Li’l Porgy’s Bar-B-Q – Champaign, IL

30 03 2009
  • 1917 W. Springfield Avenue
  • Champaign, IL 61821
  • (217) 398-6811
  • Website
  • Menu
Lil Porgys Barbecue on Springfield Avenue in Champaign, IL

Li'l Porgy's Barbecue on Springfield Avenue in Champaign, IL

My last day in Champaign and I needed something good for lunch.  As I was driving away from Eichelberger Field on my lunch break, I remembered a BBQ place I ate at a couple years ago.  I was pretty sure I remembered how to get there once I found Springfield Avenue off of Neil Street. 

Li’l Porgy’s has two locations in the Champaign/Urbana area.  I chose the Champaign location which is on West Springfield Avenue near Mattis Avenue.  There are a number of other restaurants in the area including a Famous Dave’s. 

The building is nothing more than a run down old fast food joint.  It’s not much to look at and I wondered if it was even open on a Sunday morning when I pulled in.  As I was nearing Mattis Avenue, I knew I was close, but it wasn’t until I got right up on the sign that I noticed it.  As I turned in the parking lot, I noticed a couple other cars, so I figured I was go for Q.

Inside gets a little wierd and I remember I didn’t quite get it my first trip.  There obviously used to be a huge order counter like you’re familiar with at the fast food joints, but they put an oven or food warmer or something right in the middle and divided it up into two windows.  The openings are very small.  There’s not really room for anything but the cash register at the order window. Read the rest of this entry »





Mia Za’s Cafe – Champaign, IL

28 03 2009
  • 629 E. Green Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 352-2697
  • Website
  • Menu
Mia Zas Cafe on Green Street in Champaign, IL

Mia Za's Cafe on Green Street in Champaign, IL

Another Saturday.  Another Saturday working.  Actually, that’s been rare the last year and very welcome.  I was back in Champaign for game two of a three game set between the University of Illinois and Michigan State University’s baseball teams.  Once again, lunch time rolled around and I went in search of good food.

Yesterday, I ran into some trouble finding businesses open on Green Street, but I did notice a cafe open near the end of the stretch of businesses.  I was craving an Italian beef and knew this place wouldn’t have it, but today, I just wanted a sandwich, so I headed back.

Mia Za’s Cafe is on Green Street near the corner of Green and Sixth.  The cafe is one of three locations in Big Ten communities.  The other two stores are in Madison, WI (University of Wisconsin) and Ann Arbor.  If the name sounds sort of familiar, but not really, they used to go under the name Za’s Italian Cafe.  The Ann Arbor store is located at 615 E. University. Read the rest of this entry »





Illinois Field – Champaign, IL

27 03 2009
  • 1605 S. Wright Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-3630
  • Website
The view from the press box at Illinois Field in Champaign, IL

The view from the press box at Illinois Field in Champaign, IL

I freakin love baseball.  I played growing up.  I played a couple years in college.  I can’t get enough of it.  I’ve never been much of a football person, but I love when baseball season comes around.  I know…that’s weird.

Now that I work in broadcasting, spring is my favorite time.  I love it when I get a call to shoot a baseball game.  Yes, chances are it’s going to be cold and rainy, but that’s ok with me.  I got a last minute call to make the trek to Illinois for three games in three days.  The first two days were U of I vs. Michigan State University baseball.

Illinois Field in located on Wright Street right at the boundry for the cities of Champaign and Urbana.  It’s just down the street from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.  The grassy lot next to the field is actually used for overflow parking during football season. Read the rest of this entry »





Geovanti’s Bar & Grill – Champaign, IL

21 03 2009
  • 401 E. Green Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 344-4600
  • Website
  • Menu
Geovantis Bar & Grill on Green Street near the campus of the University of Illinois

Geovanti's Bar & Grill on Green Street near the campus of the University of Illinois

It’s no secret that the one food I crave when I go home is the Italian beef.  It just doesn’t exist in Mid-Michigan.  While it’s obvious you can find the sandwich in Chicago, most people don’t realize there are a handful of places downstate that offer the sandwich.  They’re usually a Chicago-style place that specializes in sandwiches and pizza.  Lucky for me, there was not one, but two places right down the street from Huff Hall where I happened to be working.

