Category: Photo

Try something new to you at Cracked

I assume I'm like most people who find the things they like at a particular dining establishment, and continue to order those handful of items on each visit. During my last visit to Urbana's Market at the Square, I ordered the vegasm sandwich ($7.50) from Cracked. The sandwich comes with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, hash browns, a fried egg, cheddar cheese, and the choice of garlic basil pesto or spicy chipotle pesto. I chose the garlic basil pesto. 

When I finally bit into the sandwich I discovered no garlic basil pesto, but the spicy chipotle pesto. My frustration about the botched order was quickly dismissed; the spicy chipotle pesto offers a smoky kick to the sandwich, and paired well with the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes. 

All of this is to say: Consider breaking out of your routine, and order something new. 

Photo by Jessica Hammie


Have you tried Latin it Up yet?

Each Friday and Saturday you can order and eat a variety of tasty South American dishes at Strawberry Fields. (I wrote about Latin it Up with Delicia's Kitchen in May's Five Things column.) Each weekend, Amalia Huanca Thompson offers lots of delicious fried things and a special that changes each week. I managed to try a handful of the regularly available items, including some tostones, fried yucca, papas rellenas, platanos rellenos, empanadas, and salteñas. They were pretty wonderful, and I encourage you to go get some this weekend. 

Latin it Up at Strawberry Fields
308 W Springfield
F + Sa 4 to 8 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie


Here’s some Golden Harbor food porn

Here's a bunch of Golden Harbor food porn. If your table doesn't look like the one below when you dine in, you're doing it wrong. Call your friends, make a reservation tonight (217-398-8988). 

Note: The GH menu is no longer available online, and I've done my best to provide descriptions and numbers, but they may not be entirely accurate, and/or items were adjusted at ordering. Feel free to show photos to whoever is working the register; they're really wonderful about accommodating orders. 

Clockwise, from bottom: Crispy basil chicken (349), steamed veggie dumplings (1506), crispy tofu (809), crispy eggplant (948), orange beef (470), pork stir fry (95), pork with garlic (272), 7 spice chicken (1120), sweet and sour prawns (676) 

Jalapeño ground pork on noodles (77)

Shredded pork with dry tofu (238)

Chinese-style orange chicken (345)

Sliced beef with basil vegetables? 

Soft tofu with black mushrooms (812)

Curry tofu pan-fried noodles

Spinach with garlic (875)

Front, left: Kung Pao broccoli (order at register); front, right: three cup tofu (827); back, left: Kung Pao chicken on pan fried noodles (122)

Golden Harbor
505 S Neil St 
T - Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie


Alexander’s Steakhouse Happy Hour food menu is basically perfect

It's not a well known menu, or a trendy spot in this day and age of craft cocktails and small plates, but Alexander's Steakhouse has some of the best offerings you will ever find between 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday every week. And all of them are just $5. 

As we continue our research for Best Burger in C-U, I am having a hard time not believing that this one above makes my personal Top 3. 

And these steak tips and toast are sort of what I want to eat, well, all the time. 

And the salad bar, as far as Midwestern salad bars go, is pretty terrific. For $5, it's an asbolute steal.

Enjoy this find. It's super yummy.  

Alexander's Steakhouse
202 W Anthony Dr
M-Th 4 to 9 p.m.
F 4 - 10 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Photos by Seth Fein


Here’s a secret BBQ joint in Urbana that you might consider this weekend

There's a hidden, rogue BBQ joint just east of Downtown Urbana with no name, and that is no frills, and I ate the rib tips this past weekend, and well, they were super delish. My friend Jim told me about it, and I am awfully glad that he did. 

I've debated about posting this over the past few days, because I don't want to spoil the party, but it's just too good to keep to myself. Dear readers: I can't, in good conscience, tell you exactly where it is, but if you head east from the Courthouse in Urbana towards the country on Saturdays in the summer, you can smell it, and it's not that hard to find. 

I arrived a little early, so my guess is that if you show up in the afternoon, the meat will be even more tender than it already was. It had a just light smoke on it, from the charcoal and wood embers, so it resembled pit BBQ more than the traditional smokehouse style that we've become accustomed to here in Champaign-Urbana. I prefer it this way, to be honest. 

I asked the fella (who has a name, but I will reserve his anonymity) manning the pit what sort of rub he puts on it, and he just smiled and said "Oh, you know — a little of this, and a little of that."

