Our Restaurant Week coverage continues all week, and in addition to restaurant reviews, we’re also highlighting new restaurants and creators.
ET’s Downtown Rantoul is a brand new restaurant — it just opened up a few weeks ago. The restaurant serves barbecue and smoked meats, as well as a few pub favorites. I recently chatted with owner Eric Thompson.
Smile Politely: Can you tell us a little about yourself? When and how did you decide to become a chef, and how’d you come to own and operate a restaurant in C-U?
Eric Thompson: A number of years ago I realized I was watching the Food Network more than I was watching ESPN. That is when it dawned on me I should think about a career in food service. I am not a classically trained chef, but I have become passionate about creating dishes that will get people to gather and enjoy each other's company.
SP: What have been the most rewarding parts of your job?
Thompson: So far, since we opened at the beginning of the year, the most rewarding part of my job is to have heard from so many people in town how happy they are that we have opened. The members of the community have been very supportive and it has been truly great, that they have been so positive and patience with us as we work the kinks out opening a new place.
SP: What about the most challenging?
Thompson: The most challenging part of my day is delegating time to complete all the tasks I know need to be done. There is so much more we want to do with the space, with the menu, and creating new specials for our customers. Mix that with day to day business aspects of running a restaurant and employing staff, some days can be rather daunting.
SP: What do you hope to get out of participating in Restaurant Week?
Thompson: We hope to extend our audience outside of town and hope to draw more people to Downtown Rantoul.
SP: Tell us about how you decided upon your RW menu. What can diners look forward to?
Thompson: The original vision for the restaurant was to be an old school Texas BBQ joint. When this space became available we knew it was going to be something more than that as we wanted to pay tribute to all of the people that put in a tremendous amount of work to create this space years ago. But the roots will always be BBQ, so we decided to feature our smoked meats. We also create some incredible desserts and wanted to feature a couple of our favorites.
Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week continues through February 2nd.
ET’s Downtown Rantoul
107 E Sangamon Ave
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Photo from Facebook