This building has changed over the years. As a bar or restaurant it started as The Blind Pig about 25 years ago. A small little quirky club. The owner went on to open a very cool brew pub in town and sold this place. After a couple of different things, The Cowboy Monkey moved in. It is so cool and much larger now ( heck I remember when this space was the kitchen for a big Chinese restaurant). Inside it is both early 20th century retro and hip modern at the same time. Outside is even cooler. A large beer garden type area that is open with people walking back and forth to other bars surrounding it and often live music in the streets. Downtown Champaign has a very cool and lively atmosphere and yet not rowdy.
The menu is hip as well. Its jazzed up tex/mex with a touch of baja and carribean. Served in an always visually appealing way and it is delicious! The whole place just gives you a relaxed vibe but also a visual experence that always kind of refreshes me. A great beer list. A fantastic cocktail list with lots of new hip twists on classics. For this meal i went with the great Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. A good crisp beer with the hoppiness i like but not taking away from the food. My wife had a pomegranite margarita. Gorgeous looking and she said it was great.
Im going to mostly let pictures do the talking here, especially abut how gorgeous the food is. First the food. I had the capistrano tacos. Three corn tortillas with spicy chicken,cheddar cheese with salsa and guacamole. It also comes with a dish of pickled red cabbage. Just finishes it perfectly. Truly a great dish. Sandy had the baja steak tacos. All the same except with great steak and chihuahua cheese, roastec red pepper/cilantro. Also fantastic. Check out the pictures and we will talk after the jump.
I travel all over and eat all over. Im blessed to do so but this place in my backyard is way up on the list. Cool, fun and delicious. Come check it out.
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The awesome Cowboy Monkey
The coolest western lifestyle store out there
First, this place isn’t what you would expect. Then again it also is exactly what you would expect. Huh? Remember you’re reading a blog from a guy who used to get hit in the head for a job! In all seriousness that’s true though. Courier is both diner and upscale experience at the same time. Hip and in a historic building but has died chicken and a salad bar like my farm town roots. How does that work. First we will talk about the area and building .
In 1837 a man named William Tompkin purchased the land where it is. Im told that it is likely a relative even though there is no s on the end. Lots of spellings and my family came off the oklahoma native territories ( called reservations elsewhere) to Illinois in the late 1930’s so who knows. My dadand siblings didnt have birth certificates!! ( Common in native families at the time). The lad was sold to the well known farming/banking Busey family. Eventually it became the Courier newspaper building in the early 20th century. It closed in 1979, and yes i well remember that happening. In comes Alan Strong!
When i was a kid there was a cool deli on the UIUC campus called Bubbie & Zadies. I was a small town kid dreaming of travel and loved going there. It floodec to the point of no repair once and a few years later he opened the Courier Cafe.
Downtown Urbana where it is located is an eclectic place. Decades before farm to table was chic, urbana was that place. It annoys me and I love it at the same time lol. I mean Urbana,the Courier is always cool.
From breakfast, to burgers and sandwiches. From fried chicken to unusual mixes and steaks. The place is part of a bygone era where you could have a broad menu but it was all REAL FOOD! I travel all over for fights and pr work and it is a rare institution.
On this trip I had the Hammerhead with fries. Excellent roast beef and swiss soaked in red wine Au Jus served on a Bubby Bun. A couple of Domain Du Page beers from Two Brothers Brewing and it doesn’t get much better. My wife Sandy had the fried chicken with baked potato ( always mashed but the waitress said no longer available??!!) And the awesome salad bar. Survey says?? Awesome all the way around!!! Check out the pics( why you reall read this blog!) and we will talk after the jump.
Whether you live here or you want to take a destination restaurant road trio, Courier Cafe fits the bill. It is historic, architectually profound and foodie paradise at the same time. Check it out. Heck, call me and we will go with you.
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Todays links ( be here for a very affordable rate!!!!!)
The title doesn’t cover it! Tractors. Implements of all kinds. Music. Demonstrations. It’s huge! Amazing food everywhere in the middle of nowhere. It is one of the coolest things you can see. Farming drives much of America and the world. A fact that I’m proud of as a kid who grew up tossing hay bales and walking beans. I live in the heart of it. I may have been all over to fight, teach and travel but I’ve always called this home.
