So we never made it to St. Louis. Grand plans don’t mix well with long work weeks. We swapped our hot air balloon (and long drive) plans for our favorites haunts, and some new ones, in Champaign-Urbana.
First stop, as is our tradition: Courier Cafe. This delightful piece of history is a perfect brunch location for our frequent forays into CU. Re-opened in 1980 as the current cafe, the land dates back to 1837, and the building itself holds several delightful antiques. We agonize over the menu every time, but never leave disappointed with their hearty breakfasts. Another positive point for the Courier is that we are never ousted from our booth, no matter how long we linger. Our coffee and water is topped off, and no one gives us the evil eye. Thank you!
Next stop, UIUC campus .. what I anticipated to be a daring event during a home football game turned out to be quite simple. The campus is quite spacious, so our destination – the Spurlock Museum – was undisturbed by Illini fans. Currently hosting an exhibition called “A World of Shoes,” this was a no-brainer for my fashion maven friend and I. Free admission and generous Saturday hours made this the perfect early afternoon stop. The exhibit is open through early February.
By this time, hungry again, we headed out to Curtis Orchard for promise of apple cider donuts and the first day of pumpkin-picking season. Donuts for $1, a band playing in the corner and a very full parking lot made this a festive stop. The country store is gigantic, and shares it’s space with the Flying Monkey Cafe (a nod to Oz, as you arrive there via the yellow brick road). I splurged for an apple cider slushie (worth it) and we wandered around out in the fields looking at gourds and pumpkins. The weather was PERFECT for this outing. When I’m ready to test out some apple recipes, I’ll return for a bag of some of their apples .. for now, I could not consume even half a peck in a decent amount of time.
Another repetitive stop for us is the World Harvest food store, home to a truly vast array of everything from local products to goodies from the far reaches of the earth. Mohammad and his family run a beautiful, clean, affordable shop and I could easily go broke there. Aside from dry goods (pasta, rice, tea, cookies, crackers) they have a whole host of cheeses, olives, and ethnic delights. This is where I get my Thai ingredients, new teas, and chocolates… although I learned my lesson last time after taking advantage of a chocolate sale that chocolate and your car’s interior cannot be friends in the midwestern summer heat.
After a birthday chocolate from Mohammad, and a smile from his gorgeous son, we set off to a local dive for Mediterranean food. Despite the positive reviews on Yelp, and the “eh” review from a previous-owner, we could have done without the questionable dinner. It didn’t break the bank but it didn’t win any rave reviews, either. Next time we’ll try Courier’s cousin: Silvercreek.
Courier Cafe: 111 North Race Street, Urbana, IL
Spurlock Museum: 600 South Gregory, Urbana, IL
Curtis Orchard: 3902 South Duncan Road, Champaign, IL
World Harvest Foods: 519 East University Avenue, Champaign, IL
Jerusalem Restaurant: 601 South Wright Street, Champaign, IL