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 »





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 »





Urbana Garden Family Restaurant – Urbana, IL

22 12 2008
  • 810 W. Killarney St.
  • Urbana, IL 61801
  • (217) 328-1514
  • No Known Website
  • No Online Menu
Urbana Garden Family Restaurant in Urbana, IL

Urbana Garden Family Restaurant in Urbana, IL

It’s always fun when you’re in a strange city to go out to eat with the locals. I was working at Assembly Hall for a University of Illinois basketball game with a few other guys who live in the area. I’m somewhat familiar with the Champaign/Urbana area, but not nearly as familiar with the local joints, so I was happy when one of my co-workers took the lead and suggested we go to Urbana Gardens for dinner.

Urbana Gardens sits near Interstate 74 in Urbana a few miles from campus. It’s one of those down home, friendly restaurants where it’s more about having a good time than white table cloths. Five of us left the arena together for lunch. When we showed up at Urbana Gardens, we were relieved to see the holiday shoppers didn’t make it down this far. The place was pretty empty for a Saturday night and we were seated at a table together. I sort of felt sorry for the other patrons. We were loud. The guys I was with all have a sarcastic sense of humor and the waitress was playing along, so things got a little noisy. The table sitting next to us didn’t seem to mind as eventually, they started asking questions about our line of work.

The waitress came with drinks. I ordered a Coke. We also had one coffee, a Sprite, an iced tea and two Arnold Palmers. The waitress looked at the first guy that ordered it and said, “you’re going to be surprised I actually know what that is.” I had no idea, but after a quick Internet search, I now know it’s half iced tea and half lemonade. The waitress had a system when it came to keeping track of orders and she wasn’t about to let anyone mess it up. She started with the first guy to her left. He asked what the specials were and eventually decided on chicken fried steak. He asked if it had mushrooms and if so, to keep it off. The waitress asked if he was alergic and just didn’t like them. He said he didn’t like them. She said she would have to check if it even had mushrooms because the gravy was already made and if he was alergic, she’d pick them off….if he didn’t like them, he’d just have to deal with. That sounds mean, but she was being sarcastic and messing around with him. It was all in good fun and I don’t think she would have actually made him eat them. Read the rest of this entry »