The show is run by and held on the grounds of the I&I tractor club in Penfield IL. Penfield is tiny, the grounds are huge. The old school is now a museum for the club and the grounds make a state fair location blush. Besides people bring stuff the club itself has amazing equipment it has restored. This includes a Hart Part steam tractor that they place on loan to The Smithsonian most of the year. Yep, that big of a deal. Full disclosure, we have been involved in this for for about 13 years. My dad and son decided to start restoring small hobby farm tractors and got involved. This got me involved lol. Even though my son his own home, there is still a project here in my shop!!! ( a Roof 60 if you’re interested in that type of thing).
We love going. It’s not a far trip for us but it’s an annual family adventure. Food and farms! Geographically the area might ring a bell. It’s about 7 or 8 miles from Gifford IL which became famous on CNN a few years back. Devastating tornado, which sadly is a bit normal where we live.
I’m going to let pictures ( a bunch of them) do the talking for a bit. Talk after the jump.
As many pictures as i posted it doesnt even cover a quarter of it. Bbq, fried things and true americana. There really isnt anything like it to show you what rural ag life means. Parades, music and real farmers who know how to work on their own equipment.
This is in the heart of Illinois. If you take my advice and make this an adventure next July there are things close by. Two hours from chicago and indianapolis both. Besides that it is 35 minutes from Champaign/ Urbana ( uiuc campus) so plenty of places to stay! Give it some thought. If you have questions on the pictures, comment here and ill answer as best i can. Follow @combatsportlife on twitter and email email@example.com for ad/ sponsor info.
Check out the clubs website
Well, over the 23 years since I moved to this little town this location has had a ton of restaurants in it. Mostly family style diners. The first one I loved. Great salad bar and a cool view out over the highway in its back room. The ones after it were terrible until Los moved there. Now it’s a regular stop for my wife And I. It’s a quick little vacation for the evening. Kitschy cheese master decor with classic Mexican dishes. Its just a cool break and doesn’t feel like the zillion Mex places in the area.
I’ll make this part quick and easy to let the pictures do the talking. That always seems to be better, probably a statement about my writing!!! I love their salsa. We both do. We slow down on Friday night getting there. Grab a beer for me and a margarita for her. Relax and go over the menu while enjoying chips and salsa! I most often get the chicken flautas and she gets the burrito deluxe or some version of that. Both awesome. This time we both got combination dinners. We each had some mix of burrito and enchilada with rice and beans. Very good. Classically done. Tons of food!!! That said, I prefer the chicken. The ground beef is a tad salty for me. She said it was perfect so it’s obviously a personal taste thing. In any case it was all over good! Take a look at a the pics including some menu snaps and we will talk after the jump.
If you’re in this central Illinois area, then check this place out. Right off I-74 so if you’re traveling across Illinois/Indiana/Iowa it’s perfect. Take short little vacation here. It’s fun and delicious.
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A Road Trip To The Chicago Suburbs To Judge Martial Arts ( with stops at IKEA,Portillos,Mago Cantina)
Sometimes my favorite trips are the simple ones to judge sport martial arts tournaments. Not big fights, not national tourneys and not big PR trips. I live all those, but sometimes just having fun in short ones with little or no pressure is the best. That was this weekend. My wife and I judged at a small but great tournament that was a fundraiser for wounded veterans up in the Chicago suburbs. Part of the way we drove two lane through the country on 47 and across old rte 66. I’ll do another piece about that area but here is a quick pick of tiny old school trailer selling coffee in a small town. Heck it might end up being its own story some Day. More about the trip after the jump.
The trailer sits in Forest IL along 47 which is about half way between my place and the burbs. It was closed but I’ll be making a trip just for it. OK, on to the real trip. The tournament was well run ( with my help of course, jk lol) so it went quickly. That left us plenty of time to wander around. Shopping, drinks and appetizers and dinner. First a few pics from the tournament including one of me with a guy I used to fight years ago. Good friends but we had some battles lol. It was his tourney.
After we left the tournament our first stop was IKEA in Bolingbrook. We love Ikea,and have bout lots of things there especially furniture for our kids. It’s just a cool place to walk around and get design ideas.
After that we did a little shopping at The Promenade Bolingbrook. It’s a cool mall but not the enclosed kind. Open walking environment with lots of restaurants and bars with great outdoor seating. My wife insisted that we were going to Portillo’s for dinner( an addiction!) but we decided to grab drinks at Mago Grill and Cantina. Great selection of sauces with our chips and salsa. We absolutely will return here for dinner and a full review. I had a couple great beers from Two Brothers brewing ( one of my faves & always great. ). Sandy had a piña colada mojito. She loves mojitos but hadn’t had one like that. Quite good with lots of fresh lime! Again we will be back! Check some pictures from Promenade and Mago.
