Category Archives: restaurants

2009: A Year in Review

I had planned on breaking this into two separate posts, but time got away from me.  Here’s what I’ve been up to the last 12 months:

January

  • 30 days of 30
  • First ski/snowboard trip
  • Neil Clennon Reffett was born

February

FAIL

March

  • Work trip to San Francisco (two posts… here and here)

yep, that's a CRUISE ship on the right

April

Clennon and I post-race

May

The girls of Hewett 6 (minus Jo)

June

  • Ohio for Reds/Cubs game
  • Ryan Joseph Lingas was born
  • Started the Great Paint Project

Self-portrait attempt #2. This pic is horrible, but I LOVE it 'cuz it's so real!

July

  • Infamous Rural King incident
  • Cubs/Cardinals game
  • Stephanie’s bachelorette party
  • Hayden Michael Bates was born


August

After

Highlight of the trip: Getting up on waterskiis for the first time!

the entire bridal party!

September

  • 4th 5K
  • Surprise birthday tailgate

October

The bigger the hair, the closer to God

November

December

  • Kim’s surprise birthday party
  • Christmas with my dad’s side
  • Oak Ridge Boys concert
  • First Christmas with my new niece
  • CHRISTMAS BREAK!!!

Birthday girl doing shots

My 92 year old Grannie and my newborn GREAT niece

In addition, there were countless nights out, NUMEROUS trips to Chicago and plenty of downtime.  All in all it was a pretty good year.  I can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for me.

Frisco Stories, Part 2

I guess I should’ve mentioned in my earlier post that this is my 3rd trip to San Francisco.  I’ve already done many of the touristy things (Golden Gate Bridge, trolley car, wine country), so you won’t see any of that this time.  But San Fran is one of my favorite cities and every time I go back, I’m able to experience a little more of it!

Thursday — Thai, Tapas, and Theater

First official day of work.   A couple minor snafus, but everything went off without a hitch.  

The wonderful thing about San Francisco is that there was an Indian buffet across the street from our hotel.  And a Thai place across another.   Since I actually ate a buffet breakfast on Thursday (totally out of character), I went to the Thai place  Thursday.  My lunch was tasty.  I could’ve used more vegetables, but usual Convention fare consists of cardboard pizza and dry sandwiches, so I’m not gonna complain!

I think it was called broccoli and noodles

I think it was called broccoli and noodles

After work, we decided to go to the Thirsty Bear for dinner.  It’s a tapas place Kurt and I had been to four years ago and it was (relatively) close by.   We had tickets to see Wicked that night, so we didn’t want to repeat the “where the hell is the restaurant” debacle of the night before.

The Thirsty Bear is also a brewery, so I decided to choose the beer sampler.   Yes, folks, that’s right– NINE different beers (they were only 4 or 5 oz each… but STILL!).  It came with a cool “legend” underneath each beer to indicate what you were drinking.

mmm... beer!

BEFORE: mmm... beer!

And... after (I wanted you to be able to see the legend)

AFTER: Note the legend is now visible

As expected, my favorites were the IPA and the wheat beer.  I wasn’t so keen on the stouts, but I tried them.  I also learned that E.S.B. really does stand for Extra Special Bitters.  I didn’t believe Andrew when he told me that.

Tapas were phenomenal.  

cheese and olives-- this is for you, Lisa!

cheese and olives-- this is for you, Lisa!

YUMMY asparagus, another poultry and polenta dish and shrimp

YUMMY asparagus, another poultry and polenta dish and a tasty sauteed shrimp

Unfortunately, we were a little rushed for time and Kurt and I had to ditch out on Andrew to make it in time for the show.  Getting there was quite an adventure.  We couldn’t hail a cab to save our lives and we were practically race-walking to make it to the theater in time.  At one point, I thought I’d be better off running.   We finally got a cab that took us ~ 4 blocks, but we made it to the show in time.

Wicked was playing at the Orpheum Theater, which was just beautiful.  It’s a very old, very ornate theater.  We got there right on time and I didn’t have a chance to snap any external pics, and they didn’t allow photos of the show, but it was AMAZING.   