Geovanti’s Bar and Grill is on the corner of Green and 4th Streets.  Think of Green Street like Grand River Avenue.  It’s right in the middle of a lot of off campus housing and it’s a short walk from campus of the U of I.  There are a number of bars and restaurants on a four block stretch of road.

I walked in to Geovanti’s just as they were opening at 11:00 AM.  There are two entrances.  There’s the entrance on Green, but there’s also an alley entrance.  I was on the phone and not paying attention, so I walked around to the front entrance.  Read the rest of this entry »





Huff Hall – Champaign, IL

21 03 2009
  • 1206 S. 4th Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 244-9755
  • Website
Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois set up for gymnastics

Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois set up for gymnastics

Even if you’ve never been to the University of Illinois and you’ve never heard of Huff Hall, you are quite familiar with a term that was coined during the days when the IHSA boys state basketball championships played in the gym.  It’s actually pretty fitting that I’m writing about this right now.  The term “March Madness” is a term that was trademarked by the IHSA after a court battle that also gave the NCAA a right to trademark the term.  The IHSA still claims to have invented the term and they own the sole trademark to the phrase “America’s Original March Madness” which is how they bill their tournament these days

The phrase “March Madness” was first used in 1939 to describe the state basketball championships that were held at Huff Gymnasium.  The layout and design of the building made it loud and when the place was full, it was deafening.  If you’ve ever watched an IHSA small schools game, you know how loud it can get.

Huff Hall was built in 1925 as a multi-purpose gymnasium named after George Huff who was the school’s athletic director from 1895 to 1935.  It’s a 4,500 seat arena with a permanent upper deck and retractable bleachers in the lower area.  Like Michigan State’s Jenison Fieldhouse, Huff Hall is the home of the U of I’s volleyball, wrestling,  and gymnastics teams. Read the rest of this entry »





Antonio’s Pizza – Champaign, IL

19 02 2009
  • 619 E. Green Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 365-9500
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Antonios Pizza on Green Street in Champaign, IL

Antonio's Pizza on Green Street in Champaign, IL

You should know me by now.  When I’m on the campus of a large university, I go looking for pizza-by-the-slice.  I was in Champaign to witness one of the worst basketball games I have ever seen.  If you happened to watch the Penn State vs. Illinois basketball game, you know what I’m talking about.  Before that atrocity, I needed to find dinner.  Most of my co-workers went to a Mexican place, but I wanted pizza, so I headed to Green Street and started walking.

Antonio’s Pizza is in the 600 Block of Green Street which is U of I’s big restaurant district.  They’ve got everything from Asian to chains to bars to pizza.  I walked by a few places that looked good, but didn’t do anything for me.  From the corner of 6th and Green, I could see a green, white, and red striped awning.  I knew it had to be a pizza place, soI crossed the street and kept walking. Read the rest of this entry »





Merry Ann’s Diner – Downtown Champaign, IL

29 12 2008
  • 1 E. Main Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 531-1160
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Merry Anns Diner in downtown Champaign, IL

Merry Ann's Diner in downtown Champaign, IL

5:30 AM is still too early for me.  I was up at this ungodly hour because I had to be in Champaign by 7:00 AM for a basketball game.  My parents live a little over an hour away, so the alarm was set for just before 5:30.  Since the game was at 1:00, it meant lunch was actually going to be breakfast, so on my way in to town, I started scouting out breakfast joints.  I wasn’t having much luck until I had to detour off of Neil Street (the main artery of Champaign and the road that runs through downtown) because of construction.  I turned down Main Street and like a golden beacon, a simple sign that said “diner” jumped out and I found my breakfast spot.

Merry Ann’s Diner is located in the One Main building which is a development companies’ prototype for downtown buildings.  I know they also built a “One Main” in Normal, IL near Illinois State University even though the street is not Main Street.  The “One Main” name comes from the address of this original building. 

I was not aware that there was a second Merry Ann’s in Champaign.  I had eaten at the location farther down on the corner of Neil and Kirby Streets near the University of Illinois (review HERE).  I was surprised when I actually saw the name of the diner on Main was Merry Ann’s.

