Recently, when I have mentioned that I’d be going to Silvercreek, some responses have been, “I need to try that place.”

Yes, you do.

Silvercreek is an American bistro nestled on the north end of Race Street in Urbana, between University Avenue and Main Street; it is just down the street from The Courier Cafe and they share the same owner(s). It's been open since 1989, and is a mainstay in C-U dining. Housed in a quaint brick building, Silvercreek boasts a lot of charm and character, with lots of polished dark wood and ambient lighting, which gives it a warm, homey feel. They have room for parties of all size, including indoor/outdoor space for private events.

When I went with my husband for a night out, we were able to get in without a reservation on a Friday evening, although that certainly isn’t always the case. Particularly if you decide to go for their excellent — and huge — brunch on Sundays, make reservations, as the restaurant fills up quickly.

On this late-November evening, the restaurant had already decorated for the holidays, making it even cozier and festive. Our friendly waitress took our drinks and appetizers order quickly. A bread basket quickly arrived at the table, as well, which held two different kinds of warm bread with herbed butter. I favored the seasoned bread over the plain white, but they were both well made.

My husband settled on a Moscow mule, which was served in a traditional copper mug and garnished with a mint leaf. It was very cold, the bartender did not skimp on the hard stuff, and it had a terrific kick from the ginger beer. While we enjoyed our drinks and bread, live piano music began playing, regaling the now full restaurant with a mixture of show tunes and holiday songs, which was a welcome touch.

For an appetizer, we started with the truffle fries and we were happy to see it was sized for sharing. The fries came out piping hot with generous shavings of parmesan on top and seasoned well with truffle oil and salt. Two dipping pots of ketchup also came with the plate. They were outstanding and reasonably priced at $8 for the huge plate. If your thing is going out just for drinks and apps, Silvercreek does half off their bar menu on Friday evenings. The catch is that the discount is only offered between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., which seems a bit short, but you can certainly do a lot of damage in an hour if you order everything up front. Their bar menu offers up something for everyone, including a salad, soup, and the standard fare of wings, burger, house-made chips, and the like.

My husband’s Caesar salad arrived, which gave me a chance to ensure no fry remained on the plate. Due to the current contamination of romaine, they substituted iceberg, which did change the flavor and texture of the salad a bit, but was perfectly edible. The Parmesan crisps gave the salad some nice flavor.

For our entrees, I went traditional and ordered the chicken pot pie ($16). My husband, ever the adventurous eater, ordered the fried alligator dish ($19). I’ll add here that while the food is American style, they offer quite a variety of dishes on their menu, in addition to their daily specials. It can be a challenge to decide what to eat.

The alligator was prepared Cajun style and had a kick to it. Atop the alligator was a bright tomato salsa. A sweet potato puree seasoned with cinnamon balanced the dish and gave it some earthiness. The alligator itself was cooked well, according to my husband, as I could not bring myself to try it. He described it as having a similar texture to chicken nuggets, but tasted similarly gamey (think pheasant) and briney, with a hint of fishiness. If you’re like me and have zero interest in eating reptiles, take heart: They serve plenty of traditional meat (and non-meat!) dishes.

My chicken pot pie came to the table extremely hot. The puff pastry on top had a medium density to it, while the stew inside consisted of chicken, peas, carrots, and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is the perfect entree for a cold night or when you want something hearty that will stick to your ribs.

For the sake of being thorough, we went ahead and ordered dessert, which was a highly caloric but worthy decision. We each ordered coffee, as well. They do not serve espresso-based drinks, but do offer French press coffee.

I asked for the chocolate solution cake, which was aptly named, while my husband ordered the German chocolate cake, each $9 per slice. Neither of us was disappointed in our choices. My chocolate cake was really two different chocolate cakes: a traditional Devil’s food on the bottom with a layer of chocolate mousse on top. It was outstanding and the ripe raspberries served with it offset the richness, as did the coffee. I am a coffee snob, so I will note that their coffee is well made and served extremely hot, which was a nice bonus. My husband equally enjoyed his German chocolate cake, which was not as rich as my slice of cake, but just as delicious. Just as you could go here for drinks and appetizers, you could also stop in just for drinks and/or dessert.

Neither of us could finish our pieces of cake, so we boxed them up together to enjoy the leftovers the next day. Silvercreek’s prices range from modest to expensive, and a special can be as high as $38. Don’t let that stop you from going. If you are on a budget, perhaps go at lunchtime, when they have a $12 “power lunch.” They also have a prix fixe dinner menu or you can try the half-off bar menu some Friday night. If brunch is your thing, you could also start off your experience there. Whatever you do, plan to give it a try in the near future. It is a local gem with some of the tastiest food, attentive service, and welcoming ambience in town.

Silvercreek
402 N Race St
Urbana
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Top photo by Jessica Hammie; all other photos by Zoe Valentine