I couldn’t get over how big everything was– the sets were amazing, the costumes were gorgeous, the actors were amazing (Carol Kane played Madame Morrible).   Some of the songs were a little cheesy, but I was just so000 impressed by the whole production.  I’ve never been to a Broadway show or anything like that, so I’m not sure what I expected.  But this topped it all!   A couple highlights:

  • Galinda teaching Elphaba the “toss-toss” method of flipping one’s hair to flirt with a guy.  Uh… I know someone like that :) 
  • Fiyero describing himself as “deeply shallow.”   Classic
  • The curtain call.  For some reason, I *always* get a little veclempt during the curtain call.  I’m weird.

Friday– Run on, Retirement, and G. Love

Usually, about the 2nd or 3rd day of a trade show, you start to get bored.  I spotted a guy wearing a “run on”  tshirt and texted my friend about it, since he used to have a running “team” called the Run-ons.  (English teachers are really quite witty.  Really!)

When the guy wearing the shirt came into our booth, I just  had  to snap a picture:

the back said: 'unless you're a sentence'

the back said: 'unless you're a sentence'

Instead of going out for a fancy dinner on Friday night, we celebrated our colleagues, Pat’s, last convention with a pizza party in a SWEET hotel suite. Check out this view:

yep, that's a CRUISE ship on the right

The Bay. Yep, that's a CRUISE ship on the right

Skyline

Skyline

Then it was off to the G.Love and Special Sauce concert at The Warfield.   G. Love and the boys did not disappoint.  We had general admission tickets and were able to get fairly close.  I LOVED the venue.  Totally cool and “intimate.”    Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.   I’m not sure if Andrew and Kurt enjoyed it as much as I did, but I had a rockin’ good time.  Crazy hippie dancing and all :)

Hallway at the Warfield-- lots of cool acts have played there

Hallway at the Warfield-- lots of cool acts have played there

My baby's got sauce...

Check out the dude with the cast!

Harmonicas are sexxy

Harmonicas are sexxy

So are guitars!

So are guitars!

Saturday–  Last day, Haight-Ashbury, and Supper

As you can imagine,  Saturday was a bit of a long day for me.  Even though we had a short day in terms of hours, it was looong in terms of how I felt.  But I made it through.  And then crashed.  I took a 3 hour nap that afternoon. I probably should’ve gone out and “done” more of San Fransisco, but I just didn’t have it in me.

Andrew was visiting with friends, so Kurt and I decided to head to the Haight for dinner.  We went to Magnolia, a gastro pub Lisa read about in a magazine.   There was a wait, so we decided to walk around a bit.   Believe it or not, I had *never* been to Haight-Ashbury before.   Yeah, it’s touristy, but I had to take a pic.

lets all do a little hippie dance

lets all do a little hippie dance

The food and beer were both good at Magnolia.   The service was a little slow, though, or else I probably would’ve had a couple more beers.   All in all, a great way to end our adventure in San Fran!

meat and cheese platter

meat and cheese platter

Kurt had the pork chop

Kurt had the pork chop

And I had the house ravioli

And I had the house ravioli

Sunday-Tuesday:  Recovering in Chicago

Instead of coming home to Champaign on Sunday, I spent a couple days recovering in Chicago.  I was waayyy too tired to do much, but we did spend St. Patty’s day in Millennium Park.   We had super great weather and it was the perfect way to spend my last day in the “real world.”  Again, I didn’t take any pictures.  I need to get better at that.

————–

Things I didn’t do

Although I’m pretty impressed with all the things we were able to do in such a short time (especially considering I had to actually work for most of it), there are a few things I missed:

  • Warhol Live at the  de Young Museum  — Andy Warhol and Rock music together.  I really wanted to see it, but the timing just didn’t work out.
  • 826 Valencia (aka The Pirate Store)– Jane told us about Dave Eggers’ literacy project that features a “pirate store.”   I never made it down there, but Kurt went and brought me back a souvenir skull.  That’s gotta count for something!
  • Alcatraz– I’ve never had time to take the tour, but I hear it’s phenomenal.   One of these days, I will go! For reals.
  • SF MOMA Museum store– I made the mistake on my first trip to SF to actually tour the MOMA on the last day of Convention. It was complete sensory overload and too much at the end of a long day.  But I at least wanted to make it to the museum store ‘cuz it’s super cool.
  • Take any pictures of myself in San Francisco.  Seriously, what is wrong with me?  I have tons of food pics but none of me!  I really must get better at this!

