Monday, May 7, 2007

Post About Buildings And Food

Johnny tagged me with the restaurant meme. Because I rambled so much, I'm going to tell you right now that I tagged Flan, Becks, Vikki, and two players to be named later. If you play along, be sure to let Nicole know so she can keep track of her insidious viral meme.

The rules:

1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you're in.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
(Cheaters! Nobody since LB way up in the third spot bothered to link to their post. Let's get this back on track.)
Deadspot (Urbana, Illinois, USA)

2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they've been tagged.

I was just talking with my daughter about our favorite restaurant the other day. We love Siam Terrace, but we really miss the place that was there before Siam Terrace moved in. I want Sandwich Boy and Siam Terrace. When Johnny tagged me, I thought about that conversation and considered indulging my penchant for jackassery and putting together a list of my 5 favorite restaurants that no longer exist. Just for you guys, I'll reign it in and make that a post for another day.

Now, without further delay, the restaurants:

Siam Terrace
This is probably my favorite restaurant in Urbana. I love curry, but everything I've tried has been great. The Nuau Namtok is what I usually get if I'm not doing curry, but the Pad Prig Khing is also great. I like the way they always smile and go "Oh!" when they ask "How spicy?" and I answer "Number 4". They always sound surprised and happy. On the menu, the description of level 4 spicy is "You have become a Thai."

I usually get a Singha with my curry. I'd like to try the Phuket, but I'd rather have a Singha and avoid the awkward moment where I try to figure out how it's actually pronounced and the waitress tries not to laugh at me. Quick aside: If I were in charge of their marketing campaign, their slogan would be "Sometimes you just have to say Phuket." This is just one of the many reasons I am not in charge of their marketing campaign.

If you manage to make it through appetizers and a meal with room for dessert, they make their own ice cream in small batches, and you should not die without trying it. You never know exactly what flavor they'll have until you get there, but the Mango and Coconut are great.

You can't see it in the pictures on their site, but the building has amazingly high ceilings, and the dining area has pressed tin ceilings, because that's what they did back when it was built. There's also a neon sign way up on the side of the building outside advertising the Knights of Pythias, who meet upstairs. I haven't seen any knights, Pythian or otherwise, but the sign says they exist and I choose to believe.

Crane Alley
Don't bother following the link if you actually want information about Crane Alley. They used to have a site with information about beer and food and wine and things that people might be interested in. I only linked to it because what they have up now is so astonishingly lame.

This is a restaurant/bar. They have great food; a beer list that rivals their wine list (both are extensive); a long line of taps with good imports and domestic microbrews; pool tables that haven't been wrecked by stupid frat boys; and when the weather is nice, you can eat at the tables outside in the actual Crane Alley. Downtown Urbana has these groovy old ironwork arches over the entrances to their alleys with the names in gilt lettering, and the alleys have mostly been cleaned up and turned into cool outdoor eateries and stuff. Champaign marks the entrance to their alleys with pools of vomit and rats the size of chihuahuas, and the alleys have mostly been converted into open air urinals.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Crane Alley... Their chef is great and they take their beer as seriously as their wine, which I love. (I say chef instead of cook because he's actually a chef. As restaurant/bars go, the food is really quite impressive.) They sometimes have beer-tasting nights where the chef works with the staff of one of the microbreweries they carry, creates a menu, and pairs a beer with each course. I haven't been to one yet, but they sound really cool. I was disappointed when I found that I'd missed the Three Floyds Night.

One caveat: the intelligence of the staff varies greatly. Once, when Johnny came to visit, we walked downtown to visit Record Swap... (again, don't bother with the link, but it's a great shop. The owner is totally cool, his daughter is a sweetheart, and his neighbors are dicks. (They're lawyers. They're assholes. Go figure.) If you're in town, stop in and drop a few bucks there, 'kay?) ...and we stopped in at Crane Alley to sit outside and have a beer. They had Bell's Oberon on tap. The waitress brought them with an orange slice tucked onto the rim of each glass because, as she said, that's really the best way to serve it. And you know what? She was right. They really do know their beers, after all. When we went back that night for some serious drinking, the waitress from the afternoon had gone home. Johnny confidently ordered a "Bell's Oberon with an orange slice". The bartender brought him a glass of beer and an orange soda. She thought he wanted a "Bell's Oberon with an Orange Slice".

It's in a cool old building in downtown Urbana that used to house a Mongolian barbecue place. It probably had other stuff there before that, because it's an old building and I doubt they had Mongolian barbecue places in Urbana in the 19th century. I could be wrong.

