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Power Rankings: Bygone Champaign-Urbana Establishments

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The unrelenting march of progress has claimed some memorable businesses over the years.

Photo by: David Kunzman

Champaign-Urbana has seen a flurry of development over the course of the past decade or so. Many current students or recent graduates don’t need to be told this, as they’ve lived with the constant construction, destruction, and evolution of the built environment during their time in CU.

But as new buildings, street layouts, and amenities appear, they often either directly or indirectly displace the relics of the previous era. Let’s take some time to remember some of these casualties of CU’s rapid growth...

8. IHOP

I know many people who deeply lamented the demolition of the IHOP that once stood on Green Street between Fourth and Third, but I was never a fan. I think I ate there twice in my four years living in Champaign. There were other nearby breakfast establishments in the early 2010s, and all were at least a few steps above this one.

Mapio.net

7. The Beefstand

I really didn’t hear much about this place outside of my immediate social circles. I thought it was a decent Chicago-style restaurant, and the only one in Campustown at the time. My best memory of this place was the cheese fries, which were smothered with nacho cheese then had a bunch of shredded “real” cheese on top. It was the best kind of disgusting.

6. One World Pizza

Though almost universally reviled during its existence, it’s tough to argue with $5 pizza after a late evening at the bars. And I took advantage of it and its immediate successor more times than I care to admit. I vaguely recall this pizza having the consistency of plywood the morning after one of those late nights.

5. Old White Horse Inn

I’m not talking about the short-lived iteration on John Street, but the REAL White Horse at Second and Green — the one that looked like it was going to fall apart at any moment. One of my friends was on the rugby team in 2010, and some of the best memories I had of my freshman year were the pre-/post-match nights there.

4. Sitara

Quick detour to downtown Urbana for a moment, I still feel empty without the best Indian food in CU. Sitara fell victim to a kitchen fire late last year, and has had a fat NOT APPROVED FOR OCCUPANCY sticker on the window ever since. Don’t even try to tell me that Bombay comes close...

3. Illini Inn/Second Story Pizza

I had my first meal as a student in Champaign at Second Story on the day I moved in. As a kid from suburban Gurnee, seeing a pizzeria in the attic of an old bar blew my mind. I rarely went to Illini Inn during undergrad, but I joined the mug club in the closing weeks of my senior year.

Apparently Illini Inn may be resurrected soon, but it doesn’t look like the new version will have quite the character of the old.

Photo by: Ryan Fang

2. Geovanti’s/Papa D’s/The Underground

Geo’s made what are still by far the best chicken strips I’ve ever had. They had the perfect ratio of flaky, crunchy breading and piping hot juicy chicken. You couldn’t go wrong with the ranch or the BBQ dipping sauce either. I was told they had gyros and pizza too, but the chicken strips were so good I never branched out.

1. Antonio’s Pizza

I’ve been around CU long enough to see the first demise of Antonio’s back in 2011. After a few years they eventually reopened, only to abruptly close again early last year. The BBQ bacon chicken ranch pizza was absolutely to die for, but the mac-n-cheese pizza was right up there with it. The employees were hilarious, along with many of the customers too, and the 90s hip hop playlists they almost always played gave it a unique and unforgettable environment. The pizza at Manolo’s near Krannert is just about as good, but they can never match the ambiance of Antonio’s in its prime.

Honorable mentions: Mashawi Grill, Campus Liquor, the old Gameday Spirit (which ESPN would have you believe is still there), and Flat Top