30 days of 30 Q & A

Whenever I go out for my 30 days of 30 (or even talk about it), people tend to ask the same questions.   Here, for your reading pleasure, are the answers:  

Q:  Do you have all the days filled up?
A:  Almost .  I don’t have anyone signed up for Sunday (today) and my Monday “date” backed out on me.   But I’ve had plenty of days where I’m double-booked so I can always count those for any “missing” days.  (And, yeah, if anyone wants to hang out tomorrow. I’m free.)

Q: What’s your favorite day so far?
A:  There’s no way I could pick.   It was kinda cool to go to an Illini game and sit so close.  Janet’s day was special because of the thoughtfulness she put into it.   And the most unusual  thing for me was to go see a story teller*.  But all the days have been fun.  I’ve hung out with tons of people I don’t see on a regular basis and that’s cool.

Q: Are you getting sick of it? Are you tired of going out all the time?
A:  Honestly, no.  I’m having a ton of fun. It’s nice to have some time to myself, but it’s great to know there are actually this many people who want to hang out with me.    

The downside is that I have been eating–and drinking– a lot!   Plus, everyone wants me to pick the destinations and I’ve run out of ideas!  I’ve definitely learned to slow down and pace myself, so it’s a little better.  I’m hoping my 30 days doesn’t turn into Supersize Me.

Q: Are there any things you haven’t  done?  Any places you haven’t been?
A:  A few.  I haven’t been to 7 Saints, The Blind Pig, or Ko-Fusion.**  I’m also dying to try out Jack’s Grill , a new Mediterranean take-out joint that looks really good.   I haven’t been to a single movie and I haven’t seen any live bands, yet, either.   I think I’ll get a chance to see a band on Friday, so that’s cool. 

Q: What are you going to do when it’s all over?
A:  Well, by that time I’ll be 30, so I guess I’ll apply for a membership in AARP,  scope out the senior citizen’s discounts at area restaurants, and check to see if dentures are covered by my dental plan. 

No, seriously… I’ll probably slow down a bit in February, but I already have some fun stuff planned, including the resurrection of Bunco!!

———

* Oh, and the entire ski/snowboarding weekend was awesome and different.  I can’t believe I forgot that.

** And Guidos.  I haven’t been there once, which is odd ‘cuz I used to spend a lot of time in that bar.

30 days of 30: Week 3

I’m almost on the home stretch in my 30 days of 30.  Here’s how week 3 played out:

Monday–   Drinks at Boltini with Scott, Kurt & Charlie.  I was drinking Pear Gimlets, which I fully intent to re-create at home with the Pear vodka I got as a gift.

Scott got me a book of T.S. Eliot poems to help me with my resolution to appreciate poetry.  Kurt photocopied a poem for me later in the week, too.  Books are some of the most thoughtful/personal gifts you can give someone, especially if it’s something you enjoy. I’ve been reading the poems before I go to bed and I’ve certainly gained a better appreciation for the craft.  

Food Note: I highly recommend the goat cheese crostini and the pretzel “fondue.”  Not your average bar food, but oh-s0-good!

Tuesday–  Dinner with Kelli D. at Olive Garden.  Kelli is a childhood friend of mine.  We recently re-connected and through the magic of facebook we stay in pretty close contact. But it was nice to see her in prson for a change and to get an update on her kids, work, etc. It was her first day going back to working nights after being off for a long time, so I’m glad we were able to hang out, even for a little bit.  

Wednesday– Dinner and drinks at Flat Top with Bridget.   She got me the coolest Juno card.  It speaks the line about being cool w/o even trying when you open it.  Awesome!   We then went back to her house for the LOST premiere.  We’re both huge fans and it was nice to watch with someone as crazy, er, dedicated as me!  I also got the opportunity to meet her super-cool boyfriend and their dog Oscar.  Fun night (once we figured out how to open the wine bottle. lol.)