Whatever it was, it was excellent. Not too salty, but packed with flavor. All orders are to go. I got mine with the sauce on the side. It was good; a tangy KC-style tomato based slather, but frankly, I literally have never found anything even remotely as wonderful as Lil' Porgy's, and that's the only sort of sauce I put on any sort of BBQ I take to go in this town. I keep a pint of it in the fridge at home

Point being, let these little clues and your nose be the guide. It's worth the adventure, so to speak. 


Here are some amazing photos of World Cup fans at the Illini Union

The Illini Union has been hosting watch parties for all of the World Cup games, and they are drawing some serious crowds. It's also been a bit of a crazy tournament with lots of upsets, overtimes, and games going to penalty kicks. Their fan reaction photos are pretty great:

You still have four more opportunities to check out the game watching scene:

Tuesday @ 1 p.m.: France/Belgium

Wednesday @ 1 p.m.: Croatia/England

Saturday @ 9 a.m.: Third place play-off

Sunday @ 10 a.m.: Final

Photos from Illini Union Facebook Page


Thai-Lao food truck offers exceptional noodles and more

Our managing editors at Smile Politely set up shop this past weekend at Urbana's always fun Market at the Square. I brought the kids for a high five and to present a couple of bad jokes to them, of course. But our eyes quickly saw that there was a new food truck on site, so naturally, that's what we ate for breakfast. Thai-Lao is exactly as it sounds: part Thai, part Laotian.

The portions were wonderfully large. I ate the shrimp pad thai, and it was one of the better meals of this sort that I've had around here. 

The shrimp were plump and well seasoned, and the noodles were al dente, and firm, but definitely not undercooked. The flavors were familiar, but that's sort of what you want when having such a classic dish as this one. 

Our Food + Drink editor Jess Hammie and her partner had the chicken pad thai and the khau mee beef, both of which are pictured below. (Photo credit to her). 


Certainly a welcomed addition to our food scene, the truck is generally located in Rantoul, but when I asked if they'd be regulars in Champaign-Urbana, the nice fella behind the window told me that was their plan. 


Here’s what you need to order at Watson’s this weekend

We all know that Watson's is pretty fantastic. I have my favorite menu items (including the tofu po' boy), and I like to think that I am quite familiar with the menu. I thought wrong. On a recent outing with some friends, my friend ordered the house salad (local greens, seasonal veggies, croutons, red onion, parmesan, black pepper ranch) topped with Nashville hot fried chicken ($8 full salad plus $4 for chicken). I did the same. It was amazing. The house salad on its own is straightforward and unassuming, but the addition of the spicy chicken made it really fantastic. 

You'll want to visit Watson's on Sunday, when alcoholic slushies are $5 all day. They are the perfect antidote for all that spiciness.  

We also ordered the fried okra ($7) and the chicarones ($7) — both are perfect for sharing. 

211 N Neil St
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (kitchen closed 2-4 p.m.)
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie


Consider a cold brew coffee from Harvest Market

Harvest Market's café and Farmhouse Restaurant offer quick and affordable ways to grab a bite or something to drink. I was recently there for a late-morning meeting and decided on the honey almond cold brew, a cold brew coffee made with honey and almond milk. It's just under $3, so it's no more or less expensive than any other coffee beverage. 

The bit of sweetness was welcome, and the almond milk isn't nearly as heavy as whole milk or cream, making this drink an easy one to sip on a very hot day. 

Harvest Market
2029 S Neil St
opens 6 a.m. daily

Photo by Jessica Hammie


Follow Champaign County Forest Preserve District on social media and get an education

The forest preserves that comprise the CCFPD are a wonderful escape from life for a bit, where you can immerse yourself in nature. However unless you are a botanist or nature specialist (is that a job?), you may not be aware of all of the native plants that surround you as you hike and camp and such.

CCFPD Facebook and Instagram regularly feature some amazing plant photos that are accompanied by descriptions of what you're looking at. Some examples:

Wild Indigo

Sangamon Phlox

Go follow them on the socials and learn some stuff about nature: Facebook/Instagram.

Photos from CCFPD Facebook page. 


The Washington St. 4th of July Parade is the nicest 10 minutes of the summer

Led by the familiar sounds of a fire engine, and with the street flanked on both sides by neighbors chatting while a small parade of kids playing music walks by, The Washington St. 4th of July Parade in Champaign is pure Americana, and not the bad kind. 

It's a good way to just have a taste of a parade on this idyllic American day, without having to manage the crowds, the heat, and the nationalistic circle jerk. It's also a safe place to take kids:

And Spider-Man showed up, which on a day like today, you have to tip your proverbial cap: 

Happy 4th of July to those who feel like it's still worth celebrating.