No matter how many times or often we are in the Chicago area ( which is often) we makes lots of trips to Portillo’s! We have for decades. Great Italian beef,burgers and dogs. Always great food and such a cool look. They all have a slightly different kitsch to them depending on size. Great prices and just a fun place. One of my absolute favorite places on the planet. Tried other stuff but I almost always get the Big beef with spicy giardinera and fries. Can’t beat it. Huge and delicious! Take a look at what the one in Bolingbrook looks like, and part of my sandwich. I was hungry and forgot to take pictures! I’m a fighter that writes a little lol.
Im blessed to go all over and see all kinds of things, but a weekend like this close to home is awesome. Martial arts,drinks and food! The best. Check these places out. And hit this area if you get a chance. Warrenville, Naperville and Bolingbrook are all close together. Great food and shopping.
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We had eaten here shortly after it first opened but I didn’t have time to take pics and think about writing on it. First, it’s a true cool destination location restaurant. Our downtown area has become quite hip, and is often referred to as micro urban. I should say that it’s close to where I live but I’m 15 min away in a tiny town. Champaign has about 100k people which is still small to many folks. My town has less than 8k lol. So I often refer to Champaign places as home to me.
OK on to the fun stuff. First, if straight dominoes, papa John’s etc is the only thing you like, don’t go! I love all pizza but this is wood fired gourmet rustic. Great locally sourced meats and cheese’s plus produce. Lots of olive oil and charred edges on the crust. Very good, and the place is a true experience. It’s in an old publishing building and very industrial looking. I love that! You can stand and Look at the specially made ovens which came from Naples Italy. Heck you can see the woodpile!!
A few pictures and then we will talk about the meal after the jump. Enjoy.
To start of I had a great Morreti Rossa and my wife had the house Chianti. We ordered the cheese plate for a nice start. Great local area cheese’s that were fantastic as well as olives/sweety drops jam and bread. It was very good. Not too heavy or much but classically excellent. Artisan local cheese can’t be beat for an experience.
For the main we had the pizza pomodorini. Fresh mozzarella and fresh cherry tomatoes plus prosciutto Di parma/parmagianno reggianno and fresh arugula. Excellent. Fresh and nice charcoal edges. Again if this isn’t your thing it isn’t your place. Give it a try though. I’m a Giordano’s and Filippo guy but I love this stuff as well!
It was a great meal in a very cool place. Made for a nice and different experience in our area. The only downside was service this time. I never complain about that but she disappeared! Dropped off the pizza and never saw her again. We really wanted more drinks (especially me!). Gone. We have fun wherever we go and laughed about it but it wasn’t great. Nobody seemed happy to be there. I hope it was a one off as I really like the place and will return, but that needs work. We travel often, eat everywhere and pay well as a general rule. This was off.
Again, it’s a great place and we had a wonderful time. Check it out if you’re in the area. If you’d like to be part of our sponsor/ad/ ambassador program email us. From inexpensive links to features or social ads/spokesperson work. Hit firstname.lastname@example.org today. Also follow @combatsportlife on Twitter.
Today’s sponsor is the awesome Westbrook Stables. Get a great riding and training experience in a Western family oriented environment! https://m.facebook.com/westbrookstable/
A link to today’s restaurant
the Esquire is one of the oldest and in the Chambana area. I started going there with my Dad decades ago. It was tiny then. Classic little bar. A grill right in the window, the cook took your order and served you. Back then you could get like 3 things.
Today it has expanded quite a bit. Two separate bars in two rooms. Lots of windows looking out on to the growing downtown area. It’s become a but if a tech hub around here and that has really helped our downtown become quite cool. The Esquire has changed but stayed the same. Exposed brick walls. Lots of pool table,gaming and juke boxes. I’ll post some pics of the menu and some other things and we’ll talk a bit more.
The menu is bar/bistro but pretty wide. They have good individual pizzas as well. The bar/beer list is great. The prices are great. I’ve tried a lot of it but I kind of go back to my two favorites. A cheeseburger and fries with a Domain DuPage from Two Brothers Brewing. The burger is great, and they have the coolest fresh condiment bar. That makes the difference!! Plus that is an awesome beer. I normally lean toward IPA or similar but if a place has this French country ale I get it! Very smooth, doesn’t bomb your senses or stomach and it’s made here in Illinois.
It’s great place to relax and just enjoy spending time. It’s family friendly, clean and just one of those rare places I look for in my travels. Fortunately this one is right here for me. If you like classics come check this place out.
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Today’s links ( yours could be here).