When they first announced plans to turn this into a bar, they said they were going to install a crane system that ran on tracks in the ceiling to deliver drinks from the bar to your table. I suspect that they may have been bullshitting the reporter, because I can't imagine that would actually work in any kind of an affordable, reliable way. It sounds a lot like an automated drink-spilling machine to me.

Courier Cafe
Yadda yadda yadda... great breakfasts, something something something... good burgers, blather blather blather... amazing milkshakes. You can take it as a given that the food is great or it wouldn't be on my top 5 list, so I'm going to talk about buildings again...

The Courier Cafe is the Courier Cafe because it is in the old Courier building. The liberal nemesis of the News Kazoo used to be published out of this building before it folded in 1979. (Ha! An unintentional pun. Newspaper... folded... it was so easy it wrote itself.) Like most of the buildings in downtown Urbana, it's a cool old brick building made back when people built buildings and expected them to still be around in a hundred years. They've decorated the Courier with antiques, but not country-kitchen, arts-and-craps-fair antiques. The cool kind: salvaged stained glass windows, the only existing copy of an architectural concept plan for the 1896 Columbian Exposition, a funky ceiling fan that's a big tin aeroplane, Pullman lamps in the booths, a carnival steam shovel you can play for gum balls while you wait to pay your check at the ornate 1914 brass cash register, and an assortment of old clocks.

Did I mention that their milkshakes are amazing? I understand that they bring all the boys to the yard. I like the Tropical. Your mileage may vary.

Restaurant Miko
This is a little upscale, but now that Seoul Carryout is gone, it's one of the few places in town I can go to satisfy my Bul Go Kee and Gob-Dol jones (joneses, jonesii?). It's kind of the polar opposite of Seoul Carryout, much more "date restaurant" and much less "filthy hole in the wall". I really miss Seoul Carryout.

If you trust sushi this far from the ocean, they have decent sushi here. Mmmm... Maguro Nigiri. I loves me some raw fish and rice. However, my family gets squeamish about the whole "eating raw fish" thing, so I don't indulge too often when I'm with them.

Cafe Paradiso
They have free Wi-Fi, but no web site. Crazy.

It's everything a coffee shop should be. Work by local artists lining the walls? Check. Requisite mix of coeds, hipsters, and townies? Check. Good coffee? Check, Intelligentsia: direct trade and reasonably locally ground. It's not as close as Columbia Street, but Chicago is pretty close.

Other things I like about it? The baristas almost always comp me an extra shot when I order my large cap, extra shot. They are inevitably playing something that I've never heard before, but kind of dig. They have their own debit card, and they give you a drink every time you add $20 to it. I carry three cards in my wallet. I carry one credit card that gives money back to a local school, one ATM card that I never use because I can't ever remember my pin number, and my Cafe Paradiso debit card. I can practically go through life with no cash except for tip money, which is convenient, because I do practically go through life with no cash except for tip money.

Things I don't like so much? There is never enough parking out front, they only have about 5 parking spaces and if I get the end spot, some clown always parks me in 'cause they're "only going to be a minute". If Scruffy Barista Girl serves me one more underfilled cappuccino, I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my generous tipping policy. Still, I'd rather walk there than drive unless I'm on my way to work, and who decided what jobs were tipworthy anyway? SBG, beware!

I should probably mention the food right? They have great food. They have really good sandwiches and they have soups and pasta salads, but usually later in the day than I'm there. They get all their pastries and bread from a local artisan bakery and they make their own flavored cream cheese every morning. If they have it, you have to try the hot pepper cream cheese. It's amazing, chock full of tiny bits of, I think, three different peppers. Their veggie cream cheese is a work of art. Red and yellow bell pepper, purple bermuda onion, tiny green broccoli florets... it's as beautiful as it is tasty. The last time I ordered it, I found myself wishing for a digital camera so I could share a picture with you. It looks that good. It tastes even better.

Who hasn't been tagged yet? I think this hit all of the bloggers I read at about the same time, so I'd better act fast.

Flannery, where should I eat in Ohio? The only place I can think of that I really like is the Winking Lizard in Cleveland, but I'm sure there are other places that people eat, right?

Becks? Indulge me? I know you hate to be tagged, but I am going to be in New York soon. I may even have an expense account... Feed me!

I bet Vikki knows a place or two out on the west coast with good food... Share?

