One of the greatest things about returning home is being able to visit all the restaurants you loved, but don't have around your new area. It's been six years, but I still long for several places in the Champaign-area, many of which are fortunately still around. But just as some places go, there are new places to try as well. Here's a rundown of the food I ate while in Illinois.
First up, I ate a few things that I had not had before. My parents are big fans of a Mexican restaurant called La Fiesta. Here I ordered the chimichangas. Very good and reminded me that I still have not found a truly excellent Mexican place in Tallahassee.
Next, my parents are friends with a party planner in the area who specializes in fancy cupcakes. We were able to obtain some S'Mores Cupcakes from Pirate & Princesses. Very good, and as you can see, I'm not the only one to think that.
Also, I got to try Panchero's, another Mexican place while we were there. This is reminiscent of a Q'doba or Moe's, but better. The tortillas are great and don't get stuck in my teeth like they do at Q'doba. The only good thing about Q'doba is that it sort of looks like a Klingon word.
That covers the places I had not tried. Now a rundown on the places I had visited before but had to have again while we were home.
We met up with my old friend Dawn and her husband at Curtis Orchard. They have a huge apple orchard and sell many apple-themed items including apple slushies and apple donuts. Dawn treated our kids to some slushies and we also picked up some donuts for breakfast. Dawn's husband was wearing his Bert shirt and I wore my "I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you" shirt.
We also swung by Hickory River Smokehouse where I got the beef brisket sandwich. Although Tallahassee's Piggy's BBQ is close, I have not ever had better beef brisket than what they serve at Hickory River.
We also had to stop at Culver's which serves a wide variety of food items including burgers, fries, and frozen custard. There is not a better fast food burger than what is served at Culver's. There is not one of these in Tallahassee and that's probably a good thing as I would eat here all the time. I got the burger basket and a caramel cashew sundae.
We also couldn't be that close to Chicago and not get some pizza. The best option in Champaign is probably Papa Del's. My wife loves it and I certainly will put some away.
Since moving away from Illinois six years ago, I have not had the chance to really enjoy the company of fellow nerds like I did with Jeeg and PLee. No slight to those other nerds I have hung out with since moving here intended. We started this blog as a way to keep up with one another and have discussions and even invite others to the table to chime in. But that doesn't replace the real thing. Before this trip back, it had been a year and a half since I had seen PLee and three and half years since I had seen Jeeg. It had been more than three and half years since we had all been together. We were able to reunite during my time there. Jeeg and I met up for a viewing of Captain America (more on that in the future) and then all three of us gathered at Niro's Gyros.
I had a gyro, fries, and two Chicago-style hot dogs. Jeeg had the double gyro meal, and PLee had the chicken pita.
We followed up our trip to Niro's with a visit to Jarling's Custard Cup. Jarling's was, and for some still is, the frozen dessert place of choice in Champaign. I enjoy it mightily, but when Culver's came along and was less expensive, I stopped frequenting Jarling's. Since our return trips had mostly been around Christmas time when they are closed, we had not been there in over six years. It was good and tasted just like I remembered. Their cold fudge is absolutely amazing.
It was good seeing you Nerds again and I'm glad we've got something in the hopper to extend this blog out and keep in touch even more.