Solving comfort-food cravings is as easy as walking up the stairs and passing through the brick archway at 410 Green Street where C-U La La Noodle is just behind the door to the right. While technically this would be categorized as a Chinese restaurant, I want to distinguish the point between that category and the generic Americanized Chinese that sometimes gets lumped into that group. Thankfully, there were no panda mascots here. Instead, you’ll find a treasure trove of delicious noodles and beyond.


Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

The menu was posted immediately to your right as you walk in with some additional pictures and menu items to the left.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.
Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

They also have an excellent online menu for anyone who likes to plan what they are going to order ahead of time.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

After ordering and paying at the register, I proceeded to the dining area to select my seat. It had a clean but no-frills ambiance that made it perfect for casual lunch or dinner. We chose seats near the middle of the restaurant, but the generous spacing between tables ensured we never felt crowded. Not long after we sat down, the employee at the register announced our orders were ready by announcing the dishes by name. We made our way over to pick up our meals which were situated on bright red plastic trays, and we gathered our utensils from the nearby caddy. There was something about balancing all the dishes on the tray that was very pleasantly reminiscent of a school cafeteria but with much more appealing food.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

My dining companion ordered (105) rice noodles with beef soup ($9.99), a more substantial and balanced dish than the name initially implied to me. Served in a brimming bowl of light broth, her soup came garnished with half a marinated hard-boiled egg, chopped cabbage, julienned carrots, chili oil, cilantro, and, of course, plenty of rice noodles with beef.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

I ordered (202) noodles with sesame and peanuts paste ($8.99), (706) shredded potato ($3.46), and a Vita honey chrysanthemum tea ($3.00). The tea came in a juice box package and was quite nice. The honey flavor was immediately recognizable followed by more mild herbal tea notes. As someone who typically prefers unsweetened tea, 250 mL was the perfect amount to enjoy the flavor without it becoming cloying.

It ended up acting as a lovely complement to my main dish, noodles with sesame and peanuts paste as well. Dolloped on top of a large portion of deliciously chewy wheat noodles was a savory, salty peanut-based paste. It’s hard to go wrong with a sauce that pairs the salty richness of peanut butter with the savory umami of soy sauce. La La’s rendition does not disappoint. The julienned cucumber and carrots in the dish provided a refreshing crunch amongst the pillowy noodles.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

The side dish I had selected, the shredded potato salad, provided a pleasant balance to the rich noodles as well. The shredded potatoes were blanched perfectly, so they retained their crisp yet pliable texture. The acidity of the vinegar-based dressing supplied a delightful brightness to further balance out the meal. It’s a versatile enough side that I will definitely be including it in future picnics this summer.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the portion sizes at C-U La La Noodle, too. I assumed portions would be a bit smaller as their prices are on the lower end of the noodle restaurants around campus. With the loyal following the restaurant has, I knew the quality wouldn't be sacrificed. Yet, even going into this lunch quite hungry, I still ended up with two full meals from my order.

The summer is my favorite time of year to branch away from my usual eateries and frequent campus more. Many of the students are gone, so parking is typically easy to find, plus lines and crowds are nearly non-existent. It helps support the local chefs and their vibrant array of culinary microcosms we’re lucky enough to have in our own metaphorical backyards.

If you should find yourself in the mood for a quick, comforting meal, it’s hard to beat the portion size, price, and quality of C-U La La Noodle.

C-U La La Noodle
410 Green St
Champaign
11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., daily

Top image by Caitlin Aylmer.