My friends in lab and I were discussing about restaurants in Champaign-Urbana (where we are) this afternoon and we realized that we have quite a variety. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese, you name it, we have it. Not bad at all for a small college town. As we continued our discussion, it seemed like I had tried almost all of the restaurants here and knew the menus pretty well. As a result, they asked me to write about my recommendations in my blog. I probably won't remember the names of all my favorite dishes in each of the restaurants, because usually I can just describe them and the owners know what I mean. So, forgive me if I confuse you with my descriptions.. Since there are a lot of restaurants in ChamBana, I'll only give my recommendations for some Chinese, Thai/Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants in this post.
Mandarin Wok (403 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Crispy tofu
- Taiwanese mala chicken
- Pork with mayonnaise (not really a a Chinese dish, I think)
- Sweet and sour fish
- Fish with black pepper egg sauce
- Stir fried nappa cabbage with egg
- Shrimp in XO sauce
- Chicken #720 (rather spicy, the # is the # of the item on the wall)
*The dimsum is so-so except for the shrimp balls and I've read some not-so-good reviews about their pho.
Lai-Lai Wok (402 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Walnut shrimp
- Three-cup chicken
- Salt and pepper pork chop
- Braised beef tendon (if you like gelatinous chewy food)
- Seafood fried noodles
- Singapore-style rice noodle
- Fried chicken leg over rice
- Pork chop over rice
- Meatball nappa cabbage casserole
- Mapo tofu
*This restaurant serves Taiwanese-style Chinese food.
Bobo China (404 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Three chilli chicken (basically this dish is why I come to Bobo for)
- Beef with enoki mushroom
- Chicken with vermicelli in a reddish sauce (I don't remember the name, it's usually included in their buffet line)
- Shabu-shabu (pretty good and cheap)
*I rarely eat here and when I do, 95% of the time I order three chilli chicken.
Cravings (603 S. Wright St, Champaign, IL)
- Jakarta fried rice (reminds me of home ^^)
- Bi Feng Tang shrimp (fried shrimp with crispy topping)
- Three cup chicken
- Tom Yum fish (stir-fried with tom yum seasoning, not soup)
- Crispy beef
- Braised beef tendon
*Their dishes are more like Malaysian-Chinese. Usually go there for the Jakarta fried rice.
Peking Garden (206 N. Randolph St.)
- La Zi Ji (fried chicken chunks with chillies)
- Shui Zhu Yu Pian (fish in spicy soup)
- Zha Peng Fei Chang (fried pork intestine)
- Jing Cong Pa Ya (hot plate duck)
- Niang Dou Fu (fried stuffed tofu)
*Best Sze Chuan food in town for me. Be careful though, some of their dishes are spicy.
Golden Wok (405 E. University Ave, Champaign, IL)
- Chicken pad thai
- Beef pad seew
- Duck fried rice
- Spicy curry chicken
- Combination pho with beef and meatballs
*They serve mostly Thai food, but their pho is pretty good. I like their pad thai and pad seew the most out of all Thai restaurants in ChamBana. Big portion and cheap :D
Thara Thai (912 W. Bloomington Rd, Champaign, IL)
- Som Tum (spicy papaya salad)
- House special salad
- Basil fried rice
- Pineapple fried rice
- Tom Kha Gai
- Beef pad seew
- Mussaman curry
*The price is more expensive than Golden Wok, but they serve a lot of dishes that Golden Wok doesn't.
Siam Terrace (212 W. Main St., Urbana, IL)
- Thai fish cake
- Dragon shrimp
- Siam Terrace fried rice
- Lava trio
- Fish with chili sauce
- Devil fish
- Duck basil
- Spicy catfish
- Sticky rice with mango/ durian
*I rarely eat here because the price here is even more expensive than Thara Thai, but overall their food is good.
Saigon (1333 Savoy Plaza, Savoy, IL. Next to Schnuck's)
- Any pho (best pho in ChamBana for me)
- Com Tam (rice served with grilled pork and sides)
- Another Com dish with grilled beef
- Bun dish with either grilled pork or grilled beef and spring roll
- Egg noodle in curry sauce
- Summer roll (cold unfried spring roll filled with shrimp and vegetables)
*Love love love their com and bun dishes with grilled meat, let it be chicken, pork, or beef. They're all very tasty :)
Star Karaoke (1503 Lyndhurst Alley, Savoy, IL. Near Savoy 16 Theatre)
- Galbi Tang
- Homemade gyoza
- Fried chicken (they have different sauces in Korean which I don't know, but I usually order the mild one)
*My friends and I have the fried chicken almost every weekend. They're soooo good!! They are crispy, saucy, and just plain finger-lickin' delicious ^o^ Overall, they serve good quality food, so don't be deceived by the "Karaoke".
Good Fella (905 S. Neil St., Champaign, IL)
- Seafood pancake
- Rice cake with vegetable stir-fried in hot sauce
- Grilled Gal Bi (beef short ribs that you grill yourself on the table)
- Hot noodle soup in pot
- Pork neckbone soup (special, not on menu)
- Fish cake (free side that comes with your dishes, you can request for more if you like it)
*I usually go to this restaurant with my friends, so we always order dishes to share. The dishes I mentioned above are meant for 2-4 people/dish.
Woori Jib (710 S. 6th St, Champaign, IL)
- Pork BBQ
- Beef BBQ
- Spicy gal bi tang
- Samgye tang (Korean chicken ginseng soup)
*Their bbq dishes are very good, but the other ones are mediocre.
Arirang (607 S. Wright St, Champaign, IL)
- Fried mackerel and soondubu jjigae combo (pan-fried mackerel fish and soft tofu stew)
- Jab chae (stir fried vermicelli)
- Dol sot bibimbab (rice with vegetables, minced meat, and egg in a hot stone bowl)
- Budae jjigae (stew with everything in it)
*I always go to this restaurant when I crave for dol sot bibimbab; theirs really is the best in town. Unlike in other restaurants, you can get the gojuchang (fermented spicy soy bean paste) or sesame oil at the end of the cashier table and add as much as you want to your bibimbab. (I like a lot of gojuchang on mine :) )
Fheww.. Writing this blog makes me hungry. Anw, those are my recommendations for some restaurants in ChamBana. There are certainly more delicious dishes that I have not tried in each of the restaurants, so if you look at the menu and find something interesting but not listed here, try it. You'll probably love the dish and want to come back for more.
Oh, sorry about the lack of pictures in this post. I'll upload some when I get the chance to walk around town and take some pictures. If you can't wait, you can see this blog (www.champaign-taste.blogspot.com). It has a lot of pictures, recommendations, and reviews of much more restaurants in ChamBana.
P.S. Atilio and Marianna, hope this helps :)