Champaign-Urbana has it all: a rich history, academic institutions, and great food and drinks. Restaurants dot the landscape, participating in the culture of the surrounding area. Local restaurants have great success here. Some owners are from here, some moved for school and decided to stay, while others left after school and came back because they love the community so much. Everyone has a story to tell.
Buildings hold many stories passed down from generations of workers, inhabitants, and townspeople. The building’s original purpose often does not translate to the current usage of the space. We form attachments to certain spaces, and buildings are part of our living history.
There are unique aspects to every city. For example, the streets of Champaign lay on a grid, except for those of downtown Champaign. These streets run parallel to the train tracks because downtown Champaign began as a railway stopover. Urbana, too, has its quirks; Urbana municipal code requires alleys to be paved and to function as one-way streets, so every alleyway in Urbana is named.
Each business has its own unique community ties and cultural significance in the Champaign-Urbana area. There is a deep history surrounding restaurants in Champaign-Urbana both in the physical space as well as from the owners’ experiences. Not all of these restaurateurs set out to own their own businesses, but all have found belonging in the community and in restaurant ownership. They all have one thing in common: they love Champaign-Urbana, and they love serving this community. What follows are personal stories from these local restaurant owners.