The MHM Blog

7 Amazing UIUC Local Businesses to Support in 2021

Posted February 5, 2021
UIUC Local Businesses

With the closure of many businesses in 2020 due to covid-19, shopping local is at the top of everyone’s minds, including college students. Keeping their favorite spots open so they can continue to enjoy being away at school is as important as their grades. Especially when it comes to the best local restaurants, bars, and shopping spots. UIUC is surrounded on and off-campus by spots that are steeped with the college’s rich history.

As a school that is heavily known for its top tier students, one thing we know for certain is not only are these students smart, but they like to have fun as well. Here’s a dynamic list of all the best spots on and off campus around UIUC.

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 customers’ 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. They boast that they are “ more than our name and the products we sell. We are family and 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.”

Watson’s Shack and Rail

Located in the heart of downtown Champaign, Watson’s is a favorite by 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!”

Of course with covid precautions, the bar part is closed, but the restaurant remains open and is ready for take-out orders and delivery.


Voted Best Seafood and Sushi 2020 News Gazette People’s Choice, Ko Fusion is a go-to for Champaign residents. “Our menu features both signature sushi and a unique blend of Contemporary American and Asian cuisine. Enjoy our menu from the convenience of your own home. Natural meats, wild-caught seafood, local produce. These are  just some of the touches that set Kofusion apart.”

They are currently taking reservations for limited outdoor dining in personal heated pods. Not only are they known for their sushi, but make sure to check out their bento boxes and ramen as well, perfect to warm you up on a cold winter night.

Visit online:

Fira Boutique

Another on-campus store that tops the favorites list for women attending UIUC is Fira Boutique. According to their 25k Facebook likes, 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.

Visit online:

Big Grove Tavern

Another great spot located in downtown champaign is Big Grove Tavern. Currently open for pickup and limited outdoor and indoor dining, they are a classic bar and tavern with a modern twist. Their customers say they have awesome food, but they also have something many other taverns don’t- a beverage team! According to their website, “The beverage team at Big Grove wants to take the intriguing, odd, fun, and eccentric and make it accessible to everyone. This is a driving focus with a large craft cocktail selection, wine by the glass and bottle program, and regional craft beers.” Stop by for a cocktail, and they guarantee you’ll want to stay for a while.

Visit online:

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.”

Visit online:

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 to 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 with posts of all of their new stock and deals.

Visit online:



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