The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Column | CU’s late-night food faves

Where to go when the clock strikes midnight and you’re dangerously close to turning into a pumpkin.

As a college town with a smorgasbord of nightly parties and bustling watering holes, Champaign-Urbana is a veritable paradise for anyone stricken with acute late-night munchies. 

The widely beloved late-night dives littering Green Street range from national goliaths like Taco Bell and McDonalds to local establishments like Chopstix and Jurassic Grill. In short, whether you crave a humorously large bowl of fried rice or a burger of prehistoric proportions, an option awaits you on campus – even after your bar of choice plays “Closing Time.”

Burrito King

A University cult classic, Burrito King is nestled comfortably between Raising Canes and Jurassic Grill — within a tempting distance of both The Red Lion and Joe’s. 

Burrito King, equipped with bar seating overlooking the hustle and bustle of Green Street, is a casual spot where you’d be lucky to find a seat on a Saturday night at 2 a.m. 

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    The menu here is what one would expect from an establishment called Burrito King — it features generously sized burritos, chips and house salsa, tacos, quesadillas and aguas frescas. 

    The staff at Burrito King is pleasant, helpful and always willing to provide a suggestion. In my experience, this is a good place to throw out a little late-night Spanish to impress your entourage.

    There is a reason this place is hailed as one of the best post-bar strongholds in Champaign — the food is good, relatively inexpensive, quick and satisfying. If the wind carries you here, you’re in for a fun night.

    The burrito vegetariano at Burrito King is sincerely the only thing on my mind after a long night of playing cards and discussing the untold secrets of the universe at Lion with my friends. In fact, it hastily becomes the only reason to stay out when the clock strikes midnight. 

    This burrito has everything that an exhausted vegetarian college student could possibly want in the wee hours of the morning — melty cheese, grilled squash and zucchini, bell peppers, refried beans, rice and sour cream — all wrapped in a flavorful green tortilla. When dipped in the spicy orange salsa that comes in Burrito King’s nondescript, slightly translucent paper bag, this burrito is the stuff of daydreams.

    Sporting a price tag of $13, this meal is not necessarily the cheapest option on campus at night, but it is a memorable one. 

    Paired with fresh tortilla chips fried in-house and some of the most delectable salsa on campus, the veggie burrito will close out any fun night — or sponsor a heroic rally.

    Chopstix

    Most items on the Chopstix menu solidify its position as just-OK Chinese takeout during the day and a Mecca of sustenance at night. With several passable vegetarian options, Chopstix is an equal opportunity oasis — it’s always an option if you yearn for an egg roll or some sesame tofu.

    Chopstix is like the mysterious stranger at the bar who piques your interest at midnight but causes you to lightly cringe on your way to econ class not nine hours later. Good for now, slightly shameful later.

    At Chopstix, most everything tastes good in the middle of the night.

    The General Tso’s tofu, with its chewy exterior and tangy, slightly spicy sauce, is a safe choice at all hours of the evening. The spring rolls, which come with a golden, flaky wrapping and tender vegetables inside, are delightfully crispy and satiate the nebulous craving for something fried. The fried rice — which comes to you in sky-high proportions — is absolutely jaw-dropping, with the fragrance of days-old grease emanating from the container.

    Chopstix is a stronghold for a reason — it gets the job done. With a menu spanning several walls and an accommodating staff, this hole-in-the-wall on Green Street is seen with lines out the door for takeout orders on most Saturday nights.

    There is theoretically a place to sit and eat your meal at Chopstix, but it is far more common to take the food and run as quickly as possible to the evening’s tertiary location. It is difficult to conceive of a reason to sit inside of Chopstix and eat, but someone most certainly has.

    Nothing you get here will taste bad — but don’t blame us for the impending stomach ache.

    Fat Sandwich

    When walking into any restaurant in the center of campus, you never know quite what to expect. Most venues fall very strongly into one of two categories: freshly renovated and very new, or a little more worn down from years of serving college students.

    Fat Sandwich Company, tucked away near the intersection of Fifth and John streets, falls into the second grouping. With torn-up booth seats stacked in a corner of the restaurant and a vague air of being under construction, the venue isn’t exactly uncomfortable, but not the most crowd-welcoming.

    However, for hungry customers in search of a late-night snack, Fat Sandwich Company is positioned at an ideal location to serve the masses. The menu provides a variety of items for any midnight meal needs, with customizable options included.

    Always a safe order, curly fries are a great go-to side at any fast food joint. They pair well with anything, but they’re also a good snack on their own.

    Fat Sandwich’s side of curly fries appear to contradict themselves — while being labeled as a side dish at a fast food restaurant, they cost over six dollars. 

    That being said, they aren’t bad — seasoned with salt and fried to a satisfying texture, there’s nothing at all wrong with them. Fat Sandwich’s curly fries are a safe order, but nothing outstanding.

    The “Hangover Helper” portion of Fat Sandwich’s menu provides a series of breakfast sandwiches — with breakfast wraps on request — designed to satisfy anyone who may be bouncing back from a long night.

    The quality of the “Hangover Helper” sandwiches is absolutely nothing special. A bacon egg and cheese sandwich consists of processed cheese product smushed into a squashed bread roll with several whole eggs and extremely thick cut bacon.

    The hash brown is the only part of the sandwich that brings something special, but would be better left on its own as a side rather than crushed into the mess of mostly bread, cheese and egg.

    This meal is perfect for someone who urgently needs a lot of food in their stomach — maybe someone who can’t find anywhere else to eat. But for a normal meal between classes or a food stop before work, Fat Sandwich Company is not meant for you.

     

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    About the Contributors
    Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
    Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
    Maaike Niekerk, buzz Editor
    My name is Maaike Niekerk, and I am a sophomore majoring in English with minors in music and journalism. I began working with The Daily Illini during the fall semester of my freshman year as a buzz staff writer, and joined the editorial team last summer. I love bringing live event coverage to you from Champaign-Urbana’s vibrant music scene and sharing stories of local artists and musicians. Outside of The Daily Illini, you’ll find me performing at every football game with the Marching Illini or cycling with the 2024 Illini 4000 bike America team.
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