Openings, closings of restaurants in Champaign-Urbana

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the dining scene in Champaign-Urbana would be an understatement. Remarkably, some restaurants have managed to thrive and a few new ones have opened. Unfortunately many more have been lost. So let’s take another look at what’s been going on with CU Restaurants recently, with a look to the future. (As always, our look is primarily focused on the CU community off campus, with a few exceptions.)

Local closures:

Who: Alexander’s Steakhouse
When: October, although it planned to reopen at some point until it announced earlier this month that it would be closed permanently.
What happened: A shortage of workers created by a new employment landscape created difficulties.
Who will miss him: Alexander’s was a longtime favorite in the community; his fans have already let it be known how much they will miss him.
All hope for the future: Alexander’s locations in Springfield, Normal and Peoria remain open.

Who: El Patio Mexican Restaurant
When: January
What happened: The property posted on social media that the struggles during COVID were the tipping point. A sign on the restaurant’s door recently thanked customers for a six-year run and urged them to look forward to the “next adventure”.
Who will miss him: Mexican food lovers. Luckily for CU, we have no shortage of solid Mexican restaurants.
All hope for the future: See below, re: Black Bull.

Who: Rumberger Wings
When: 2021
What happened: According to various media outlets, the health department has repeatedly cited violations in forcing a – at least temporary – closure. This closure has apparently become permanent as the restaurant has not reopened at its location at The Crossing in Champaign.
Who will miss him: Rumberger’s has fans because it has locations in other places like Peoria.
All hope for the future: None to our knowledge.

Local openings:

Who: Black Bull Mexican Restaurant
When: “Coming soon,” according to a sign on the door.
Or: 2506 Village Green Place, Champagne. This is the space previously occupied by El Patio (see above).
The description: No public information is available on the menu. We guess, given the name, that it will offer Mexican food.
Why we’re thrilled: We’re big fans of The Crossing, which has had more than its fair share of restaurants coming and going. It would be great for people who live near a restaurant to have a successful run there.

Who: Home restaurant
When: February
Or: 2600 S. Stone Creek Blvd., Urbana. This is the space most recently occupied by Attie’s, which closed when Stone Creek Golf Club closed. (Stone Creek is now Atkins Golf Club and is operated by the University of Illinois.)
The description: Participating in the farm-to-table concept, Homegrown offers an interesting menu with dishes like Spicy Cheese Rigatoni, Chicken Stroganoff and Blackened Shrimp Fettuccine.
Why we’re thrilled: We visited recently and had a good stay. Chances are you’ll find something appetizing on the menu. We saw a few kids in the restaurant, although it might work better for a relaxing evening with parents, like Big Grove Tavern.

Who: The Bahia Grill
When: December
Or: 132 W. Church St., Champagne. This is the space formerly occupied by Sushi Kame.
The description: Mexican favorites with an emphasis on seafood (Nayarit style). It has a large menu, not uncommon for Mexican restaurants, but this one presents it with its own style.
Why we’re thrilled: Downtown has been hit hard by COVID, so it’s nice to see an addition rather than a subtraction. Downtown — which features Maize, Cowboy Monkey (now serving Southwestern and Mexican cuisine), and a food truck or two — could use another addition to the Mexican food scene.

Who: Literary
When: October
Or: 122, rue N. Neil, Champagne
The description: You may know The Literary as a place for books, but like many establishments, it serves multiple purposes. Happy reading with tasty stuff from the same people who brought you Hopscotch. Food is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as wine, cocktails, and single malts. Consult the menu here.
Why we’re thrilled: “The Lit” has a great vibe. Relaxed, pleasant, easy. You’ll want to spend hours here; read, eat, drink, socialize.

Who: Weird Meat Boyz
When: February
Or: 340 N. Neil St., #101, Champagne. It’s inside Collective Pour.
The description: So here’s the deal. If you go to the Collective Pour website, he will tell you that his kitchen is closed. However, Weird Meat Boyz produces food there on a limited basis. Weird Meat Boyz started out making an acclaimed hot sauce and expanded into food, starting with burgers, hot dogs, and a few other items.
Why we’re thrilled: Collective Pour is a popular place to drink, and who doesn’t like having some good ‘food to drink’ to go with it? We’ve heard some good things, which is intriguing, and any kind of hot sauce is appealing to many of us.

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