Sometimes it feels like it is easy for many smaller restaurants to become overlooked by the big chains on Green Street in Campustown. For example, I had never heard of Nanjing Bistro before.

On a Friday afternoon at about noon, two of my friends and I walked to Green Street from our school and found Nanjing Bistro. Walking into the restaurant, we immediately smelled the aroma of food. Looking down the narrow restaurant, we saw the pretty colored lights above the tables and colorful chairs that added a nice ambiance. Once we started to think about what to order, we were overwhelmed by the number of options available. The restaurant had what felt like thousands of categories, including noodles, soups, and stews. After much consideration, we finally decided what to order.

Dining room of Nanjing Bistro, Champaign. A small section of the restaurant dining room features small tables pushed against a wall, with neon yellow-green chairs at each one. There is a tea station with two large carafes, and a stainless steel bowl of sugar. Photo by Rithika Patnam. Photo by Rithika Patnam.

The food came out relatively quickly, taking about 10-15 minutes after all three of us had ordered. I ordered the fried dumplings (12 for $8.99). In my first bite dipped in the side of soy sauce, the flavor was overwhelming. The inside was very savory with a crunchy texture. You could taste the pork and vegetables all separately. Each of my friends wanted to try one; I gladly handed some over. They had the same reaction I did and wanted even more.

One of my friends ordered the beef and tofu soup ($10.99). He said the meat was especially flavorful and rich and mild. He described the broth as very spicy so that the other flavors were masked a little bit and the texture of the tofu and vegetables were able to shine. The soups came in an extremely large quantity so that he was not able to finish it at the restaurant. He had to take a to-go box of it home that was filled to the midline! It was definitely a good price for the quantity.

Beef and tofu soup at Nanjing Bistro, Champaign. In a blue bowl with floral patterns is soup that is a reddish brown broth with large pieces of beef and bok choy. Photo by Rithika Patnam. Photo by Rithika Patnam.

I ordered the Nanjing style noodle soup with pork and bok choy. The soup came along with a side of noodles that you could add if you liked. I appreciated that aspect as I wanted to only sip the broth at the beginning, and add the noodles later. The soup was not spicy at all, which was great for my spice tolerance, and was cooked extremely hot so that the soup didn’t get cold. My favorite addition of all the vegetables added to it was the bok choy, as it added a nice crunchy texture in contrast to the smooth broth. It was extremely filling and I also had to procure a to-go box that I filled even more since I also had already eaten the dumplings before-hand.

Nanjing style noodle soup with pork and bok choy at Nanjing Bistro, Champaign. In a blue bowl with a floral pattern is a clear-broth noodle soup. There ae large pieces of bok choy, white noodles, and large slices of ham. Photo by Rithika Patnam. Photo by Rithika Patnam.

My other friend ordered the egg and shrimp, a house special ($14.99). Even though it was more expensive, the quantity did not disappoint. The egg was scrambled with some shrimp interspersed among the dish. My friend was quick to appreciate that neither the egg nor the shrimp was over seasoned and that it would be perfect for someone with a lower spice tolerance. Overall, he enjoyed the food.

It’s worth noting that serving dishes for each of these meals was beautiful. The plates and soup spoons really added to the ambiance and colorful aspects of the restaurant. One would not usually think that such small additions could add so much to the experience of a diner, but it definitely made the experience feel cozier and less commercial. The plates and cutlery had beautiful designs on them that matched each other, and we all felt like a family eating together because of it.

Overall, I recommend eating at Nanjing Bistro for a filling meal. On Green Street, it is easy to go to places that have the reputation of fast food and not too many nice places for a nice dinner or somewhere to go with friends, but Nanjing Bistro is an exception.

Nanjing Bistro
508 E Green St
Champaign
M-F 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.