While you wait for Ohio State, chow down at these C-U eateries

Editor’s note: Each week during football season, our staff will come up with a list of must-see attractions in the host city. For away games, this will serve as an all-purpose visitor’s guide. For home games, it will help you learn more about the Champaign-Urbana area. This week, we have reviews of some of the football staff’s favorite local restaurants.

h2. Black Dog Smoke & Ale House

*201 N. Broadway Ave., Urbana*

Walk into Black Dog on any day, at any time, and there will be a wait. This is one Urbana eatery to let your stomach growl for. Upon entering the tavern, your senses are taken over by the strong smell of barbeque and the inviting local environment. Whether chicken, ribs, pork or fish, Black Dog masters the art of smoking and even provides each customer with choices for their favorite barbeque sauce accompaniment.

*What would I recommend? *The Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of baked beans and a smoked sweet potato is my “go-to” order. On Fridays, the Cat Fish Taco Special is exceptionally appetizing. Aside from the consistent high-quality food, Black Dog has a wide selection of beer. Don’t be overwhelmed — each and every staff member has the knowledge to help guide you toward selecting the perfect beer. To top it all off, the prices are extremely reasonable.

h2. Jarling’s Custard Cup

*309 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign*

Being an individual who is obsessed with ice cream and custard, I have had the pleasure of sampling most locations throughout the C-U area that offer cold treats. My No. 1 pick is Custard Cup. The smooth, creamy custard is simple, yet it has the ability to excite your taste buds, leaving you to wonder where that last spoonful went. They have an extensive menu that offers a variety of flavors and toppings creating an optimal choice for each customer. Custard Cup is best known for its signature Cold Fudge. Why don’t you see typical Hot Fudge at Custard Cup? Well, the Cold Fudge recipe was created to solve the problem of hot fudge melting the custard too quickly.

*What would I recommend?* In terms of keeping it simple, I immediately pick the Cold Fudge Sundae. It is not only one of my personal favorites, but it is a very popular choice among the local citizens and college students. When I’m feeling in the mood to be more adventurous I order a snowstorm (which is the equivalent of a DQ Blizzard … but better), with vanilla custard, chocolate chips and fresh banana.

h2. Li’l Porgy’s Bar-B-Q

*1917 W. Springfield Ave.*

If you are craving simple-yet-delicious barbeque, Li’l Porgy’s is the place to be. Li’l Porgy’s is a small eatery that brings in large crowds with the scent of its food lining the surrounding streets. It has some of the best daily specials in town. Most specials are $5 or less. Sundays are popular for their half chicken, priced at $4.80. Who wouldn’t be down for BBQ with those prices? They have the build of a great restaurant: old-fashioned barbeque, reasonable prices, fast service and delicious, homely food.

*What would I recommend?* I enjoy the ribs! They are cooked to perfection. The meat is tender and juicy and about to fall of the bone while smothered with their special barbeque sauce — you’ll love it if you enjoy a spicy kick. If you are planning a tailgate, Li’l Porgy’s does an outstanding job providing delicious food for your hungry Illini fans.

h2. Escobar’s

*6 E. Columbia Ave.*

If you are in Champaign and are looking to try something new and different, Escobar’s is the place. Its atmosphere is both welcoming and cozy. The staff is nothing but friendly and attentive. Their menu offers a variety of options leaving customers able to find all types of delicious food that hits the spot. In addition to their appetizing food, they have a wonderful selection of beverages. Sunday brunch is the perfect way to top your football weekend before leaving town.

*What would I recommend?* As an appetizer, the Calamari Frito with herb aioli has exploding flavor. My salad choice would definitely have to be the asparagus, avocados, tomatoes, spring greens, topped with a crispy poached egg and cilantro vinaigrette. And as my main dish, I would recommend the Hanger steak asada with fajita vegetables, pepian sauce, pico de gallo, guacamole, tortillas, and black beans and rice. It is a big portion so if you have a small appetite, definitely think about sharing. Last but not least, they have a great wine list and amazing margaritas.

h2. Papa Del’s Pizza

*206 E. Green St.*

Hands down the best pizza in Champaign-Urbana. The No. 1 Pizza status is culmination of a buttery doughy crust, perfectly spiced tomato sauce and thick mozzarella cheese. ADVICE: Pre-order your pizza! It can take a long time to cook, (especially if you want stuffed pizza). The service can be slow at times, but the quality of the food makes it well worth it.

*What would I recommend?* My ULTIMATE order at Papa Del’s is to start off with a simple Italian salad. This holds me over as I wait for my deep-dish spinach pizza. If you’re in a large group, I recommend the loaf of cheesy garlic bread. To make the meal even better than it already is, add a few pitchers of beer. Salad, pizza, garlic bread, beer… just thinking about it is making me hungry. Papa Del’s is not cheap, but worth every penny. For those of you who are visiting for the weekend and wish you could bring Papa Del’s home, you can. Papa Del’s is known for selling their frozen pizzas. They have even shipped pizza’s to San Francisco for the Illinois Alumni Association chapter out west. There’s no reason to grow out of old, great habits. Bottom line, if you’re craving pizza, head to Papa Del’s.