Best of campus: Editors give top picks around University, community

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The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini 2022-2023 editorial staff poses for a group photo in March.

Best community hangout

The idea of “community” remains a prominent staple of the college experience. In fact, I would say that having a community truly enriches the college experience. With community comes people who will be by your side through boba runs, late-night conversations and difficult days.

With a campus so large, it can be easy to lose yourself in the number of hangout spots for the University community, so what is the best one?

Nestled among the Illini Union, Foellinger Auditorium and numerous other academic buildings lies the Main Quad. Extending 940 feet, the triangular grass patches serve as optimal locations for picnics, sports, study sessions and more. When it snows during winter, you might even see a few snowball fights or snow sculptures. The Main Quad truly is a catch-all for various activities and groups seeking a break from classes and other commitments.

JP Legarte, Investigative News and Longform Editor

Best place to take a walk

Coming to campus can be frightening and even intimidating for some, but taking walks is a great way to keep the body and the mind busy while you adjust to the changes that come with moving into college. If you’re coming from a place with a lot of nature, Champaign-Urbana might be a culture shock. Although there are few places to walk and feel one with nature on campus, the Illini Grove is an incredible place to start.

Located by LAR/Allen Hall, the Grove attracts students from all over campus. Featuring two well-lit paths, Illini Grove takes you on a short journey through a wooded area that is unlike anything else on campus.

Entering the path from the side of LAR/Allen Hall, students walk over a short bridge and are immediately met by a pond that is frequented by packs of cute, but fierce, geese. The Grove begins, and path walkers pass many picnic benches to sit and enjoy Urbana’s breeze. After this, a public half-court basketball court and sand volleyball pit attract students for games within the shade of the trees. If you’re interested in playing tennis, CRCE’s outdoor tennis courts are right next to the Grove.

Illini Grove is a special place for students to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Main Quad while remaining within walking distance of many dining and residence halls. If you frequently go on walks, try out Illini Grove. You won’t be disappointed.

Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Best dessert spot

Located at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Nevada Street, Caffe Paradiso is a quaint coffee shop with a bustling atmosphere. With vibrant, expressive art gracing the walls, wonderfully mismatched furniture and a diverse line-up of music playing loudly in the background, Paradiso exudes a mixed ambiance that puts customers at ease.

In addition to being arguably the best coffee shop on campus, Paradiso boasts a wide selection of well-known desserts and baked goods that make for the perfect post-exam or midday treat. For new customers, the cafe’s tiramisu is a best seller and a great starting point. Looking for something unique? Matcha lovers will love the matchamisu, a fun twist on its already stellar tiramisu. Gluten-free? Try the gluten-free cupcakes that come from a local Urbana bakery. If dairy is not your thing, Paradiso has a wide variety of vegan cookies that will hit the spot.

The next time you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth on campus, head to Caffe Paradiso — you won’t regret it.

Aparna Lakkaraju, Opinions Editor

Best dining hall

I heard many horror stories about dining hall food when I was an incoming freshman, and along with pillows and sheets, I packed several recipes for meals I could make with my mini-fridge and microwave. However, I’m happy to report I didn’t use any of them. I lived in the Illinois Street Residence Hall, or ISR, for two years and rarely missed the comforts of a home-cooked meal.

You can ask any student that’s eaten at ISR since it was renovated and they’ll tell you it is by far the best dining hall. There are so many options, from blueberry tofu — which I can’t say I recommend — to Mediterranean bowls. You can plan ahead with the Illinois App which has an updated menu for all the dining halls.

My meals at ISR were an educational experience I didn’t think I’d get at the University. I tried every cuisine I could possibly imagine. I learned more about my peers from different cultures because of ISR’s special celebrations of holidays like Diwali and Lunar New Year. It also has inclusive meals for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.

The social scene in the ISR dining hall is also nurturing. Whether you’re looking for a seat for one or 10, you’ll surely find a place to sit and eat. Its spaciousness also offers quiet spaces for studying, FaceTime calls and areas to mingle.

Whether you were lucky and scored a dorm in ISR this year or not, the bus ride is worth it. Have a slice of cheesecake for me!

Gwyn Skiles, Managing Editor for Reporting

Best off-campus spot

With the numerous places to eat, explore and nap across campus, it’s easy to overlook off-campus spots in favor of staying near campus and Campustown.

But for those interested in live music, trivia nights and a bar featuring numerous non-alcoholic drinks, the Rose Bowl Tavern may be the perfect off-campus hangout for you.

Located in downtown Urbana, the Rose Bowl hosts both community musicians and regionally touring artists like Olivia Klugman and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. It also collaborates with the University’s jazz program and organizes events to spotlight student musicians.

The tavern features multiple shows a week, and no matter the day of the week, there’s always something to do or see at the venue. To view the Rose Bowl’s calendar of events, visit: www.rosebowltavern.com.

Sydney Wood, Buzz Editor

Best mode of transportation

There’s a reason for the numerous bike racks around campus — bikes are the best way for students to get around campus. Owning a bike means turning a 20-minute walk into a five-minute ride, which is great for shortening commute time.

The University campus is bike friendly and well-connected via many paths. On the southwest side of campus is the Campus Bike Center, a garage dedicated to teaching students how to repair their own bikes. The center requires a membership which is free with eight hours of volunteering. It also sells refurbished bikes.

Bikes make students’ world a bit bigger. Meadowbrook Park and the Kickapoo Rail Trail are a quick ride away from campus and a great way to spend an afternoon.

C-U is one of the most accessible places in Central Illinois. Knowing how to independently and safely travel the area is important, making bikes a great mode of choice for new students.

Matt Novelli, Managing Editor for Online

Best place to nap

As you begin college, you’ll soon learn that managing classes, RSOs, part-time jobs, internships and more means that sometimes, things like rest and sleep will slip from your memory. When you don’t spend enough time sleeping, it becomes a lot harder to stay awake and continue doing everything college demands from you.

Whether it’s after an eight-hour study session, coming back from a long day of lectures or even between your morning and evening classes, sometimes a nap is all we need, and the South Lounge in the Illini Union is the perfect place for that.

In the lounge, some students quietly crouch over papers while others play the piano in the corner of the room. With windows looking out across the Main Quad, the South Lounge’s calm atmosphere is reminiscent of a more vintage time at the University. It is the perfect place for a nap.

Kylie Corral, Assistant Buzz Editor

Best Green Street eatery

Located near the corner of Green and Wright, it’s easy to pass by Shawarma Joint; its door narrow and signage unassuming. However, its food is anything but. Levantine food served up customer’s choice — like an eastern-Mediterranean version of chipotle — never fails to delight. Halal certified and with plenty of vegetarian options, Shawarma Joint’s customizable dishes have options for anyone.

I’ve been going to Shawarma Joint for over a year now, and I have not once had a bad experience. Friendly and quick service only adds to the quality food you’ll receive. Don’t let a long line deter you, the small interior makes it look longer than it is, and its staff means business. You’ll have your food before you know it. Perhaps what I like most about Shawarma Joint is the portion sizing — an order can easily last two meals, sometimes even three.

Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor