This month, instead of offering you five new things to try, I’m taking a look back at the previous eleven. What are the bites and sips I’m still excited about? What are the things or the places I’m still recommending? In some ways, this list could be 55 items long (yes, that’s all the stuff that has been recommended this year), but fear not, dear reader with a short attention span and interest in looking at photos while ignoring text: I narrowed it down to five things. (But you should really go back and peruse each month’s list for funsies.)

Thinking about the aforementioned questions and looking over this year’s suggestions, I noticed a few things. One, there were a lot of sandwiches and burgers. Two, I like dessert. Three, I drink more beer than I do cocktails, or at least, I write about beer more often than cocktails. Moving forward into 2020, I’ll try to remind myself to break out of those habits so I can provide you with more varied suggestions each month.

In the meantime, please enjoy this trip down memory lane. If you haven’t already tried the items below, go on and make some new memories. And do tell us if you’ve tried anything on these lists, and if you’ve liked them, and the items you want us to talk about in 2020.

Burger | Hamilton Walker’s

January

Sadly, the $5 burger was only a special for a few days in January. I’m still ready and willing to pay the full price for the burger — it’s delicious — but what really makes the entire thing worth it are the fries. They’re great.

Have you had a chance to try the burgers on our Top 8 list yet? If you haven’t had HamWalk’s lunch burger, this is your moment. To celebrate two years of being open, the restaurant is offering its lunch burgers for $5 this week only: January 14-18. Normally they’re $10 to $15, so this is quite the deal. (Note: It looks like the lunch menu burgers have been updated since the Editorial Board visited and reviewed the burger. There are now four burger options, all available this week for $5.) The lunch burger is number six on our BEST list and for good reason — it’s a ½ pound of steak meat, which makes it delicious and juicy. The steak fries are also delicious.

Yesterday I took my hubby to lunch and had the smoker burger, which comes with aged cheddar and a tomato-bacon-onion jam (I opted out of the chili seasoning; normally $13). It was fantastic. Look, this isn’t a light lunch, and you shouldn’t schedule any important meetings right after. But it is a great way to try a vetted-and-vouched-for burger without dropping $20 at lunch.

Hamilton Walker’s
201 N Neil St
Champaign
Opens at 11 a.m. M-F

Pork Lo Mein | Ming Garden

March

Photo by Rebecca Wells

I’m so sad that I have lived here for years and didn’t enjoy this lo mein until just a few months ago. I’m still making up for lost time. Always order the large; you will not regret having some leftovers.

I only recently tried Ming Garden for the first time and that seems like a mistake. I’ve been missing out on the pork lo mein for years. It’s incredibly delicious, and very savory. It’s the quintessential Americanized Chinese food, and exactly what I want when I’m craving something salty and rich; it’s the perfect takeout. If you haven’t had this deliciousness, do order some. It’s a delivery/takeout situation, not a dine-in one.

Ming Garden
1804 Sangamon Dr
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.
217-352-0056

Cake Truffles | Sweet Indulgence

June

These are the perfect sweet treats. They’re cakey and a little gooey and two bites, so you can have a few and not feel all that bad. They also make excellent gifts (for yourself or others).

Have you had these things yet? They’re delicious. Sure, they’re sweet (which I obviously like a lot), but I’m really into the texture and the flavor of the chocolate coating (milk/dark/white). You can really taste every little bit: the cake, the filling, the coating, and the sprinkles. There’s something so satisfying about biting into one of these truffles and the crisp break of the coating pairing with the incredibly moist and tender cake inside. They’re two-bite treats, so you feel like you’re getting a little something without feeling like you’ve overdone it. They’re so good.

You can even watch of video of them being made:

The New Sweet Indulgence
1121 W Windsor Rd
Champaign
M-F 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Veggie Combo Platter | Kohinoor

July

What’s the best way to eat your veggies? Fried. Definitely fried. I love this platter. I often fantasize about ordering two of these for myself as a meal, but then I feel shame and only order one for sharing with my dinner dates. Maybe in 2020 I’ll get two of these platters delivered to my house, and avoid the public shame.

Kohinoor has become one of my comfort food restaurants. If I’m in need of a food delivery or a little cheering up, I choose the Champaign Indian restaurant. The one thing I order each and every time is the veggie combo platter ($4.99), an appetizer with a little bit of everything: aloo tikki, samosa, mixed vegetable pakoras. This grouping is super satisfying, and easily shareable. I get it regardless of how many people are dining (though a second order might be necessary for larger parties), or if I’m dining in, taking out, or getting it delivered.

Kohinoor
6 E Columbia Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Beer | Triptych

February + August

Triptych just makes delicious beer, so go to the taproom and get a flight to try a bunch of different brews.

Stouts

I understand that not everyone likes a stout — they can be too sweet and dessert-y. A well executed stout is a real treat, though, and makes the perfect drinkable dessert or partner for your fork/spoon-able dessert. Triptych has a few on tap right now (also available for growler fills) and I encourage you to check them out. If you’re stopping by the taproom you can sample the beers in a small pour; it’s nice to be able to do a side-by-side comparison. I think a growler of stout would make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift. Because, Stout #04: Cordially Yours is a chocolate-cherry stout that is super delicious and indulgent. It really is the perfect way to end a meal, and at 11.2% ABV it might also end your night. Tread carefully, and enjoy each sip, maybe share it with your lover.

Sour Key Lime Pie Party Meme Shake

The other day I went to Triptych to do work. It’s a nice place to do so in the afternoon, and a couple of four-ounce pours (about $2 each) are the perfect companions to writing. They provide a little taste, a little writing lubricant, without leaving you too tipsy or full. Bring a snack or two and it’s a perfect work session.

My favorite of the afternoon was the sour key lime because it was most pleasantly sour. It was a tiny bit sweet; it tasted like actual key lime pie. I found the tartness to be quite refreshing, but it wasn’t pucker-inducing. It was a very smooth drink. I’m looking forward to going back for more soon.

Triptych Brewing
1703 Woodfield Dr
Savoy
M-W 3 to 10 p.m.
Th + F 3 to 11 p.m.
Sa noon to 11 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie, except where noted