurant’s roasted pork. The smoky, salty num pang pork acted like bacon but better, and the cold, crunchy toppings layered Cambodian flavors to make a truly fantastic bite.

Pork belly banh mi with three shrimp chips on a white plate.
Alyssa Buckley

Pork Belly Banh Mi at 83 Vietnamese

Finally, this banh mi from 83 Vietnamese was awesome. For Restaurant Week, the Champaign restaurant swapped the usual char sui (slow roasted pork) for thick-sliced pork belly on their signature sandwich That pork belly was insanely good: tender, caramelized, and totally delicious. Check out my SPlog about this special banh mi and more 83 Vietnamese cuisine.

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