Food note:  We didn’t have dessert at Flat Top, but the guys next to us had some sort of molten chocolate/ice cream concoction.  It looked soooooo good.  I never have room for dessert when I go there, but it might be worth a try.

Thursday–  This was officially Erin’s day since we missed our date earlier this month.  I had lunch with my besties– Steph, Erin, Kim at Houlihan’s.   Including me, this represented half of the email circle, so I guess you could say we had a quarum.   It’s never a dull moment with those girls and I love them dearly.   

Friday– Bobbi and I had planned on going to see The Dark Knight because it was allegedly going to be re-released in the theaters this weekend.I even held off watching it on DVD because I was excited to see it on the big screen.  But apparently it’s not playing here.  So Bobbi, Cory, and I did our usual Friday night happy hour at Bunny’s.  I met their friend Jamie, who was super nice. It was fun and low-key and just what the doctor ordered!

Saturday–  Because of the (relatively) early Friday night, I was uber-productive Saturday during the day.  Then I went to Fat City to celebrate Kristin and Muffy’s birthdays.  It was good to see everyone, but I think I might (gasp!) be getting a little sick of the bar scene.  Shocking, I know!

Sunday–  No one had signed up for today, and I was okay with that.  Cory and I talked about maybe going bowling, but decided to wait for another day when more people could come.  

I stayed in bed reading until noon.  My mom came up to deliver my computer desk (a  Christmas present that was still at her house!), we went to lunch and I’ve been reading, writing, and messing around online ever since.  So, I’m officially marking this day on my 30 days of 30 calendar as Cari day!

PS: 30 days of food

I haven’t really written much about the food I’ve been eating for a number of reasons:

a) this isn’t a food blog
b) I’m not much for taking pix of food (I’ll leave that to Lisa!) and
c) I don’t really think my readers need a meal-by-meal account of what I’ve eaten.

Having said that, though, I have a few recommendations to make:

  • Dessert at Crane Alley– We were all excited about the bread pudding, until they told us they were out.  And then they magically had some left–yay!  It was okay, but the lemon cake was to die for.   A slice of that and a favorite coffee drink were the perfect way to spend a chilly winter night with friends.  I never get dessert unless I’m travelling, so this was a great treat.
  • Radio Maria– I’ve never been disappointed by their food. They were serving brunch that day, but I needed some substance, so I got the Cuban Sandwich, which I’d had before.  But the highlight of the day was the cornbread.  It’s served warm with honey and orange zest and something else I can’t remember. Phenomenal!!
  • Soup’s On! I’m a big fan of the soup-and-salad lunch.  Since it has been so cold lately, I’ve had the opportunity to sample soups at a number of different places.   The chicken and pasta soup at Luna was perfect– way better than anything that comes out of a can.   Similarly, the chicken gumbo at Escobar’s really hit the spot.
    I also had an interesting “stew” at Farren’s on Friday.  It was billed as a pork and root vegetable stew, but the consistency and flavor reminded me of vegetable beef soup.  Of course the “beef” was pork, but it wasn’t as thick as a traditional stew.  Very tasty, just not what I expected.  On the other hand, I had a lentil “soup” at La Gourmandise Bistro that was entirely too thick. I like lentils… and have a great recipe for lentil soup that I love,  but this was not what I expected.  Thank goodness for the dessert at Crane Alley afterwards!

30 days of 30: Week 2

Whew… what a week!   Here’s the rundown:

Monday– Lunch at Luna with co-workers Kurt and Scott

Tuesday– Lunch at Houlihan’s with Tracy, Cynthia, and Julie. I used to play Bunco with these girls and now we keep up via facebook, so it was nice to see them in person after way too long!

WednesdayJanet’s day (see earlier post).

Then I went to the Illini game with Cory, Bobbi, and Lacey.  They were the best seats I’ve ever been in:  12 rows up, right behind the Orange Crush (cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice.)

seats

view from our seats

Thursday–  Book club.  We discussed Freakanomics, which was universally enjoyed.  I’ll consider this day Bonny’s, since she hosted and Scott and Kurt both have their own days.

Friday–   Ron’s day.   The plan?  To go to bars we don’t normally go to.  Ron was going to pick 3 and I was going to pick 3.  Cool.

