August is the best time of month for shopping at the farmers’ markets. There’s plenty of produce, items that are more interesting than leafy greens. You’ll find melons and corn, tomatoes and peppers. August is also the quiet before the storm of returning students, or before your kids head back to school. Downtown Champaign and Urbana are lively, but Campustown is still relatively quiet, and you’re able to catch your favorite food truck without venturing into the bowels of the U of I campus. If it’s not too humid, it’s the perfect time to select outdoor seating at your favorite restaurant.
Sweet Corn | Farmers’ Markets
Prior to moving to the Midwest, I ate corn only occasionally, and not really because I actually wanted it. Now that I’m nearly a decade into Midwest Living™, I eat corn regularly — by choice! Local corn, “farm fresh” corn, is actually pretty good. It’s sweet. It has flavor. It’s pretty darn tasty with some butter and salt and pepper (or other toppings of your choice). I’ve been buying it because I’ve been craving it. I’ve been throwing it on the grill, husk on — it’s wonderful. I also like to make corn pizza, which uses local tomatoes, and allows me to feel simultaneously morally superior for shopping for and eating local produce and truly terrible for consuming large quantities of what is essentially a carb bomb loosely disguised as a vegetable-heavy dish. Corn will run you about $6 for a dozen.
Go get some corn from one of the farmers’ markets. It’s great.
Eggplant Fries | Guido’s
Guido’s is one of those places you may not think of for a dinner out with friends or for a date. It’s a bar with a bar food menu, and certainly an excellent spot to meet people to watch a game and have a beer. But Guido’s has a killer burger and some decent salads, too. More importantly, it has these delicious eggplant fries on the menu. They’re perfectly fried and crispy, and the eggplant is soft and creamy. Every time I have them, I kick myself for forgetting about them, and make private promises to return to consume more. They’re delicious even if you don’t like eggplant—they’re fried, after all. Next time you head to Guido’s, do yourself a favor and order them as your side. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
2 E Main St
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Things | Green Street/Campustown
The students are coming back in just about ten days. Go to Campustown this weekend and eat and drink the things. Take your kiddos to Cocomero to build their own froyo mountains, or Paris Super Crepes for over-the-top Thai ice cream creations. Sakanaya is where it’s at for sushi; the best Chinese dumplings are at Mid Summer Lounge. Walk off your meal around the quad. Campustown this time of year is a cheap and easy date night.
Veggie Sushi | Miga
Some people cannot or do not eat seafood but still want sushi. Miga has a couple of options that are quite good and satisfying. I recently had the Bernal roll (fried tofu, asparagus, green onion, carrot, avocado, $8). It was filling and delicious; the fried tofu offered some protein and a little heft. Despite the higher price point on many of the traditional entrée items, there are actually many options for those on a tighter budget (the house salad is delicious). There are a few other fish-free sushi options on the menu, and would be perfect for sharing.
301 N Neil St
M-Th 5 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 10:30 p.m.
Tastes | Taste of C-U
This year’s Taste of C-U (48th Annual, if my math is correct) is August 17th and 18th in West Side Park. The Champaign Park District’s family-friendly event features food vendors, beer, live music, and arts and crafts stuff. This year’s food vendors include a few newbies, including Wood N Hog, Smackin’ Food Truck, Stango Cuisine, and Latin It Up. It’s a free event, but food tickets ($5 for 5 tickets) are required. Like any outdoor festival, if the weather cooperates, it’s a pretty decent time, especially if you invite some chill friends who don’t mind people watching as you eat a bunch of food and drinks some beers. I’ve been critical of the event in the past, but this year’s food line up is more interesting than in years past, and features a lot of black-owned restaurants, which is awesome.
More info is available on the CPD website.
Photos by Jessica Hammie