For a post in February that I missed (not on board for awhile)-- here's a reply to 'firstname.lastname@example.org' in case he's checking the board post trip.
Has your trip to Champaign already passed? I haven't been keeping up on the chowhound.com site and missed your Champaign entry. I am always hoping for Champaign entries (hardly ever see any!) and then I miss one. (Champaign resident for almost fifteen years.) Below are my recommendations in case you're ever back. I'm really into restaurants so sorry if this is too long for you.
Timpones - is my #1 favorite restaurant in Champaign. They are located essentially on the U of I campus by Krannert music/arts theater. Web site is: http://www.timpones-urbana.com. I almost always get pasta or risotto here but my meat-lover husband always gets a meat dish. We have rarely ever been disappointed. Their desserts are homemade and luscious. I've heard their pizzas are very good but I've yet to try one. A more upscale restaurant but you can eat pizza in the downstairs bar which is quite smokey. Menu changes often which I love.
Kennedy's - is my #2 favorite restaurant in Champaign. http://kennedysatstonecreek.com/ Also upscale, on golf course. They disappoint me a little when compared to Timpone's but the setting is Frank Lloyd-ish which helps offset disappointment. They don't change their desserts and menu here enough for me. A fish/steak place.
Silvercreek - My #3 favorite restaurant in Champaign. http://www.couriersilvercreek.com/ (Same site as Courier Cafe, same owner.) I want to love this place - the restaurant is gorgeous, an old restored mill. They lean heavily toward fish dishes and, again, their desserts don't change enough for me. But it isn't a chain and the menu is creative - I don't love anything in particular here, am always trying something new. Upscale casual. Homemade bread.
Courier Cafe - as mentioned in one of the replies to your post, is a favorite in Champaign/Urbana. Very casual, wood-floor, laid-back restaurant. Burgers, great milkshakes, lots of coffees/teas/beers. They have several full entrees that are good. Their salad bar is highly rated, one of the best in Champaign. They tend to hire an eclectic looking staff which can border on gross but just my viewpoint. Good breakfasts too.
The Ribeye - a longstanding C-U steak place. Always wins for best salad bar (and I adore the crab (fake) salad on it). They only serve a handful of entrees so you can decide in about two minutes what you want. Steaks are good, served on hot cast-iron platters. Fried shrimp is also good. Your basic chicken breast is also good here which is what I often get as I'm not a rib-eye fan. Also like their twice-baked potato. Not a chain.
Milo's - in Urbana. Not a chain. An eclectic restaurant - everything made from scratch. My favorite here is the mushroom ravioli. Breads are great. It is really on the heavy end of eclectic especially staff but I find the food to be really good.
Longhorn Smokehouse - Urbana. We think this is the best bbque place in C-U. The meat quality is really good - the owners are local and really care. Brisket is great, chicken too. Cooked out back on huge black grill. Fries are done fresh. Cole slaw is good and I love the corn bread. Really popular C-U restaurant.
Texas Roadhouse - if you like chains, this is one of the better ones. On the north end of town by Schnucks off Mattis. Good steaks, pork chops, and I like their salads. Good loaded baked potato.
Mexican - one person replied to your post that El Torero in Urbana is good - some friends of ours say the same but we haven't tried it yet. We have three favorite Mexican places in C-U. Dos Reales on Prospect - owned and staffed by a large group of Mexicans, very authentic! Fiesta Cafe in Urbana, been around for years now. And, last, a chain called Chevys Fresh Mex - I love their salsa here and their homemade tortillas.
Chinese - don't have any good chinese places in C-U at this time in my opinion. Do have a Kamakura on Neil that does the cooking in front of you - it's good.
Papa Del's - I have to comment on one of the responder's positive comments about this place. It has been around for probably more than twenty years and it is good pizza. But their restaurant is scarey dirty. I don't understand how someone can run a restaurant like that. The owner needs to wake up.
Other favorites: The Great Impasta downtown, local Italian place, great looking place recently re-done, pasta is homemade; Biaggi's on Neil, chain Italian that's pretty good and building is nice; I want to like Radio Maria downtown - they re-did an old paint store into such a cute restaurant but the menu is too weird for me (maybe Cuban?), it's a very popular restaurant; Minnecci's Italian near the U of I campus is good although their dining room/music is kinda hokey!, like their pizza there.
Hope this helps next time you're in C-U!
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