My first introduction to Stango Cuisine was this August at the Taste of Champaign-Urbana. My goal at the Taste is always to try food from places I have not yet visited, so I was excited to see what they had to offer, as I had not visited Stango's brick-and-mortar establishment yet. Their selection of beignets and meat pies piqued my interest as something I had not come across previously in the area. I ordered a beignet (fried dough pastry) covered in a thick dusting of powdered sugar. It was delicious and I made a mental note to try the rest of their menu at a later date.

I soon learned that Stango Cuisine is operating out of the Lincoln Square Mall food court for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Stango offers a menu including chicken curry, beef stew, sausages, and oxtails. Most entrees will cost you just under $10 for a hefty portion. For sides they offer stewed sweet potatoes, rice, baked beans, cooked greens, and crowd-favorite, nshima, which is an authentic Zambian porridge made of water and cornmeal (also sometimes called papa, fufu, or ugali). They also offer vegetarian options where you can get a platter of the side items plus sautéed vegetables for $8.99. If you have little ones with not-so-adventurous palates they do offer kid-friendly selections, so everyone in the family can order something they would enjoy.

In addition to their normal menu, they also offer a rotating specials board from which you can sample their latest offerings of soups, snacks, and fresh juices. Additionally, their counter proudly displays their famous meat pies for a quick, grab-and-go snack.

I could not decide what to have, so I decided to order Emma’s Special Platter, which is a sampling of chicken curry, beef stew, and Hungarian sausage. If $13.99 sounds like a lot, no worries  you get a ton of food. I could not finish it all in one sitting. I recommend ordering it to share with a friend. Unfortunately, they were out of the authentic nshima, so I got double steamed sweet potatoes and cooked kale for sides. I could not resist and added a Jamaican beef meat pie to the meal for $3.50.

The chicken curry was probably my favorite with its thick, yellow curry sauce, and big tender pieces of chicken. I generally like my curries with a little heat, but this dish was sweet and savory. It paired really well with the chewy and lightly sauced stewed sweet potatoes. The beef stew had a nice flavor as well, although the beef was sometimes a little tough. The grilled Hungarian sausage was okay although it seemed steamed and did not have much flavor. The meat pie had a flakey cracker crust (think ‘pot pie’), with a zesty ground beef mixture inside. It was something really different and I recommend giving it a try.  All-in-all, I walked away from the meal very full and satisfied.

Given how early it gets dark these days, you might be surprised at the dim lighting at the Lincoln Square food court. If you are planning to eat there, I think the space would be better suited for a trip during the day while the stores are still open. You can always order your food to-go, or, if you live in town, they now offer delivery through GrubHub.

If you check out Stango’s social media, you really get the sense that it is not all about the food for cofounders Betty, Oliver, and Mubanga. Do not get me wrong — they have photos of their meals and catering that will definitely make your mouth water — but they have a mission for their business: 10% of the sales are donated to One Dream Foundation to help build a hospital in Zambia, Africa. That makes the food taste even better.

Stango Cuisine
Lincoln Square Mall food court
300 S Broadway Avenue
Urbana
Tu- Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photos by Madeline Trimble