Joe’s Brewery

Joe’s Brewery
706 S. Fifth, Champaign

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joes_signWait. Joe’s serves food? They have great burgers that are half price on Tuesdays? Well I’ll be damned. See you at lunch! (Get it?)

Without revealing just how old I am, I’ve been to Joe’s exactly once. Many moons ago, they had open mic comedy night. A few friends and I went to see a guy we worked with and he bombed horribly. I was scarred enough by that hugely awkward, uncomfortable situation that I stayed away.

But hey! Half price burgers, right?

Our son and his girlfriend were with us today, so we sat at a four-top to the right side of the bar/entrance, rather than sitting in the solarium thing with long tables. (I think I even said, “Let’s go sit in the cave!”). It contributed to the dive bar experience, which was cool. What wasn’t cool was the sticky menus. Seriously. I get that it’s a campus bar, but when you have a one-page front and back menu, WIPE THEM OFF. Ask Firehaus if you have questions.

We all ordered burgers, with mozz sticks as an appetizer. The sticks were brought promptly and were fine, but the sauce tasted like the stuff you get with TGI Friday’s frozen ones in the grocery aisle. But OK, not that big of a deal.

Three of the four burgers came shortly after. We don’t stand on ceremony, particularly with burgers at a bar, so everyone started to eat, assuming mine would come soon. It didn’t…for a while…to the point that Mike got up and asked a random food runner/manager/bouncer what happened to the 4th burger. He said he’d “find it” (where could it have gone?) and it was brought shortly after by a dude who half-assed apologized as he dropped it on the table. Um, OK. Thanks?

El Presidente Burger

I ordered the California. Had the burger lived up to the hype, I would have forgiven whatever happened. But it wasn’t good. Granted, it was cold, but I’ve had better burgers at chains (Meatheads, anyone?) and other places on campus (Firehaus! Take a lesson, kids.). I’d like to think that it was an off day, since students are gone, and maybe they’re readjusting things. But if their big draw is Tuesday lunch, they’re doing it poorly.

No need to ever try that again.

Food: 2stars
Atmosphere: 4stars
Service: 1stars

Murphy’s Pub

Murphy’s Pub
604 E. Green Street, Champaign

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murphys_pub_outsideMurphy’s Pub has been on the campus of the University of Illinois since 1969. They’re well known for their Murphy’s burgers and delicious French fries. They also have soups and salads and several other sandwich offerings.

When I was a student at the University of Illinois back in the late 1980s, Murphy’s was about a quarter the size that it is today. The grill/kitchen was right inside the front door, and the bar itself was further back. Back then the police and cities were much less stringent about 19- and 20-year olds drinking, and Murphy’s was the only (right?) “upper classman” bar because they only allowed kids 21 and over to enter in the evenings. (Probably Willy’s, or Illini Inn, was that way as well, but that’s not really a “campus bar…”).

Back in the day, Murphy’s was well known for their burgers and fries, including their “mega” burgers which they have on special several days a week, including the bacon “mega” on Wednesday and the mushroom “mega” on Saturday. Their full menu can be found on

I think my wife has only been to Murphy’s once or twice over the years, and with the students gone for Spring break, we decided it might be a great time to visit them.  I, of course, ordered the bacon “mega” cheeseburger with fries, and the redhead ordered a blackened tuna salad with a bowl of corned beef chowder.


I have to admit, we were both a bit disappointed. Betsy said the chowder was “interesting” but wasn’t a fan of the salad, which she said was basically bagged salad mix with on over-cooked piece of tuna and a vinaigrette dressing that she said tasted too sweet. As far as my burger, it definitely wasn’t the experience from back in the day. The burger patty seemed more like it had been frozen instead of freshly made and my bun seemed stale. The fries were fantastic, of course,

Service was relatively quick, and the environment is great—it’s definitely a college bar, but it’s clean and easy to get into and around.

Food: 3stars
Atmosphere: 5stars
Service: 5stars