There must be two other people that read my blog and haven't been tagged yet... although it seems a bit unlikely. Nominate yourselves, bitte.

Phew. This was one long ass post. Is anybody still reading this? Check... check... microphone check... Is this thing on?


Johnny Yen said...

Ha! I was just telling someone about the orange slice/Orange Slice incident.

Didn't we go to the Courier on one of our visits? I enjoyed your wife's "Ugliest Thing for a Dollar" contest for the boys in the Dollar Store while we waited for a table.

deadspot said...

Hah! I forgot about that. That was the OHOP. It's actually called the Original Pancake House, but OHOP is funnier. Barely.

I almost put the OHOP on my list. Their omelets are fluffy, huge, and delicious; their skillet breakfast potatoes are great; and it goes without saying that they have good pancakes and Belgian waffles. The only problem is that it is a complete pain in the ass to get in and eat. Everybody and their dog tries to wedge themselves into the place on the weekends and it's almost not worth the wait... unless you decide to get in a round of "Ugliest Thing for a Dollar".

I think we have taken you to the Courier though. It's downtown, right across the street from the Country and Western bar.

Johnny Yen said...

Yes, you have. And I remember that we waited to get a table at the OHOP, and got lost in the shuffle-- we'd ordered breakfast, and they switched over to lunch without doing our order (they did it eventually). The food was good.

When I was desperately broke and living in Champaign the summer of 1982, I remember going to some bar in Champaign for the fish and chips-- I could eat all I want, for buying a 75 cent beer. I think that was the only actual meal I had that week.

deadspot said...

I think I know the place you're talking about... It was the place that made me add the comment about Champaign's jumbo-sized rats. Justin and I met one while cutting through the alley behind it to get to the comic shop down the street.

They had really great, really huge, fish sammiches every Friday. I was just thinking about that place for the top 5 vanished eateries post and wondering if it would make the cut. It was still around when I moved here, but not too long after that, it got torn down and turned into a lame-ass sports bar themed chain place.

Of course, I'm totally drawing a blank on the name now.

Nicole Tan said...

Yup Yup still reading your delicious sounding places to go!! I do think cafe paradiso sounds like a nice place to chill...(anywhere with wifi is always good!) :)

thanks for doing the tag and dropping me a message..hope you had fun!!! if you know of anyone else doing the meme feel free to message me again!!

vel said...

Wow... very detailed review of each. You make me hungry!

Oh yeah... you can really eat spicy huh. Yeah. I love thai food too. But then I still have no idea what Nuau Namtok and Pad Prig Khing is. Probably tried it but never know. Hehe... I do more of the pick and point thing :) But Singha was like great (although I seldom drink beer) :)

Courier Cafe looks like a nice place to visit to get those nostalgic feel eh? I foresee me taking lots of pics when I do visit this place :D

Really thanks for your long great list :) Woo la la... Hehe... btw, no worries, you can check out my list or nicole's list for direct links to the food post.

Thanks for sharing.

BeckEye said...

Hmm, how will this work? I've been tagged by two different people with the same meme on the same day.

The problem with there being so many places in NYC is that I don't go out to eat that often because you could spend an hour just trying to decide on a place. By then I just get annoyed and order pizza or make a sandwich. But I've been to some good places. I will play along soon. After AI results though!

deadspot said...

Nicole and vel, thanks for getting this meme going and maintaining it. I think everybody has great stories about food, and this is a great way to share them... and share them and share them and share them.

The Nuau Namtok is thin slices of spicy beef (well, mine is spicy) on a salad of lettuce, cilantro and red onion with a tangy lime dressing. It's especially good on a summer day.

Pad Prig Khing is tender-crisp green beans and shredded kaffir lime leaves with a spicy sauce. You can get it with your choice of tofu or meat.

They're both good, but my favorite dish there is the panang curry.

Wow. This is spreading fast, isn't it, Becks? I tried to only tag people that hadn't been tagged and we still got you twice. You could mention us both, or you could just mention me, 'cause I'm your favorite. =D I've got at least a couple of weeks before I go to New York, and I probably won't have a chance to actually look around until I return in October. I think I can wait until after the Idol results.

Natalie said...

I haven't had Bells with an orange slice but I alway get one with my Blue Moon.

Flannery Alden said...

Oh, deadspot, this meme exhausts me. Rules, rules, rules.

If you want to know where to eat in Ohio, just let me know when you're coming and I'll take you out.

deadspot said...

It's a plan, Flan.