Farren’s Pub and Eatery – Champaign, IL

5 09 2008
  • 308 N. Randolph St.
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 359-6977
  • Website
  • Menu
Farrens Pub and Eatery on Randolph St. in Champaign

Farren's Pub and Eatery on Randolph St. in Champaign

Farren’s Pub and Eatery was a suggestion I got from a poster over at Chowhound.  I wanted to find some of the harder to find places in Champaign/Urbana and I definitely did with this place.  I spent all morning at Memorial Stadium getting ready for tomorrow’s U of I/Eastern Illinois game.  By the time our lunch break rolled around, I was starving.  I left the stadium and headed back towards downtown.  Farren’s sits on Randolph Street which is a one-way a few blocks west of Neil which is the main business district.  My GPS was telling me I was there, but I wasn’t seeing it.  As I was driving by, the sign jumped out at me at the last second.  I had to go up to the next street and turn around.  The only parking around Farren’s is street parking and since it was 3:00, I didn’t have any trouble finding a spot in front.

The main entrance sits quite a ways off of the road.  I wasn’t quite sure which door to go in.  The only sign is the one out front at the road.  There are no markings on the door or windows that frame the door.  I pulled on it and it opened so I figured that was it.

There’s not a whole lot to the pub but what is there is gorgeaous.  You walk down a ramp that reminds you of a wheelchair ramp to get into the space.  There are just a few tables and the bar in the dining room.  There was only one other table being used when I got there.  I grabbed one close to the bar/kitchen to make it easy on the waiter/bartender.  Read the rest of this entry »

Manolos Pizza & Empanadas – Urbana, IL

4 09 2008
  • 1115 W. Oregon St.
  • Urbana, IL 61803
  • (217) 365-0110
  • Website
  • Menu
Manolos Pizza & Empanadas near the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana

Manolo's Pizza & Empanada's near the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana

Traveling has really wore me out….and made me hungry.  I’m sitting in my hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign and even though I’ve had two meals, I’m hungry.  I get on my laptop and do a search for pizza joints that sell pizza by the slice.  That’s what I really love about college towns.  You can usually find a pizza place open late.  My hotel is pretty close to campus, so I figured there would be one close and of course, there was more than one. 

I chose the one that wasn’t quite as close to Memorial Stadium…I think.  I went to the area I wasn’t familiar with tonight so I could stop by the other one after I get done with work tomorrow evening which I believe is closer.  I’m probably wrong, but oh well.  The one I chose is called Manolos Pizza & Empanadas and it sits right next to popular the night spot The Cannopy Club.

There’s not much to Manolos.  Just a glass case with already made pizza, a cash register and a bar along the back wall should you want to stay an eat.  There’s no seating, but their website says you can dine in at the Canopy Club.  I would assume that means you’ve already got tickets to a show and they just serve pizza in there.  Read the rest of this entry »

Monical’s Pizza – Champaign, IL

20 05 2008
  • 103 W. Kirby AveMonical's Pizza
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 356-4243
  • Website
  • Menu

Monical’s Pizza is a small chain located primarily in Central Illinois with a few locations in Indiana and one in Wisconsin.  I grew up eating at locations in Bradley, IL and Watseka, IL.  Monical’s was always the hang out after football games and where we went with large groups before hitting the movies.  While in Champaign for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track Championships, I got reacquainted with this childhood memory. 

Monical’s actually got it’s start in nearby Tolono, IL.  The restaurant on Kriby Ave. is one of the new Big Tomato locations which has a bigger menu than just the pizza Monical’s has served since the late 1950’s.  I didn’t actually get to eat in the store.  The manager on my job ordered a bunch of pizza for dinner one night since we weren’t able to get a real dinner break.

Monical’s is a super-thin crust and crispy pizza.  There are actually spices added to the crust which give the pizza an interesting flavor.  Usually on thin crust pizza, you get a pretty bland crust.  With Monical’s, you actually have to wipe your hands clean because you end up with spices on them.  Instead of being cut into wedges, the pizza is cut in tiny squares.  Just something elset that makes them stand out above the usual pizza pie.  The sauce is a thin red sauce with a little bit of a kick then cheese and toppings are piled on.  Where I’m from, Monical’s pizza can’t be eaten without their signature sweet and tart salad dressing.  I always thought it was wierd, but people actually have the waitress keep the salad dressing on the table when the pizza came, but people just love this stuff.  You can actually buy bottles of the dressing on their website.

Over the years, it kind of seems like the pizza has changed and not in the good way.  The location I always used to go to in Bradley is now closed and the other locations just don’t have the same feel to them as this one did, so I’ve kind of been turned off to their pizza.  I’ve eaten at many of the locations and every now and then it’s just good to go back to an old favorite.  That’s how this weekend felt when I was unintentionally scarfing down a whole pizza.  It’s not usually my first choice any more, but when it’s put in front of me, I can’t help but wolf it down.

Merry Ann’s Diner (Campus Location)- Champaign, IL

19 05 2008
  • 1510 S. Neil St.Merry Ann's
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 352-5399
  • No Known Website
  • Menu (downtown Location)

So here’s the first of my reviews of dining in Big Ten communities (well, second if you count The Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor).  I was in Champaign for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship.  When I lived in Peoria, I would end up in Champaign quite often for work.  When we had an early call time, I would pretty much always be put up in the Hilton Garden Inn on Neil St.  From the hotel, I always saw this little diner called Merry Ann’s.  For the most part, I needed to get to bed and didn’t have time to grab a bite to eat, so I kept passing this place up.  Not this time.

I spent the weekend in town and I got off work at a fairly early time on Saturday.  I had eaten nothing but cold meat sandwiches supplied by University Dining Services for two days, so I needed something good and greasy.  I walked across Neil to get to Merry Ann’s.  There were only a couple guys sitting in a booth when I got there, so I grabbed a spot at the bar.  The set up is pretty interesting.  There is only one row of booths and the bar.  All the booths have a cut-out area on the kitchen side so the waitress never has to go out to the dining area.  Merry Ann’s is your typical 24-hour diner and the menu is too.  It’s filled with breakfast items, greasy burgers and they even have some after midnight “hangover” specials. 

The waitress brought me a Pepsi and asked if I needed a menu.  I glanced over it and right away, one thing jumped out.  The Horseshoe!  If you don’t know what a horsehoe is, check out my post on unique regional foods.  This is what I really miss about Central Illinois.  The flat top was right in front of me, so I was able to watch the cook grill the burger, fry the fries, toast the bread, and squeeze the cheese on.  I actually got quite a bit more than I expected.  The fries came piled on and the burger was a pretty good size.  The cheese, for being squeezed out of a bottle, was just what I wanted.  I devoured the “sandwich” in just a few minutes.  The waitress was actually a little surprised I finished so quickly, but I was really hungry. 

My bill was a little over $7, so with tip, I got out of there for ten bucks.  Merry Ann’s is a great asset to the University of Illinois’ campus.  Diner’s are getting rarer and Merry Ann’s has been there for 25 years this year.  I’ve drove by there on my way to Memorial Stadium on Saturday mornings and the place is usually pretty busy.  If your in town, hunt this place down…it’s on Neil and Kirby and two blocks from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.