Then Cory called and wanted to do Happy Hour.  Since Ron had dinner plans, it worked out well.  I met Cory and Co. at Bunny’s for happy hour. (If you click the Bunny’s link, you’ll see a pic of Cory at a parking lot party last summer– he’s as famous for Bunny’s as I am for the Esquire–ahah!). We drank buckets, ate Bosco sticks and played some Euchre.  Ron showed up, hung out for a bit and then it was off to meet Chad for the bar crawl.

First stop:  The Embassy.  There was a band, so we had to pay a $5 cover charge, even though we only stayed for one drink.  Then we went to Crane Alley, The Brass Rail and Bentley’s.  The last two bars are the only ones I hadn’t been to before.  And  I don’t ever need to step foot in the Brass Rail again, but I’ll definitely go back to Bentley’s.

All in all, it was a good night… but Happy Hour + Bar crawl was probably not one of my best ideas.

Saturday– Saturday was like two nights in one.

First I met Andrea and Amanda (from boot camp) at La Gourmandise Bistro for dinner and to listen to a storyteller.  I’d never been to the bistro before and I’d never heard a storyteller, so it was a bunch of firsts for me.  The bistro was cute (although I made a poor soup selection) and the storyteller was entertaining, but nothing to write home about.   We left after the first act and went to Crane Alley for drinks and dessert.   It was great to be able to hang out with those girls.  I miss boot camp!

After that, I met Erin, Jeff, Jaime, Dave, Chachi, Bubba, Nikki and Andrea at Boltini.  They had been out for some family birthdays and were getting ready to leave when I got there.  I had one drink and then we went to Fat City.  If you haven’t been there yet, it’s exactly the same.  Only nicer.  If that makes much sense.   Erin, Jeff, Jaime, and Dave left and the rest of us headed to Tumble Inn.

100_1928

Chachi & I @ Tumble Inn

Erin & Chachi @ Fat City

Erin & Chachi @ Fat City

As usual, TI was a late night Mecca for Unity grads, so there were plenty of people I knew there (some of whom I didn’t actually talk to).  I stayed until close, but this was a much calmer night than  the bar crawl.  It pays to pace oneself.

Sunday–  Since Monday is a holiday, my sister Kelli signed up for Sunday night.   Kelli, her boyfriend Doug, and my brother David picked me up at noon and we went to Radio Maria for lunch.  To my surprise, my mom, Aunt Linda, and Uncle Denny were there as well.  We had a nice lunch and I think I was able to introduce some of them to a new restaurant, so that was kinda cool.

After lunch, we had a drink at the Esquire and then went back to TI to watch some football. (Okay, it was mostly so some of the crowd could smoke, but whatever.)   It was a fun afternoon, but I was super tired from the rest of the weekend.   I came home with full intentions of watching the Steelers game, but fell asleep on the couch.  For 12 hours.   I must’ve been tired.

Definitely a super fun-filled week.  It’s so cool to be able to hang out with so many different people and try new things. After the first week-o-lunches I was starting to think all I was going to do was eat… but now I’m looking forward to some low-key non-drinking events in the days to come!

A few observations at the half-way point:

  • If “professional storyteller” is a real job, then I think I might have a new career path.  If that lady can get up and tell stories–so can I!!
  • I really need to try to take more pictures, but I’m usually just having a good time hanging out with people that I forget I even have my camera.  Maybe next week.
  • Pacing is key.  Even though 8 bars in 3 days sounds like fun… functioning the next day is important!  I really am starting to feel almost 30.

I Love Janet

Okay, so I’m not going to blog about each of my 30 days of 30.  But today was truly special, so it deserves it’s own shout-out.  Today was Janet’s day.  She’s is one of my favorite co-workers.  She doesn’t do anything just halfway so I knew there’d be some fun stuff in store for me.

The Button:  A couple years ago at our Annual Convention, one of the exhibitors was giving away these “I Love Janet” buttons.  Of course we all had to grab some for ourselves and wear them around.  

janet

So, imagine my amusement when I saw this on my desk when I got to work  this morning: (It says: “How could it be?  Cari is nearly 30. We love Cari!”)

button

The Gift:  On the way to lunch, Janet gave me a present wrapped in what else– a brochure that I  produced a couple years ago.  Janet said she doesn’t really like the idea of wrapping paper, and what better packaging than to use my own work?  Genius!

