By Indira Midha
As a broke but hungry college student with a desire to travel and try new things, I’m always on the lookout for a new place to grab a bite to eat with my friends. Whether it be trying a new restaurant, a new type of cuisine, or even a new place to get my daily caffeine fix: I’m up for it. Here are five places that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new place to eat on campus!
Here are five places that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new place to eat on campus!
1.) Bangkok Thai
410 E Green St, Champaign, IL
As an avid eater of all things Asian, and/or noodle, Bangkok Thai was a definite hit on my list. I got the feeling that it was a family-run place and that the food was made how the family’s ancestors in Thailand prepared it. If you are not the biggest fan of spicy foods, a great option here is their noodle soup. I ordered the beef noodle soup and was quite impressed.
Soups are a definite must if you’re feeling sick, but also if you want the feeling of comfort food without the crazy amounts of fried unhealthiness usually associated with traditional comfort food. The portion was humongous for a very modest price and an under ten-minute wait, even during evening rush hour.
In stars, I would give this place a 4.5/5. I loved my order, and how easy the ordering and waiting experiences were, but the portion size was so generous that I could not finish it and there was no option for me to carry it out. Aside from that very minor issue, my experience there was very pleasant and recommendable.
2.) Maize Mexican Grill
60 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820
Maize absolutely lived up to the well-represented hype that it gets all over campus. While being tiny, that place is definitely mighty. My food was out less than five minutes after I ordered, aside from the fact that the restaurant was packed since it was right after a football game. With dine-in, both indoor and outdoor, and carryout options, this place was the real deal.
Serving all of your Mexican favorites, from nachos to burritos to tacos, authenticity is maintained throughout the process of aiming to be practical and efficient with the preparatory process. I ordered a chicken burrito, and I think it is safe to say that it was the best one that I have ever eaten. It was easily customizable, making the menu very vegan, vegetarian, and lactose intolerant friendly. The food was excellently seasoned and what I consider to be a perfect portion size; one burrito was sufficiently filling, but not too heavy, with no leftovers to worry about.
The lines got annoyingly long by the time that I left, but the wait is absolutely worth it. The service was wonderful and fast. The countertops were full of vibrant colors and Mexican floral prints; needless to say, Instagram-worthy. The wait was super speedy after ordering, but the food was hot and fresh. Hands down, this place gets 5/5 stars.
3.) Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice
619 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820
Another place with quite the reputation in the heart of Campustown is Antonio’s. It is often talked about as a good place to eat after spending the night at bars, so I decided to hit the place up and see what all the hype was about (without any alcohol in my system).
I give Antonio’s a 3.5/5 star rating. While I cannot tell you if it is a good “drunk food munchies relief” place, I can tell you that as a Chicagoan, I was not super impressed by the pizza. I ordered a slice of margherita pizza, and it was pretty good, but nothing remarkably special. The place had nothing to do with Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s, but I would say that it is not too shabby of an alternative to fulfill the pizza craving in a place without either of these iconic Chicago-style pizza places.
Being lactose intolerant, I could not try the mac & cheese pizza myself, but I have heard wonders about it. I would recommend this place as a good pizza parlor in Champaign, but with the disclaimer to any fellow Chicagoans that if you are used to Lou’s or Giordano’s, this cannot compare.
4.) Insomnia Cookies
Johnstowne Center, 502 E John St, Champaign, IL 61820
While this cookie heaven is not unique to the Champaign-Urbana area, this chain is a very important food group for college students. Warm, classic cookie flavors are available for delivery and are particularly popular during late hours. Being able to order yourself cookies to the library or your room has changed the game. Everyone has to try them.
My personal favorite flavor is the snickerdoodle, but my roommate swears that she will take one of their peanut butter cookies with her to her grave. They also serve several other flavors, like the classic chocolate chunk, and even some deluxe flavors like s’mores. The best additions to cookies, like milk or ice cream, are also available for purchase.
The cookies are pretty great in the taste department, but they taste even better when they are delivered to your dorm at 2 in the morning while you’re crying into your stats notes. (No, that hasn’t happened to me; especially not twice.) Whatever, cookies are good for the soul, and whoever came up with Insomnia Cookies is a genius. 5/5 stars to this place, hands down. I feel for the colleges that don’t have one of these on their campus.
5.) Latté Da!
Underneath the Lincoln Theater stairs in Lincoln Hall
Have a lecture in Lincoln Theater? If so, this is the place for you. This small coffee shop underneath the stairs of Lincoln Theater is the perfect pit stop between classes to fuel the inevitable caffeine addiction that every college student catches sooner or later.
Latté Da! is a great alternative to waiting in endless lines at the Starbucks in the Illini Union Courtyard Café. The lines are shorter and the prices are much more reasonable. While the variety is not as vast as Starbucks, especially in the bakery department, the coffee is pretty similar in taste, and the location is much more convenient and quick.
While the place doesn’t have the most hipster coffeeshop vibe, it is a good place to grab a table and study between classes if you enjoy minimal hustle and noise. I recommend the vanilla iced coffee, it’s under two dollars and the perfect balance of yummy sweetness and a smack of caffeine.
I give the café 4/5 stars since there is not a huge variety, and the same thing can get a bit old by the end of the week. But overall, this place is a more practical version of Starbucks on the main quad!
Enjoy checking out these awesome eateries on campus, and happy eating/caffeinating!
Photo of Bangkok Thai food taken by Indira Midha, edited by Jack Coombs
All other images taken by Jack Coombs