Beach season is pretty much over, though you can argue it never really started because there are no beaches here in our land-locked corn sweaty oasis. No beach means bye-bye beach body, hello beached body. (Truthfully, though, I do not subscribe to bikini body bullshit body shaming. If you have a body, just, like, keep it clean while you're in public, okay?) I am thusly proposing several items this month that are doing the most in terms of caloric density; they are delicious items and I suggest you eat them.

There is an opportunity to eat some fancy-ish food from local chefs at The Land Connection’s Artisan Cup & Fork event in the middle of the month. Tickets for this food event are under $100 per person, which is a lot, of course, but still less than other local(ish) food events.

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Jerky | Old Time Meat & Deli

Beef jerky used to gross me out. Actually, mass-produced jerky still grosses me out. But fresh jerky is really good, and Old Time makes some of the best I’ve had. It comes in different flavors, but I’m a fan of the original. It’s the perfect snack; pair a piece of jerky with a piece of cheese and you have a deconstructed sandwich (think of all the carbs you’re saving!). Jerky also makes the perfect travel snack, though Old Times sells its jerky refrigerated, so don’t shove it in your bag and let it roast.

Old Time Meat & Deli 
2018 S Neil St
Champaign
M-Sa 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Loaded Fries | Pekara on Springfield

Look, either you're the type of person who eats loaded fries or you're not. These are one pound of spiral-cut potatoes topped with meats, cheeses, and condiments. Get Mr. Kim's Cheese Fries: marinated sirloin, kimchi, shredded cheese, scallion, jalapeños, gochujang sour cream. It’s enough to feed at least two people, so bring a friend. 

Pekara 
811 W Springfield Ave
Champaign
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Smothered Chicken | Smackin’ Food Truck

This newbie food truck has only been on the streets for a few weeks, but it’s already making some very positive impressions. The menu is broadly Southern food, and it’s good. The owners are very good about posting their locations to their socials, so there’s no guessing where and when you can find the truck. The smothered chicken was great — super flavorful and tender. They also serve fried chicken, honey ham, and smothered pork chops, so if chicken isn’t your thing, consider other protein options.

Smackin’ Food Truck 
Follow on Facebook for locations and times

Eggplant with chili and garlic | Dumpling Noodle BBQ

You might be wondering where and what Dumpling Noodle BBQ is. It’s a new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Kamakura and Sushi M. The menu includes all of the aforementioned items (dumplings, noodles, barbecue), plus a few seafood items that were not available when I was there. The dumplings and the noodles were fine, but the best thing I ate on my visit was the eggplant with chili and garlic from the barbecue menu. It was an eggplant split in half and smothered in spicy chili paste and a whole lot of garlic. It was really, really tasty. I do not recommend eating this dish if you’re looking to get close to someone shortly thereafter; you could smell the garlic coming off of me an entire day after I ate it. Consider it the ultimate vampire repellant.

Dumpling Noodle BBQ 
715 S Neil St
Champaign
Su-F 1:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sa 1:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Fancy Foods | Artisan Cup & Fork

The Land Connection’s fundraiser is going into its third year. The event pairs local chefs with local farmers to collaborate to create a dish. This year there will be eight teams of chefs and farmers. Your ticket includes a dish from each of the teams, tastings of local booze, and dessert. Tickets are $75 per person, hefty, sure, but not as expensive as some of the Prairie Fruits Farm dinners or the Spence Foundation’s Harvest Feast. You can read up on the last two events here and here.

Artisan Cup & Fork
Broadway Food Hall
September 15th, 6 to 9 p.m.
Get tickets here

Photos by Jessica Hammie; Artisan Cup & Fork image from The Land Connection's website