100_1909

100_1912

The gift itself was a copy of a book called Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together.  It’s a book she’s read with some other people and said it reminded her of me because when she thinks of me she thinks of trying to change the world.  That might be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

The food:   We had a wonderful lunch at Escobar’s (Spinach salad with a cup of chicken gumbo– highly recommended) and then went to Cakes on Walnut for a cupcake-to-go (carrot cake, which was consumed before I left work).

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the events of my 30 days thus far and I appreciated Janet’s thoughtfulness and creativity.  Maybe I should turn 30 more often!!

30 days of 30: Week 1

Yes,  Carich’s 30 days of 30 are officially underway… Yay!  

Last week was all about eating (which is awesomeconsidering it’s the first week of the new year when most people are dieting. Lol.)

Monday– Lunch w/Lindsey at Chili’s after a school photo shoot

Tuesday– Dinner w/my mom at The Courier

Wednesday–Lunch with co-workers Sharon and Kara at Milo’s

Thursday– Lunch with Lisa at Jupiter  (the original, of course)

Fri/Sat/Sun– Skiing/Snowboarding weekend in Galena.   I went with a group of people, so I’m not sure who gets credit for each day, but I’m not really a stickler for the rules anyway.

SUPER fun times, but–alas– I don’t have pictures to share.  I didn’t want to be “the dork with the camera” on the slopes, so I have no evidence of my snowboarding adventure.  Other people in the group took some party photos, so hopefully I’ll get some of those and post them later.

This post is turning out lamer than I’d hoped.  Don’t get me wrong– the lunches were good and it’s nice to be able to catch up with people, but writing about my soup/salad combo is probably not blog-worthy.

I have a couple more lunch dates this week and then some other intersesting stuff planned for the long weekend, so hopefully I’ll have more to report on next week.   Stay tuned.

2008: The Year in Review, Part 1

I was without internet for a little over a week, so I’m a bit behind on my blogging.  But I didn’t want 2008 to go un-documented, so here is part 1 of my month-by-month account of my life’s activities.   Luckily, I have this handy little blog to help me remember what I did!!

January started with New Year’s eve in Tuscola.
466
Then it was Cops & Robbers Bunco at Kim’s
522
And a wine tasting at my house:
470
February, of course, is my birthday month, what more do you need??
603
5651
March–  I started blogging, albeit covertly.
We had Bunco at Tonyas:
672I went to Vegas with my family:
100_0754
And Cooper Philip Pollard was born:
100_0838
April– I got a new car, saw a baby left alone in a car seat; and Backyard Tire Fire at Highdive; there was an earthquake and Lost came back on the air after a much-too-long writers strike.

I also went to New Orleans for work (yes, there are better pix of this trip, but I’ll just post this one to spare the, uh, innocent!!)
wpa4eva

May--  We celebrated Lisa’s birthday with a happy hour, I went to  Atlanta for work, and took in a stray dog.
My dog had surgery:
surgery
I saw Chicago in Peoria with Jen:
chi
And went to St. Louis to celebrate Jeff’s 30th birthday:
13
June- Can you believe the only thing on my calendar is that I started boot camp? I’m sure there were other things going on, but I didn’t write it down.
So, there you have it– the first 6 months of 2008 as told through photos and blog posts.  I’m sure there are plenty of things that I’m missing, but those are some of the high points.
Stay tuned for part 2 and a New Year’s Resolution post.  Then, it will be back to your regularly scheduled programming :)

My best of C-U list

Inspired by this post from Whitney Matheson (of PopCandy fame), I was thinking about all the things I’d miss about C-U if I should ever leave this town.    

So here, in no particular order, are my personal picks for the Best of C-U.  For most of these, I’ve linked to the official site. Where none were available I linked to the listing on yelp.  I love yelp, btw. You should check it out.

Best happy hour bar:  Esquire
Peanuts, beer, and homeade pineapple margaritas–what more could you ask for?  (Plus, they put me and my friends on their web site!)