I got back downtown just before 10:00.  The diner isn’t very big and it’s set up pretty much the same was as the diner on Neil Street.  Most of the booths but up to the “kitchen” with little cutouts for the waitress.  This way, the waitress never has to go out into the dining room….unless you happen to be sitting at the two or three tables near the door which are separated from the counter.  The diner is setup with a row of booths, a lunch counter, and another row of booths.  When I walked in, I wasn’t sure there was any available space.  All of the booths looked full.  I thought maybe there was one down at the end, so I started walking that way.  That’s when I noticed the stools at the counter, so I just sat down there. Read the rest of this entry »





Assembly Hall – Champaign, IL

22 12 2008
  • 1800 S. 1st St.
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-5000
  • Website
An empty arena at the Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois

An empty arena at the Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois

Until last year, even though I lived near it all my life, I had never been to Assembly Hall in Champaign for a basketball game. Heck, until earlier this month, I had never even been to a college basketball game tha wasn’t for work. The same is still true in Champaign.

I spent another Saturday night in Illinois working. Assembly Hall isn’t the most modern arena in the Big Ten, but it does have it’s charm. The arena looks like a giant UFO. It must be a thing with Illinois arenas. I used to go to events at Assembly Hall when I was younger. We went to many Ice Capades in Champaign, but like I already mentioned, last year was the first time I had been there when the basketball floor was set up.

When you walk in to Assembly Hall, you come into a concourse level. You have to go up a series of ramps on the outside to get to the main gates. From the concourse level, you can enter the arena and either go up or down. Most of the day of sales tickets are up. Like most college basketball arenas, season ticket holders get the lower bowl while every one gets up in the B and C levels. There are portable bleachers in each end zone. The side near the tunnel and Illinois’ bench is for family and the band. The other end is for the Orange Crush (Illinois’ version of the IzZone.) Read the rest of this entry »





Circle K – Oak Lawn, IL

1 12 2008
  • 10601 S. Cicero Ave.
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60435
  • (708) 422-2449
  • Website
The Circle K on South Cicero Street in Oak Lawn, IL

The Circle K on South Cicero Street in Oak Lawn, IL

I don’t know what it is about Polar Pops that I crave, but fortunately, there’s a Circle K on the way from J’s parents to the Interstate back to Michigan.  After almost a week in Chicago, it was time to pack my truck back up and head north….but not before a stop at the Circle K.

If you read this blog, you know I’ve blogged in the past about there not being a Circle K in Lansing.  I don’t know why I have an affinity for the Polar Pop.  It’s not like the Pepsi that comes out of their machine is any different than the Pepsi that comes out of the machine at the Speedway down on the corner.  I think it has more to do with my daily routine when I Iived in Peoria. 

At least once during the day, I would stop at one of the many Circle K’s in the area to grab a pop.  Some days it was more than once.  On days when I had to be to work at 3 AM, I always stopped.  Some people need coffee.  I need Pepsi…at least I did then.  The point is, I need caffeine. Read the rest of this entry »





Memorial Stadium – Champaign, IL

8 09 2008
  • 1402 S. First St.
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-3630
  • Website
The south endzone of Memorial Stadium filled with fans as the Fightin Illini take on the Panthers of Eastern Illinois

The south endzone of Memorial Stadium filled with fans as the Fightin' Illini take on the Panthers of Eastern Illinois

I finished up my weekend in Champaign at the newly renovated Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois.  Like many other Big Ten schools, U of I decided they needed luxury suites and to do so, they chopped their upper deck seating on the west side by quite a bit.  The benefit for me is one of the best press boxes I’ve ever worked out of and a relocation of the camera platforms from a basket hanging off the upper deck that I had to climb over the rail to get to to platforms at the back of the concourse which is much safer and comfortable. 

From the outside, the home of the Fightin’ Illini doesn’t look much different.  The architects were able to keep the integrity of the building.  Something that couldn’t be done a few hours north at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Inside, the west side is a totally different building.  When you first walk in to the stadium, you come to a huge open concourse area.  Plenty of room for the thousands of fans who show up on a Saturday afternoon to walk around comfortably.  The walls are lined with concession stands and souvenir kiosks.  If your seats are in the lower bowl, you can easily get to those seats from where you enter.  When the stadium was redesigned, they made it possible to walk from one side to the other which was something you couldn’t do just a few years ago.  Read the rest of this entry »