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?