CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — This year has seen a lot of surprises in the Champaign-Urbana restaurant scene. While some restaurants in the area closed their doors, many new ones opened in 2022.

Urbana’s new additions

Homegrown – A Farm to Table Restaurant in Urbana

Homegrown Restaurant in Urbana opened in February, located in the former home of Attie’s at Atkins Golf Club. The menu features many favorites like steak, grilled cheese, burgers, and signature cheesecake.

I Heart Mac and Cheese in Urbana

A new restaurant called “I Heart Mac & Cheese” opened in Urbana in June. For the owners, it has been a long time coming. Co-owner Tyler Rohrer said the restaurant should’ve opened years ago, but due to COVID-19 and shipping delays, they had to push back their starting date.

Shawarma Joint in Urbana

Shawarma Joint in Urbana opened its second area location in August. The other location is located in Campustown on Greet St. Both restaurants feature a wide variety of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Best of Africa’s Food Store in Urbana

Husband and wife Memoire Budimbu and Lisette Mbaki are not new to the small business world, but they are now the proud owners of a new restaurant, Best of Africa’s Food Store which opened in downtown Urbana in December.

New arrivals in Champaign

Ladro Enoteca

Located in downtown Champaign near the upcoming restaurant The Space, this new wine shop and bar opened in April. Ladro Enoteca features Chef Thad’s selections from natural & small family wineries, cured meats, smoked fish and more.

The Black Bull Restaurant

The Black Bull Restaurant in Champaign opened in April at the Crossing, featuring Mexican and American food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

83 Vietnamese Cuisine

83 Vietnamese Cuisine in Champaign opened in July at The Crossing. They call themselves “C-U’s first all-traditional Vietnamese menu.”

Hickory River Smokehouse

Hickory River Smokehouse opened a new Champaign location in August next to Rugged Outdoors. It features the same menu and atmosphere as the other Hickory River locations scattered throughout Central Illinois.

Sweet Basil Café

Sweet Basil Café in Champaign opened its doors in August near the Marketplace Mall at the former location of TGI Friday’s. They have five other locations in Peoria, Springfield, and the Chicagoland area.

Stango Cuisine

Stango Cuisine in Champaign opened in August in the same space as Wood N’ Hog Barbecue. The restaurant was previously located at the Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana and calls itself “the first and only Zambian restaurant in North America.”

The Heavy Spoon

The Heavy Spoon, the first of its kind in Champaign, opened its doors on Nov. 19. The TikTok-inspired restaurant features a cereal bar that customers can mix with their favorite ice cream flavors.

Martinelli’s Market Bakery & Deli

Martinelli’s Market Bakery & Deli opened on Nov. 29 in downtown Champaign. The new restaurant offers hundreds of retail products, including those from Central Illinois Bakehouse baked goods and small pantry staples. Additionally, there is an Italian-inspired deli counter with meats and cheeses sold by the pound.

Restaurant change-ups

Courier Café in Urbana

Courier Café, a popular Urbana restaurant, has been under new ownership since November. Owners Kim and Bill Colbrook said they’re ready to keep the cafe’s cozy atmosphere alive. “We want to possibly serve breakfast all day, I think that’s important, I love an omelet for an evening meal, I’m a big breakfast fan,” said Kim. “When people come here, it feels like home, and we want to maintain that.”

CMT Ventures restaurants in downtown Champaign and The Crossing

Carlos Nieto’s CMT Ventures signed a contract in November to sell 15 of their restaurants located throughout downtown Champaign and the Village at the Crossing to CRS Hospitality. Businesses included in the sale are Jupiter’s Downtown, Cowboy Monkey, Guido’s Bar & Grill, Billy Barooz, Seven Saints, Jupiter’s at the Crossing, and Barrelhouse 34.

Restaurant closures

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana has been closed since March 2020. Owner Mike Cochran said at the time they do plan to reopen the restaurant. We reached out to an employee who said they are currently understaffed which is preventing them from reopening the Urbana restaurant right now, however, she said they are still planning to reopen in the future.

El Patio Mexican Restaurant in Champaign

El Patio Mexican Restaurant in Champaign closed in January. They shared on Facebook that struggles during the pandemic led to the closure. They said: “This isn’t the end of us for sure so keep your eyes open you might see us again somewhere.”

Applebee’s on Prospect Ave. in Champaign

Applebee’s on Prospect Ave. in Champaign closed in June because the lease for the building expired. Savoy Applebee’s manager Wesley Ramsey said owners “did not want to renew the new lease” as that location was doing successful business, and continues to do so today.

Crane Alley in Urbana

Crane Alley in Urbana closed its doors in June. They shared the closure on Facebook. They said: “It has been an honor to have owned Crane Alley for 19 years and to have been able to be a part of the community in such a unique way.”

The Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery in Urbana

The Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery in Urbana closed in July. They shared on Facebook that it was the “right decision for us at this time.” They also added: “Keep lookin’ at our website in the future for Dancing Dog information. You never know what we’ll be up to.”

Blaze Pizza in Urbana

Blaze Pizza in Urbana closed its doors in August. The Blaze Pizza located in the basement of the Illini Union remains on the U of I campus.

Everyday Kitchen in Champaign

Customers arrived at Everyday Kitchen in Champaign on Dec. 7 to discover that it had abruptly closed its doors permanently, including the Miracle Bar experience. The restaurant shared an announcement on Facebook, however when reaching out to Everyday Kitchen, they had no comment on the cause of the closure.

NOLA’s Rock Bar in Urbana

NOLA’s Rock Bar in Urbana said goodbye in December. A statement from management said: “We want to thank each and every one of you who has supported us during our time in beautiful downtown Urbana. To all of you who have come to enjoy a drink, who have come out for live music or any of our events, and our employees who have worked with us through everything, thank you.

Coming in 2023

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in Champaign

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is planning to open two locations in Champaign soon, one in Campustown on 5th and Green St. and the other on Prospect Ave. at the same location as the former Applebee’s. They are now hiring for the Campustown location, but there are no updates on the other location at this time.

The Space by Weird Meat Boyz

Weird Meat Boyz, owned by Doug Hodge and Ian Nutting, is opening The Space in the former Merry Ann’s at 1 East Main Street. The restaurant includes a bar and restaurant where food will be cooked from scratch, a hot sauce and condiment tasting area, and a live music area featuring local and touring punk and metal bands. The menu will also feature wine pairings by their new business neighbor Chef Thad of Ladro Enoteca.