This month’s list includes some of my favorite bites of late. Sure, you could make a meal of some of these items, but what would be most fun, in my opinion, is to find someone(s) to go on a little C-U food tour with you. You could also just treat yourself to a nice little afternoon outing.

I think of this month’s list of bits and bites and sips, with the idea that you can sample these things at a reasonable cost and without wasting food or having too many leftovers. There is only one entrée on this list, and if you share it or take half home, you’ll still have room to try the other yummies on this list on the same day. 

Is there something you think I should try? Leave a comment or email me at info@smilepolitely.com.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Sandwich | Hamilton Walker’s

The first stop on this food tour is the only entrée. It’s no secret that Hamilton Walker’s hasn’t always been my favorite, but it does seem to be improving. I’m 100% here for the lunch burger — it made our top eight and I included it on this list in January. The burger has drawn me to the restaurant at lunchtime, and last time I was there my spouse went off script and ordered the smoked pork shoulder sandwich ($10). I gave plenty of side eye, but when I had a bite of it, I was very pleasantly surprised and wholly impressed. That sandwich is really freaking good. It was juicy and moist and tender and flavorful. I would gladly eat it again — maybe even instead of that burger I like so much. The eating the whole thing and the side of fries (also incredible) will leave you in a food-induced trance, so I suggest sharing this one or taking half home.

Hamilton Walker’s 
201 N Neil St
Champaign
M-W 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Th + F 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Taro Froyo | Cocomero

In the six years I’ve been the Food + Drink editor at SP, I’ve spent hundreds, maybe even thousands of words on my adoration of ice cream. Frozen yogurt is never something I crave; it’s always the sad substitute when no ice cream is available. As soon as we establish rules for ourselves, we in turn establish the exceptions, and my ice cream rule has one big one: the taro flavored frozen yogurt at Cocomero.

It’s delicious. It’s purple. It’s pretty creamy for a froyo. Taro has an interesting coconut-y, tropical, rich flavor. (If you’ve been reading this section for some time, you’ll know I’m also obsessed with the taro buns at Golden Harbor.) Cocomero is a serve yourself froyo spot, and you can mix in flavor and toppings to create your own special concoction. My usual mix is ¾ taro froyo, ¼ original tart froyo, with chocolate chips and/or yogurt chips, mochi or cheesecake bites, and maybe a couple of strawberries. On this last outing, I went full on taro froyo and kept the toppings simpler: a cookie, a brownie, some mochi, and a piece of taro pudding. The taro pudding was a little strange, but not unpleasant.

Graduation at the U of I is this weekend, so the students will be vacating this week and next. Even with what looks like apocalyptic construction on Wright Street, you’ll be able to find nearby street parking.

Cocomero
709 S Wright St
Champaign
Su-Th 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Dumplings | San Maru

San Maru’s dumplings are delicious, and if you haven’t had them, you must ($7.50). I like the meat ones the best, but the veggie ones are also quite tasty. They’re available steamed or fried; I like to order steamed meat dumplings and fried veggie dumplings, but there really is no wrong order.

San Maru has the right vibe for a lunch date (or stop on a food tour) in that you’ll always be able to find a seat, but the restaurant is never empty.

San Maru 
2504 Village Green Pl
M-Th 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m + 4 to 8:30 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Fried Plantains | Stango Cuisine

There aren’t a ton of places in C-U to get fried plantains (or plantains of any kind, for that matter), so anytime I see them on a menu, I order them. The fried plantains at Stango are among the best I’ve ever had ($3.29). They were fresh and perfectly crisp-chewy-soft. The tiny sprinkle of salt really brought out the sweet and savory aspects of the humble plantain.

With Stango moving into a larger, enclosed restaurant space in Lincoln Square Mall (the space formerly occupied by Tang Dynasty), there is a new opportunity to sit and enjoy your food in relative peace, quiet, and privacy. The restaurant will also expand its breakfast offerings, and I do hope that the plantains are available — they are the perfect side dish at any meal. And, Stango was one of our favorite restaurants to open last year, so any meal really means any meal they make. The food is great.

Stango Cuisine
Lincoln Square Mall food court
T-Th 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
F  10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Beer of your choosing | Pour Bros.

I know that many of you are ready for outdoor drinking weather, and we’re just not quite there yet. Pour Bros. has as a small patio, so there are opportunities for outdoor drinking, but right now in this damp and cool time of year I’m more interested in drinking what and how much I want with friends as we toss wooden balls up a ramp playing skeeball or play some card or board game.

My initial aversion to pouring my own beer has subsided. As someone who likes to try a bunch of things, I like the option of literally trying everything on tap, and then going back for small (or large) pours of what I want. Like frozen yogurt places, Pour Bros. is a pay-by-the-ounce joint, and unless you’re really tossing back some brews, you’d be surprised at how little you’re drinking and spending, especially if you’re trying things. (Price per ounce varies by beer.) I especially like that I can try a bunch of local stuff (hyper-local stuff and regional brews alike), as well as nationally distributed and Midwest beer, too. (The menu is here.) There is even some wine on tap for those who don’t like beer, as well as a bar for cocktail drinkers.

The pouring system is easy to navigate; you can check out our guide here.

Pour Bros.  
40 E University Ave
Champaign
T-Th 3 to midnight
F + Sa noon to 1 a.m.
Su noon to 10 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie