Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bar Review, 2 Downtown Champaign bars

Friday night after work, Meat, Big Brad and I decided we'd head to downtown Champaign to the Blind Pig, for some beers.

The Blind Pig is an AWESOME place to go to have a beer. If you are just coming down for the day to CU (say... to pick up your kid from college) and are looking for THE place to have a beer. The Blind Pig is the place to go.

BP is an English style tavern (or so I'm told, never been to England to see for sure). There is lots of wood and burgundy paint inside. There are free metal tip dartboards and... that's about it for entertainment. There are plenty of lights, but all the wood and the dark paint absorb it, so the bar seems very dark. There are no TV's. So if you want to watch a game, you can't do it there.

The interior isn't what brings you to "the pig", it's the beer. I count 26 taps on their website, which is on of the biggest numbers of taps in town. (Radio Maria across the street is right up there too). The cheap beer on tap is PBR. There is also Blue Moon, but that's about it of macro offerings. Their beer turns over real quick, so even if the menu was printed that day, it may not be accurate that night. On Friday, there were at least 3 beers that were on the menu that weren't available.

One of the huge drawing points of the pig is the cask ale.

According to their website...

Cask-conditioned beer, or “real ale”, is allowed to mature naturally. The unfiltered, unpasteurized beer still contains live yeast, which continues conditioning the beer in the cask. This process creates a gentle, natural CO2 carbonation and allows malt and hop flavors to fully develop, resulting in a richer tasting drink with more character than a standard keg beer. Real ale is served at cellar temperature, 55ºF.

Most of us associate cask-conditioned beer with flat warm beer. While that may sometimes be the case, it's not always true. They have a large selection of bottled beer, that also turns over relatively quickly.

There's no food in the pig, so if are looking for a place to sit and watch the game while eating something... don't go there.

The pig's patrons are an eclectic bunch, but they are pretty much all driven by a love for good beer. On any given night, you might see a hippie with dreadlocks in a hemp shirt sitting next to a guy who looks like he's on leave from the Army (the guy in the army is probably there looking for some beer similar to what he was drinking back over in Germany). You'll see some guys in suits and ties next to the motorcycle gang (ok, so that's Meat and Big Brad). Conversations will invariably go to beer, and are easily started with "whatcha drinkin?" It's very easy to approach anyone at the pig with the simple line of "whatcha drinkin?"

Since you don't eat at Blind Pig, you are probably going to have to get your grub on. When we drink there, we then head through the alley to Guido's. Guido's is, of course, a Carlos bar. This place has the most... um... normal person food in downtown champaign. This is the place to go to get a plate of nachos. Kriddy says it has the best grilled cheese sammiches in all of CU. She would know. I go there for the Prime Rib Sammich. It's about $7 and is a hearty portion. You will not be too disappointed eating it. I normally get the onion rings to go with it. We used to have our pool team at Guido's, just because of the prime rib sammich. There are worse reasons to go to a bar. Their beer selection is ok, but that's not why you go to Guido's. The place is a decent sports bar from open until about 9 p.m. The kitchen is good, there are plenty of tv's. There are two pool tables upstairs and two downstairs. The bartenders are friendly and are professional CU bartenders, all having worked at various other CU bars.

The beer selection isn't that great. There is probably something in every style, but they aren't really a specialty beer bar. They do make some strong mixed drinks, I'm told.

Most of Guido's business probably comes after 10 on Friday and Saturday nights (that I know of for sure) Guido's is one of the largest MEET MARKETS in CU. Groups of guys head there, as do groups of girls. It's one of the places that people go to when they are looking for a date, not when they have one. The manager out at Billy Barooz used to manage Guido's. I had initially heard that he moved out to the crossing because he hadn't gone to bed before 3 a.m. in about 2 years. Guido's routinely has to kick patrons out at closing time. It's a bar where last call means there's a rush to get as much MORE alcohol in you as humanly (or not humanly) possible. When people leave Guido's, they will normally be looking for a place to eat something.

Last year, Guido's opened their basement, which has the full bar and two pool tables. It's normally a little dark and crowded. You'll find no shortage of fraternity guys and sorority girls at Guido's. It's definitely at bud light bar after 10. It's still fun to go to every now and then, but I'd rather go elsewhere, at least after 10.

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