La Bamba Mexican Restaurant

La Bamba
1905 Glenn Park Drive, Champaign
217-355-6600
http://labambaburritos.com/

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la_bambaAhh, La Bamba. Hands down my favorite burritos anywhere in the world. Well, I haven’t been to too many places in “the world,” but this place is still my favorite.

La Bamba was opened in Campustown, in the main level of Skylight apartments on 5th and Green Street in the late 1980s. The space was small, and was mostly carry-out, and after a few years they expanded their space and added a bunch more seating. They were a staple of light-night “after the bars close” food, and for good reason; there’s not much better than a great big burrito to fill your stomach after a night of drinking.

During this time they expanded to other college campuses in the Midwest, including Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, and a few other state schools in Illinois. Later they moved their campus location to a building on Sixth Street a block north of Green, and also opened a new location off Mattis Avenue in west Champaign.

They closed their location on campus several years back, and now their only location in town is the place on Glenn Park Drive.

So the food… They are mostly known for their “burritos as big as your head,” which come in mini, regular, and super sizes. In addition to burritos they have loaded nachos, tortas, and soft tacos. In addition to steak and chicken, they also offer chorizo, barbecued pork, and ground beef as options.

la_bamba_super_burrito

My favorite is a super burrito with steak and chorizo, without beans. They have several flavors of salsa, and I like to mix the “regular” salsa (their most popular by far) with the much spicier chipotle-style salsa. Betsy loves their Mexican rice, which can be ordered as a side item, or added to a burrito.

They are open for lunch and still stay open until “after the bars close.” If you’re a fan of good burritos, and haven’t tried La Bamba, you’re missing out. Tell Antonio I said hello.

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

Fiesta Cafe

Fiesta Cafe
216 S. First Street, Champaign
217-352-5902
fiestacafe.com

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fiesta_cafe_signFiesta Café is a delightful Mexican restaurant located on First Street a couple of blocks south of University Avenue in Champaign. It’s been a fixture since the late 1980s and we absolutely love the food, drinks, and atmosphere of the place.

They start you off with a basket of fresh chips and two kinds of salsa. They serve both alcoholic drinks and fountain soft drinks as well as many other options in the large cooler inside the front door.

My favorite dish to get at Fiesta is called “El Popo Lunch.” El Popo refers to Popocatépetl, an active volcano in Mexico. Ever seen the painting with the half-naked Aztec looking dude carrying the passed out scantily clad woman? There are many variants of that image and it depicts the legend of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Here’s a Wikipedia page on the subject.

Anyway, El Popo lunch involves a combination of a taco or tamale paired with a burrito or chimichanga.  I usually go for a burrito and a soft flour taco. They will make your taco either the traditional way with cilantro and onions, or the American way with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. I’ve tried both chorizo and shredded chicken in my taco and enjoy both very much. For my burrito, I go with one of their original creations Alex pork, which is grilled ground pork with a delicious mix of spices. They wrap it all up in a flour tortilla and smother it with melted cheese.

fiesta_cafe_el_popo

One of their other specialties is Alex tacos, which are two corn tortillas with aforementioned Alex pork, grilled onions, cilantro, cebollitas (which are basically small grilled whole onions), and their spicy green sauce, which is absolutely delicious.

Speaking of the spicy green sauce, the wonderful staff brings three kinds of homemade salsas to your table in plastic squeeze bottles. In addition to the spicy green sauce, they have what to me is a pretty standard taco sauce, as well as a very hot and spicy brown salsa that I pretty smother everything with.

Fiesta was recently remodeled and they did a fantastic job. The ambiance is colorful and clean, and the décor is pretty cool too. The service staff are very attentive, the food comes out quickly and is always very hot, and all of the above makes this one of our favorite places to eat in Champaign-Urbana, and a pretty appropriate place to write about for our first post.

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