I thank the gentleman from the other side of the Birkenstock Curtain for his report .
But I respectfully suggest that if his desire is truly to illuminate the high points of the temporary home of our neighbors to the east, he has left out a few items.
I am certain this is a mere oversight on his part, and I wish to take this opportunity to make the picture, shall we say, a little more complete.
It is true that Champaign once was known as West Urbana, but we all know where the railroad finally located. Right across the street from the Cattle Bank, where one A. Lincoln banked – a building which still stands. (And across the street from a magic store – is there one in Urbana?)
And just on the other side of those tracks is downtown Champaign, a dining and entertainment mecca that is unequaled in many a mile. You might find its like in Broad Ripple, but perhaps nowhere any closer. Within a couple square blocks you can find live music, wonderful saloons and restaurants to suit every taste and pocketbook. Walking around just one block would take you from Mike N Molly’s (rumored to be the biggest downstate vendor of the mother’s milk known as Guinness) to Seven Saints to Esquire Lounge to Blind Pig. And then get a cupcake at Cakes on Walnut and across the street you go for some coffee at Kopi. (Oh, and your laptop will have its choice of wifi, too.) From here, you can pop over to Boltini for their martinis. Or go the other direction to shoot a game of pool at Jupiter’s. Or for that matter head north, where the Delta Kings will be rocking Bentley’s on Saturday night.
It’s really a shame you’re not here in warmer weather, but you should come back after spring has sprung – unless of course you’re still here then – because the downtown sidewalks are packed with happy people, laughing and chatting and just generally getting on. Oh, and by then, a second microbrewery will be open. Right now we just have the one, Blind Pig Brewery. But Destihl is on the way.
And if it’s fine dining you want, well, you merely need to see Jim Gould or go next door to KoFusion. If Asian food is your preference, you will have to make a choice: Will it be Nitaya Thai, or Peking Garden, for instance? And hey, if you can’t sleep, you can always grab a bite any time at Merry Ann’s Diner.
There’s more: Farren’s, Bacaro, Radio Maria, Carmon’s, Escobar’s, Sushi Kame.
You could always stop to take in a movie that you won’t find in Urbana, at the Art Theatre.
Shopping, did you say, Representative Corkery? Shopping? Which variety do you care to discuss? You can outfit a rock band at Corson’s Music (over by the magic shop) or at CV Lloyde; buy a lovely trinket for that someone special at Spritz or Christopher’s; and maybe a nicely baked something from Pekara. Check out the objets at IndiGo or FigureOne.
We could move away from downtown Champaign if you must. If chain stores are to your liking, our North Prospect Avenue will give you plenty, from Best Buy to Chez Target to Meijer. Market Place, on North Neil Street, is anchored by Macy’s. Just moments away from you on I-74.
And as well as Mr. Corkery’s Tigers are doing, Big Ten basketball will be on display at _the_ Assembly Hall, an architectural marvel that you should see as long as you’re here. It’s a little different from the one in Bloomington. One of the best times money can buy in this town is in the Ice Arena on campus, where the Illini Hockey team this weekend is taking on Missouri. You’ve been used to hearing chants: The chants at these games are entirely different.
If you’re going to visit campus, one thing that exists only to the west of Wright Street is Papa Del’s Pizza, a landmark tradition to which alums return as if by tractor beam whenever they come to town. Because it’s delicious.
There’s so much more – heck, we didn’t even get you to southwest Champaign, for Sunsinger wine shop, Jupiter’s South or Billy Barooz.
But one thing is for sure. If you’re still here on Friday, and you don’t go to Jarling’s Custard Cup, well, it won’t be our fault.
And hey, come back April 27-May 1 for Ebertfest. Yes. That Ebert. (Honesty compels me to concede that he grew up in Urbana.)