Best last call bar:  Tumble Inn
The only bar on the list I’ve been going to consistently since I was 19.  (Okay, 17–but don’t tell anyone).  It’s a bit of a hole-in-the wall, but it has improved in recent years due to the smoking ban (and the smoking-ban inspired “beer” garden).   Tumble Inn… Stumble Out, always open late. (yet, curiously, they don’t have Red Bull… for that you’ll have to go to The Phoenix, nearby)

Best beer deal:  Bunny’s
You can get a bucket of 5 beers for $10.  Can’t beat it with a stick.  Speaking of sticks, Bunny’s also gets a shut out for their Bosco sticks.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Bosco stick, it’s a breadstick stuffed with cheese and then deep fried.  Horribly unhealthy, but delicious!

Best beer selection:  The Blind Pig
Hands down.  There might be isn’t a larger beer selection anywhere in C-U, and the Pig wins for atmosphere. 

Best nachos:  Guidos
I’m kinda picky about my nachos and Guidos never disappoints.

Best lunch spot:   It’s a toss up between The Courier Cafe and Farrens.

Courier– Skinny dippers, milkshakes and salad bar.  Great atmosphere.  Courier gets the award for Best Breakfast, too.
Farren’s-- Home of Farren’s Fridays, I adore their Kobe Burger, tacos, and daily specials. 

Best pizza: Jupiter’s
Thin, crispy and great sauce, Jupiter’s (downtown) is the best.  Jupiter II creeps me out.  
Honorable mention: Papa Del’s.  Jupiters wins because I prefer thin crust, but if you’re in the mood for a deep dish pizza, the Del is the best.  (Note: this is my Best of  C-U list… if you’re willing to go a few miles South, I highly recommend the original Monical’s in Tolono.)

Best ice cream– Custard Cup
 Duh.  Okay, so it’s custard, but why would you go anywhere else?  Unless, of course, it’s closed.  Then you can go to Cold Stone or whatever.  But only until Custard Cup opens back up.  Seriously. 

Best cockails:  Boltini
I highly recommend the Bellini-tini from Boltini  (say that  ten times fast!)

Best sandwich– Chicken pesto at Crane Alley

Best wine selection: Friar Tuck
I especially like how they list the wine ratings and “best value” wines.  I’ve never been disappointed.

Best wine tastings:  Sun Singer
I enjoy their little cafe and bar area.  You don’t really feel like you’re tasting in a store .

Friendliest wine staff: The Corkscrew
Although I buy most of my wine at Friar Tuck and I go to more tastings at The Sun Singer, I’ve always found the staff at The Corkscrew to be incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.  Plus, I needed to show a little Urbana love. 

Best place to see a show:  The Highdive
I know, I know, the Canopy Club is bigger, but I like the openness and set up of the High Dive better.

Most anticipated bar re-opening:  Fat City 
I spent a great deal of time at this bar in the old days.  I hear they’re re-opening on Friday.  I cannot wait!

Best place to take a date: Radio Maria

I recently had this discussion with a bunch of guy friends.  Although we couldn’t come to a consensus, Radio Maria was mentioned most often.  Other top selections include:  Cafe Luna (now apparently called just ‘Luna’), Milo’s, and Bacaro.  Kamakura is also fun for group dates.

Best chicken strips:  The Boomerang  
Honestly, I haven’t been there in years, but their chicken strips are phenomenal.  Honorable mention:  Rocks

Best sushi:  KoFusion
Is there any other choice?  It’s also fun for a swanky after-work cocktail. Or three.

Best way to spend a Saturday in the Fall:  Tailgating before an Illini football game

And so you don’t think I spend ALL my time eating and drinking:

Best place to buy gifts:  Art Mart
Go there.  There’s lots of cool stuff from stationary to jewelry to lotion to household products.

Best bookstore:  Pages for All Ages
If I’m needed something cheap, I’ll buy from Amazon.  Otherwise, it’s Pages all the way.  Support local bookstores! 

Best way to spend a Saturday morning in the summer:   The Market at the Square
Call me crunchy, but I love strolling through the various vendors, buying locally grown produce and bread.  Its close enough that I can walk… and right by my gym so I can fit in a workout afterwards

So, those are my picks.  Do you agree?  What have I missed?