My name is Alyssa Buckley, and I’m the new Food & Drink editor for Smile Politely. I like tables by the window, lots of wasabi on my sushi, all kinds of tacos, and my favorite drink is an Aperol spritz. I've lived in these delicious twin cities since 2013. I wanted to introduce myself by sharing my five favorite things to eat or drink in C-U. 

Ham and Swiss Croissant︱Art Mart

A lightly toasted croissant sits on a small glass plate on a wooden table at Art Mart. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Ham and Swiss croissant from Art Mart. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

This ham and Swiss croissant ($3) is deliciously flaky and made fresh daily. I love all their croissants, but the ham and Swiss is hands down the best croissant at Art Mart. Buttery layers of croissant wrap a quality slice of ham with melty, gooey Swiss. It is savory and decadent; don't even look up the calories.

Art Mart keeps them toasty all morning, so when you bite into it, it's warm and gooey. I like to ask for it to-go in a wrapper instead of a bag, so I can start eating it on my way out the door. It's the perfect breakfast or anytime snack.

Art Mart
1705 S Prospect Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Brooklyn Roll and Crunch Fries︱Miga

A tuna and yellowtail sushi roll topped with spicy crab sits on a black, rectangular plate. Behind it, there is a metal basket lined with parchment paper and fries topped with Parmesan sticking out of the basket. Beside the fries is a small, gold can of Funaguchi sake on a wooden tabletop. In the background of the image are other diners at Miga. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Brooklyn roll, Crunch Fries, and Funaguchi sake at Miga. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Okay, okay, I know this is technically two things, but hear me out. There is nowhere else (that I’ve been) besides Miga where you can eat incredible sushi alongside incredible fries. The Brooklyn roll ($15) features raw yellowtail and spicy tuna with cilantro and jalapeño, topped with spicy crab. The crunch fries ($6) come hot, fresh from the fryer with salt and shaved parmesan on top. A bite of cold, fresh sushi followed by a bite of crunchy, hot fries is one of my favorite pairings.

Both the sushi and the fries are great dipped in soy sauce. Pair them with Funaguchi ($13), a delicate sake served in a golden can, poured into sake glasses tableside.

Miga
301 N Neil St 
Champaign
M-Th 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Taco Lunch Special ︱Huaraches Moroleon

Taco lunch special at Huaraches Moroleon. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

This little Mexican spot is my favorite place to get lunch. Before you can even open your menu, someone places a basket of hot corn chips with four different kinds of salsa on the table. The first is a mild salsa with chunks of tomato, onion, and cilantro. There is also a green tomatillo salsa, a smoky chipotle salsa, and a very spicy salsa.

The taco lunch special ($7.99) comes with two tacos, rice, and beans. You can choose from al pastor, barbacoa, carnitas, chicken, chorizo, ground beef, or steak for your meat. The tacos are your choice of flour, corn, or hard shell. Each taco is topped with chopped lettuce, diced tomato, and grated white cheese. The rice is delicious with a little bit of onion and tomato. The pinto beans are warm and served with shredded cheese on top. I love getting a soft flour tortilla and one hard shell taco — both al pastor.

If you’re thirsty for a margarita, I recommend the Margarita de Mango ($4.99). 

Huaraches Moroleon
805 Philo Rd
Urbana
M 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
T-Th 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F-Sa 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Sakanaya Roll︱Sakanaya

An urarmaki roll sit on a black rectangular plate on a wooden table. The sushi roll has white sushi rice wrapped around nori with raw salmon, avocado, and crab inside. On top of the roll, there is a small piece of scallop with a dark sauce and a dusting of fish flakes. Next to the roll on the left side of the plate is a pile of yellow pickled ginger and a small mound of green wasabi. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Sakanaya roll at Sakanaya. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

It should be illegal how good this roll is. The Sakanaya roll ($15) is sliced into eight pieces and served with wasabi and pickled ginger. This roll has a trio of raw salmon, crab salad, and avocado on the inside, and that's heavenly. But there's more! There is grilled scallop on top, drizzled with eel sauce and a dusting of bonito flakes. The flakes are known as katsuobushi in Japanese cuisine, and they are wisps of dried, smoked bonito fish.

The distinctive umami flavor of this roll makes it my favorite sushi roll. Inside, the salmon, crab, nori, and rice are all light, classic sushi flavors. The salmon is mild and smooth with a hint of fishiness. The crab salad is creamy and pairs well with the silky avocado inside the nori and sushi rice. For most sushi rolls, the deliciousness is inside the roll, but for this roll, the scallop on top is clearly the star. Bright and delicate, the scallop is so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. The sweet and salty eel sauce and the crunch from the flakes are welcome finishing touches. 

The Sakanaya roll is a flavor and texure combination like no other. If you only order one roll at Sakanaya, this is the roll.

Sakanaya
403 E Green St
Champaign
M-Th 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. + 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Chicken Sandwich ︱Watson’s Shack and Rail

A fried chicken thigh sandwich lays open-faced with thinly sliced pickles, spring greens, and a white spread on one side of the sandwich. The fried chicken thigh is on the other bun. Behind the sandwich is golden potato wedges. All are on a red and white checkered paper at Watson's Shack and Rail. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Chicken sandwich. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

A made-to-order fried chicken thigh on a brioche bun with a smear of herb mayo with greens and house-made pickles, this sandwich ($10) is amazing. The crunch on the chicken and the tang of the sauce combine between the buttery, toasted buns. The pickles are thinly sliced, salty, and sour. It's so good. 

The sandwich is served with thick potato wedges. I love to ask for a side of the comeback sauce — it's a reddish, creamy dip that they serve with crab hushpuppies. This fried chicken sandwich pairs perfectly with one of Watson’s famous boozy slushies.

Watson’s Shack and Rail
211 N Neil St
Champaign
T- Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.