Tag Archives: Champaign-Urbana

Foto Friday: A running tour of my ‘hood

Inspired by this post and armed with my iPhone, I went for a run* and tried to document the sights of my “usual” route.   It’s a 3 mile loop from my house and only contains 4 turns, but there are plenty of sights** to see:

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don't quite have the hang of taking pictures while running yet

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I live near campus, so I run by a couple fraternity/sorority houses

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and the old Presidents house or something (seriously, i run by this 3x a week and I'm not sure what it is....)

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Lots of UI pride... even now!

This one makes it look like I'm moving FAST.... or the cars are!

This one makes it look like I'm moving FAST... or the cars are!

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obligatory U of I marker!

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Gorgeous fall colors

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There are 2 schools on my route. This is one of them.

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picture perfect

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on the home stretch!

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Urbana has a reputation for being "crunchy." This canoe for sale embodies that mentality. Love it!

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I'm obsessed with these red bushes!

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home sweet home

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but I usually try to round the corner and finish at the back door (this street is also a bit more colorful)

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* full disclosure:   I didn’t actually plan to take pictures that day.  I planned on a 3 mi run, but I noticed how pretty the scenery was and thought about the blog post I’d read.   Stopping to take photos didn’t help my run any so I changed my 3 mi into 2 mi and didn’t worry about time.  It was quite enjoyable.***

** I also run by Robert Ebert’s childhood home *every* time I run–there’s a plaque and everything.  But, of course, I didn’t think about taking the photos until after I passed his house.

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*** full disclosure, part 2: If I had realized that it would be my last run for two weeks,  I might have pushed a little harder!

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?

San Antonio Stories, Part 1: Strangers on a Plane

I’ve been back from San Antonio for almost 2 weeks and I still haven’t blogged about it.  I had planned on doing a single post-San Antone wrap-up, but it’s just not happening.    Therefore, I’ll try to post the highlights separately. 

First up: the plane ride there!

Believe it or not, I actually DON’T like to talk to people on planes (surprising, I know!).  So, when I saw that I was sitting next to this frat-boy type (track pants, Texas A&M pullover), I promptly turned on my iPod and opened a book.

Turns out, this guy *is* a talker and I ended up having a great conversation with him.  He owns a software company based in Argentina and was doing some work in Danville.  He had spent quite a bit of time in San Antonio and gave me some restaurant tips (which I was unable to use) and I gave him the name of my very fave place in New Orleans.  

We talked for the duration of the 3 hour flight about everything—travelling, family, music, college football.   He told me all about Argentina and said he writes a blog about his experiences while traveling.  In perfect “missed opportunity” fashion, I never asked for the blog address.  Or his last name.   (Chill your jets, kids, he’s married—this isn’t a love connection).

At one point in the conversation, he asked me what year I graduated from college.  He said he graduated in the same year.  Here is this guy who owns his own software company, has travelled the world and frequently gets booked as a speaker at conventions and he’s the EXACT SAME AGE as I am. 

Eek. Nothing like meeting a stranger on a plane to make you feel like a big ole loser!