Restaurant Week to feature special deals at local eateries

For college students, spending $9 for chips and a burrito from Chipotle can feel like a splurge, as they pinch pennies to also afford tuition and textbooks. But from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, the Champaign Center Partnership is presenting the 4th Annual Center City Restaurant Week, promoting various meal deals around campus. Through its website, Champaign Center Partnership is publicizing special menus from popular on-campus venues such as Firehaus, Legends Bar & Grill and Q Smoke House. A burger at Legends with a side of fries is only $5.94 during Restaurant Week. And, Q Smoke House is offering their Bourbon Apple Bar for 99 cents. 

The event began in September 2011 with special events such as cook-offs, family movie night and culinary demonstrations through the week. Ever since, the Champaign Center Partnership has successfully brought back the event in the colder months.

Erin Lippitz, executive director of Champaign Center Partnership, told Champaign-based radio station NewsTalk 1400 WDWS that the event is designed for residents who wish to explore the diverse food in the Champaign-Urbana area, even if they’re on a budget.

“The whole point of Restaurant Week is to try restaurants you may never have been in before, because they’re offering a special menu or special pricing on their menu,” she said in the radio interview. 

“We do it kind of, you know, in the middle of winter … People are going a little stir crazy… Been inside. It’s just a really good chance to give you a reason to go out and about and explore Inner City,” she added.

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Lippitz said the Champaign Center Partnership assumed responsibility for the event when it was introduced to the area in 2011, and since then has worked to expand the selection for event participants.

“When the program first began, you had to be a sit-down white table cloth restaurant to participate. But we have a lot of pubs, pizza places and cafes, so our organization opened it up to everyone,” Lippitz said.

In addition, social media users can check their Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines throughout the week for reviews and photos posted by event participants. Both sites will be using the hashtag “#EatCenterCity” to connect those who are using Restaurant Week’s discounted specials. For each user who tweets photos about his or her experiences at one of Champaign Center Partnership’s three Twitter accounts (@DTChampaign, @Campustown and @go_Midtown), the organization will enter the user to win prizes. 

While the event covers some popular venues on campus, The Center City Restaurant Week will also reach beyond campus. There will be special menus available at some of Champaign’s other downtown and midtown eateries, such as Farren’s Pub and Eatery, Big Grove Tavern and Cafe Kopi. Beginning Jan. 26, Cafe Kopi will offer a medium chai latte and a cookie for only $3.50.

Freshman Jesus Villa says he’s interested to check out the event with his friends. 

“It’s a change of pace from dorm food, and it will be a good distraction from the work we’re starting to get in class,” he said. “Plus, we’re all out here trying something new and meeting new people (who are) doing the same thing.”

The Champaign City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, a main promoter of the event, sees the week as an opportunity for both locals and visitors to discover the restaurants in the area that make Champaign unique.

Jayne DeLuce, president and CEO of the bureau (known as Visit Champaign County), said that the local restaurants help to reflect the specific identity of the community.

“We live in such a multi-cultural city, and what’s great about it is that we are able to showcase all of that with our restaurants. It’s a neat way to celebrate that diversity.”

Jessica can be reached at [email protected].

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Champaign Center Partnership will use the hashtag “#EatInnerCity” during Restaurant Week. The article should have stated that it will use the hashtag “#EatCenterCity.” The Daily Illini regrets the error.