Getting a reservation at Momofuku Ko is like getting on a packed subway during rush hour and trying to get a seat. Everyday, I try to get on one second faster than everyone else but I somehow I end up being the odd man out. On the subway, I end up holding onto a pole and praying that the man standing so close to me has a cell phone in his pocket. In Momofuku-land, I end up seeing this screen:
It pains me to see this screen. I literally want to melt into my chair every time I see the red X’s on my laptop. The thing is, I always SEE the green checkmarks on the screen and click on them, but I’m always freaking TOO LATE. Someone ALWAYS GRABS MY SPOT! ARGH!
Does anyone know how any tricks to get a reservation at Ko? If you do, e-mail me at gracenotesnyc [at] gmail [dot] com!
Originally, I didn’t have Lil Porgy’s on my list of places I wanted to visit while here in Champaign (in my defense, I made the list very quickly and didn’t mention a lot of great spots in Champaign). Last night I remembered the barbecue joint because I was driving by my high school and realized I used to go there all the time for their pork sandwiches and steak fries. I told Audrey that we were no longer going for another day of pizza and we were going to try the barbecue route instead, which made her pretty excited – she loves barbecue and I don’t think she could’ve taken another bite of pizza. We drove to the University location in Urbana because it’s closer to campus and I was on a tight schedule:
The “restaurant” in Champaign is on Mattis and close to my high school, so I used to go there on Thursdays for their pork sandwich (it was the special of the day). The pork isn’t the most tender or juicy stuff I’ve ever tried, but it’s drenched in lil porgy’s awesome hot sauce AND it has a great flavor because it’s cooked on wood. Their slogan says so – incredibly good ’cause we cook on wood.’ The Urbana location looks very similar to the Champaign location – exposed brick, park benches, and a nice view of their oven:
Audrey and I both ordered the pork sandwich (which already COMES with steak fries):
Remember how I said I’d wash with cold fudge from Jarling’s if I could? Well, I would bathe in Lil Porgy’s hot sauce (well, it’s actually medium-hot sauce), too. It has a LOT of cinnamon and just the right amount of tang and spiciness. Their hot-hot sauce makes me cry so I tend to avoid it, but thinking about it now is making my mouth water. In high school, some people would take an order of steak fries to go, pour the hot sauce over the steak fries and wrap the fries up in aluminum foil for the entire afternoon, and eat the soggy steak fries at the end of the day. That’s how good the sauce is. Seriously. Everything is super cheap and fast and it’s yet another reason why I am starting to miss Champaign more and more.
My eating tour of Champaign is basically over, HOWEVER, being the food fanatic that I am, I bought a frozen Papa Del’s pizza to bring back to New York with me. Crazy, right? Well, I promise that I’m going to start eating better after I eat the entire Papa Del’s Pizza. And go to Dogmatic because it just opened. And have a burger at Goodburger. And eat pizza next week when I’m volunteering. AND THAT’S IT!…unless someone recommends a good burger joint for me to try
Yesterday was quite a busy day. I had a full day of interviews, another pre-night for more interviews, and had to walk around Champaign buying Illini t-shirts for friends (Joe and Ariel, I bought you two Illini shirts!!) After a full day of work related functions, I finally had a minute to myself (and Audrey) and we chowed down on pizza (ONCE AGAIN).
Thursday, 4:45 PM - call Monical’s on Kirby to place an order for a medium pizza – half pepperoni, half onion, chicken, and green peppers. Ask for an extra side of French dressing because their dressing is da BOMB.
Thursday, 6:25 PM - finally have the opportunity to pick up the pizza from Monical’s – we were supposed to leave at 5 PM, but didn’t end up leaving until much later because of interviews and such. Thought of the cold pizza we’d be eating.
I had to rush to another event at Kennedy’s immediately after all of the interviews so I didn’t have a chance to eat any pizza, but I let Audrey start without me because I knew she’d starve otherwise. Here’s our half-eaten pizza:
Thursday, 9:30 PM – Begin devouring pizza while watching The Office. Yes, I realize I am on central time and that The Office is on at 8 PM here, but Audrey saved the episode for me. Okay, back to the pizza. The red sauce is their “special sauce” – kind of similar to the Papa John’s garlic sauce that you can dip your pizza in; I hate French dressing on salad, but French dressing with fat and carbs just WORK! The crust is really thin and also crispy (kind of like matzo with more flavor). The pepperoni was a little greasy, but if you douse it with French dressing, who cares how greasy it is!!
