The MHM Blog

The Best of the best UIUC – Food and Shopping

Posted March 24, 2023
People at restaurant

Whether you’re new to UIUC or a seasoned vet, there are so many places off campus that can quickly become favorite spots for students and residents. There’s always a new restaurant to try and a new business to support. Check out our list of the best spots to check out to make sure you hit up the best, hottest, and most popular places around. 


Watson’s Shack and Rail 

Located in the heart of downtown Champaign, Watson’s is a favorite among residents and students alike. They specialize in chicken of all kinds, from fried and rotisserie to chicken and waffles and other favorite dishes. Not only are they famous for their chicken, but the students also love them because they turn into a “full-service bar & venue every Friday & Saturday night – offering live performances by local musicians, DJs, and artists in addition to Champaign’s best late-night food!” Check out their menu and story here

Maize Mexican Grill

As a completely made-from-scratch restaurant, Maize Mexican Grill is open and ready for the public. They have two locations around champaign as well as a seasonal food truck. Who doesn’t love a food truck?! Now back open for indoor dining, they are in the Top 10% of restaurants in Champaign and are definitely a restaurant worth checking out. According to one of their rave reviews, “There’s no contest—Maize serves, hands down, the best Mexican food in town. It’s fresh, flavorful, and perfectly simple.” Check out their menu and location here.

Seven Saints 

A pub-type restaurant but with an American twist, Seven Saints is an excellent bar and grill type place specializing in its sliders and classic apps. If you’re feeling pretzels and cheese, cheese curds, and anything fried, you will find yourself right at home among the seven saints menu. Perfect for ordering for a big group of friends to all split, they have something for everyone on this menu. They have an incredible patio for you to enjoy, with plenty of room for bigger parties and space to have a few drinks. If you’ve never been to Seven Saints, ask some upper-level students about it, and everyone will tell you the same thing: it’s the best restaurant around. Visit their menu here.

Pizzeria Antica

Like most college kids, sometimes all you want to eat when going out is a good slice of pizza. Well, Pizzeria Antica offers that and more. Known for their great slice, they can be a perfect date night location with tons of other Italian menu items. And they cook their pizzas in a stone pizza oven for that crispy crust effect. 

Their website talks about why they are the best at what they do: “We start with the world’s best pizza flour, […] We add only the freshest, non-processed ingredients found locally or imported […] including San Marzano tomatoes grown on the foothills of Mt. Vesuvius. The cheeses we use are Bufala from Campania and Fior di Latte from Grände Cheese in Wisconsin, and our Parmesan is Reggiano. Our artisan meats are the best available in the U.S. We Cook the pizza in the world’s finest wood-fired, hand-built Stefano-Ferrara ovens imported from Naples. Combine our pizza with Italian wines, beer, Antipasti, salads, gelato, and espresso, and you have a complete Neapolitan experience.” 

Shopping and Small Businesses

Fira Boutique

A store that tops the favorites list for women attending UIUC is Fira Boutique. According to their 25k Facebook likes and their website, they are well-loved by the community. They want to  “create a community of confident, fashion-forward women by merging the worlds of old school customer service with today’s shopping experience. Everything at Fira is handpicked with our customers in mind. We buy our on-trend but classic pieces in limited quantities, so your style is always uniquely you.” Make sure to stop by and pick up a cute sweater for your online classes this semester.  

Apricot Lane

Another fabulous clothing boutique,  this locally owned spot, is an affordable and hot spot for women’s clothing and deals. They have new stuff coming in weekly that is posted and advertised on their awesome and dynamic Instagram page. Constantly running deals, they make their clothes accessible to everyone on and off campus. If you want to look at their recent pieces, check out their Facebook page or website with posts of all of their new stock and deals. 

Champaign Outdoors 

A third-generation family-owned store, Champaign Outdoors, formerly known as Champaign Surplus Thrift, is a hot stop at U of I. According to their website, “a “Ma-and-Pa” kind of place, with one location, great merchandise, and an informed, helpful staff. We listen to our customer’s plans and needs and enjoy selling them the gear they want”. 

They sell unique hiking gear and tons of products and clothing that can help you on your next hike or even just through the cold Illinois winter. Their website boasts that they are “ more than our name and the products we sell. We are a family and a community. Champaign Outdoors is three generations, with a shared vision of treating our customers as our friends – offering quality merchandise, unequaled personal service, and the highest level of expertise.”

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