Miga celebrates one year of worldly food in Champaign
September 1, 2015
A restaurant with worldwide flavors has resided in downtown Champaign for nearly a year, and its menu is only expanding.
Miga, located at 301 N. Neil St., is celebrating its anniversary on Sept. 5.
The urban-inspired restaurant was brought to Champaign by the same mind behind Sakanaya at 403 E. Green St. and features American food with a twist.
“The food here has a lot of Asian flavors combined with French technique,” said Jennifer Kropfel, Miga’s general manager.
The unique combination of flavors was created by executive chef Jae Jin Lee, who grew up in Boston and previously worked for hotels like the Four Seasons and small family restaurants.
Lee also studied culinary arts in Boston, where he worked with and learned from local French chefs.
“They have a large focus of French food in Boston,” Lee said. “I then went to Korea, where I learned high standard Korean cuisine while working at the W hotel.”
Lee brought this discipline to Miga’s popular steaks, which are cooked with Korean techniques and sauces and cut in an American-French butcher style.
“When I was in Boston, I learned French cuisine. When I was in Korea, I learned Asian cuisine. And when I came to Champaign, I combined the two together,” he explained.
For alumna Madi Odell, the ambiance at Miga provides a setting unlike others in downtown Champaign.
“The atmosphere is hip and it makes you feel like you’re sitting in downtown Chicago,” she said.
During the past six weeks, the typically dinner-only restaurant has introduced a new brunch menu to customers on Sundays.
“The majority of people who eat here come to both eat and drink,” said Jared Decker, head server at Miga. “We typically try to pair things together as well, like a specific wine with a specific steak.”
The restaurant’s bar features an extensive selection of wine, cocktails and beer.
Chris Porter, the head bartender, said that many guests come in the evening simply to enjoy drinks with friends in a unique atmosphere.
The vast menu includes appetizers like traditional and exclusive salads, followed by options like sea scallops, Zen-style ceviche and Miga’s take on French fries, complete with Parmesan cheese and served with sweet and sour ketchup.
Porter said one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the white butter fish, which is a marinated escolar.
“The butter fish is my favorite here,” Porter said. “I love fish and you aren’t going to get a cut like that anywhere else here.”
After spending a year residing in downtown Champaign, Kropfel said the restaurant has seen the University’s diversity reflected in their customer base.
“We get a very diverse crowd here,” Kropfel said. “We get a lot of international students, and even some Champaign locals that just want a nicer atmosphere.”
First-time diner Moira Quealy, junior in LAS, visited Miga on a whim.
“It was kind of a spontaneous decision to go, but it was awesome,” she said. “I got the Bi Bim Bap and it was impressively presented.”
Reservations are necessary for a chance to eat at Miga during a busy weekend.