Thursday, 9:45 PM - realize during the middle of The Office that Custard Cup (Jarling’s) closes in FIFTEEN MINUTES. Tell Audrey to stop everything she’s doing to run to get custard. End up driving across the street:
The inside smells SO delicious – like freshly baked cookies EVERYDAY:
I almost worked there when I was in high school, but decided against it because I was afraid I’d get too fat from eating custard. I got fat, but because of other foods! I told Audrey that my favorite thing to order there is the cold fudge with custard (in all seriousness, I’d probably shower with cold fudge if I had an endless supply of it). I ordered a strawberry custard (which used to only be available on Wednesday’s) with cold fudge. Audrey followed suit by ordering their vanilla custard and cold fudge:
Audrey was really impressed with their cold fudge and loved the congealed texture. It tastes like Jell-O, but thicker. Kind of like the chocolate fudge sauce you get at McDonald’s, but it’s a lot thicker AND it’s served COLD. Crazy, I know. Custard cup is the best because they make their custard in the shop AND it’s from the milk from cows from UIUC. Pretty amazing, I know. Tom Hanks’ brother used to be a professor at UIUC and when Tom visited, he would always hit up Custard Cup. If Tom gives it the seal of approval, you know it’s good!
Thursday, 10:30 PM – creepily drove by my old house and took photographs. Didn’t have the opportunity to go to the backyard to check out the peach tree or the Asian pear tree.
I also headed to Firehaus and Brother’s after driving to my place and realized just how old I am because I didn’t recognize ANYONE there. Now I don’t regret my decision to fly back to New York tonight (Friday) instead of Sunday.
Surprising how good the food in Champaign is, right??
So, I’ve been in Champaign for all of 14 hours and I’ve already been to THREE restaurants (two of them were on my list and one was just for a quick breakfast). I started off my Champaign pizza adventure with Jupiter’s Pizza, a downtown bar (with pool tables and food). My brother, David, introduced me to Jupiter’s and we used to pick up the pizza bianco all the time. Our ritual during the holidays was to pick up a pizza bianco, pick up a movie at Hollywood Video, drive home and eat pizza and blueberries while watching a movie (FYI: it was AWESOMEZ). Since I’m only in Champaign for three nights (two days), I have to take advantage of the little time I have here, so I landed, checked into my hotel, and called Jupiter’s to place an order.
Wednesday night, 11:45 PM: Audrey picks me up and drives me to Jupiter’s
Surprisingly, I barely remembered how to get to Jupiter’s (located on Main Street in downtown Champaign) and we had to look it up on my blackberry. I’ve only been gone from Champaign for two years and a half years and I’ve already forgotten all of the street names! ANYWAY, we arrived at Jupiter’s and I popped into the bar to pick up our piping hot pizza’s.
My pizza bianco:
The pizza bianco comes with olive oil, mozzarella/provolone, onion, spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, oregano, and basil. It’s all on a cracker thin crust that kind of resembles a hearty saltine and the combination is absolutely amazing. I’m not a fan on onions on pizza, but Jupiter’s cuts the onions into little pieces that aren’t stringy (which makes a difference when you’re eating pizza!).
Audrey ordered the barbeque chicken pizza with barbeque sauce, mozzarella/provolone, chicken, and onions. She wasn’t that hungry, but really enjoyed the pizza and ate about half of her personal pizza (they’re only 9 inches).
Jupiter’s is freaking awesome because 1. the pizza actually tastes really good and 2. they are FREAKING CHEAP AS HELL! A personal pizza is freaking $6.50 and on Wednesdays they have some deal (it’s not listed on the website but when I called in, the guy that took my order gave me $1.50 off EACH PIZZA!!). MAN I MISS CHAMPAIGN!
Thursday morning, 7:45 AM: Drive to Atlanta Bread (which looks EXACTLY like Panera bread) and order a honey wheat bagel and lite cream cheese. The lite cream cheese doesn’t taste like anything and I’m upset with myself that I wasted a meal on Atlanta Bread.
Thursday afternoon, 12:15 PM: Meet up with Audrey and walk to Za’s (which is now known as MiaZa’s but the food is exactly the same and the logos are all still Za’s). Order a custom pizza (with a whole wheat crust!) with pesto sauce, roma tomatoes, pineapples, jalapenos, and mushrooms.
Thursday afternoon, 12:20PM: Wait patiently for my pizza to come out of the scrolling oven. It looks delicious!!
Here’s the pizza:
The whole wheat crust kind of fell apart and I would’ve preferred a plain crust, but otherwise, it was absolutely great. The pesto at Za’s is better than pesto I’ve had from restaurants (and I’m pretty sure it just comes from a can). Audrey ordered a panini that she thoroughly enjoyed and I also had a side of tomato basil soup (which I would’ve liked more if it wasn’t cream based).
Tonight, I’m going to hit up custard cup and maybe hit up Tang Dynasty or Monical’s. It’s surprising how much freaking GOOD PIZZA IS IN CHAMPAIGN!!!
I’ll be back with another update of my Champaign adventures later tomorrow!
Hey guys, I’ll be on the radio TOMORROW morning at 11 AM on WBAI (99.5 FM in New York). Eneida del Valle, my wonderful friend that I met at the screening of The Duchess, interviewed me for the radio show the “Women’s Collective” – tune in for an interview all about gracenotesnyc!
If you’re not in the New York area or can’t access the radio station, I’ll try to post the interview on the blog soon. Thanks for reading (and listening!)
Edit: Eneida sent me a link to listen to the show online: WBAI live-streaming.