Radio Maria

Your Rating: None
Radio MariaRadio Maria
23 Ratings
Radio MariaRadio Maria

Type: Bar, Eatery

119 N Walnut St
Champaign, Illinois, 61820-4009
United States

(217) 398-7729 | map

Monday: 5:00pm - 2:00am
Tuesday - Friday: 4:00pm - 2:00am
Saturday & Sunday: 10:30am - 2:00am

Added by siodhachain on 12-28-2006

View: Place Reviews
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 23 |  Reviews: 16
Photo of Bones10
4.15/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Photo of aratcliffe
4.2/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Photo of midlifec
4/5  rDev -4.1%

Photo of JIMTRK16
3.75/5  rDev -10.1%

Photo of Lynn
4.75/5  rDev +13.9%

Photo of guytyping
4.75/5  rDev +13.9%

Photo of Jackofallbrews
4.26/5  rDev +2.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

We have been going to this restaurant for many years and it is one of my favorite places to return to when coming back home. An upscale but not hoity-toity place, they serve good quality food and tapas in a setting surrounded by found art. They have a great coffee encrusted filet served atop a vanilla sauce that is out of this world. The restaurant always had a good bottle list (I remember accidentally ordering a 750 ML bottle of Avery Beast 17% ABV! here early on and having a difficult time walking out of there,) but have expanded the tap selection greatly since adding a bar side. They offer samplers of beers as well, so I was able to try even more unusual beers. They offer a trip around The Wheel for $40--a sample of every beer they have on tap in their wheel shaped tap tower.

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Photo of abothersomeman
3.98/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Radio is fantastic. If in town for only the night you should definitely consider having dinner and drinks here.

In essence it's both a beer bar, a cocktail bar, a tasty and late night tappas menu as well as a wonderful sit down restaurant. Easily top 6 best restaurant in champaign/urbana area.

Only in a town like champaign, could a cool spot fit so many needed voids.
Tango night is fun and a good crowd.

Really awesome that on many nights, late night, they'll have local dj's spinning and get them some exposure. Absolutely fantastic when the radio tunes fill walnut street on hot summer nights.

Beer list is extremely variable and always has a few very big names, diamonds in the rough, and a few beer bar necessities.

Depp tap list- at least 20, maybe 25.

Cocktails menu is tasty and deep with a number of creative options.

Tapas menu is normally very good but can sometimes be a miss.

If you stop by, be sure and notice the spinning wheel of taps out front
what is offered that evening...

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev -7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Very impressed on the selection of draft beers they had. They had Devil Dancer, Plead the 5th, Old Rasputin, Samichlaus, Hopsickle, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and some other rarer beers on tap. I have never seen Samichlaus on draft before, even in the Chicagoland area.

This place is a little more of a trendy bistro, cocktail bar then a typical beer bar. Not that I cared when the have that selection on tap. They had a big wine selection, and a decent whiskey & bourbon selection (but nothing great).

If you're in the area it is definitely worth a stop in.

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Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.55/5  rDev +9.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

The third and last stop in our beer tour of Champaign, Radio Maria turned out to be our favorite spot. The place is spacious and cool, with an industrial-loft feel to it and lots of art (mostly paintings) on the walls. This is more New York than Central Illinois, so the wife and I felt at home.

Selection is pretty outrageous! 27 taps with a bit of everything, including Founders Expedition Stout, Sculpin, Southern Tier Choklat, Old Rasputin (nitro), Stone Levitation, Founders Curmudgeon and Dirty Bastard, Petrus Oud Bruin and other rare Euros like Samichlaus, plus handles from Ommegang, Left Hand, Two Brothers and even the Struise/Stillwater Outblack collaboration (priced at $10, though, so imagine the price of that keg!).

On my second visit I found Moylan's Hopsickle, Southern Tier Cuvee 3, New Holland Imperial Hatter, Die Du Ciel Aphrodite, Southern Tier Creme Brulee... taps rotate constantly here!

Beers are all available in full serving or 4 ounces, don't you love that! Their tap system deserves a mention- circular like a communal shower at a boy-scout camp, it was designed by the bar's owner, who used to be a sculptor.

Their bottled beer is also outstanding, with Founders KBS, Old Rasputin XII, Mikkeller Beer Geek, Devil Dancer...

Menu is damn nice, with some inventive choices. We opted for the roasted goat cheese medallions appetizer, which turned out to be gigantic and enough for a family of ten Somalis. Perhaps a little too... much, but tasty. On our second visit, we had a much better food experience, with an awe-inspiring duck breast and smoked-pork tacos. The mushroom crostini and pork-belly arepa are also delicious. Small portions, sure, and pricey, but killer food!

Service is good and friendly, although the bartender was a bit hurried at first despite the place not being busy at all (on our second visit, the dude behind bar was extremely efficient and knowledgeable). Price overall is a bit higher than what you might expect from Champaign, but totally worth considering the quality of the food and taps.

They have a cool thing called "The Wheel": 4 ounces of each of their 27 taps for $40 (not valid if you puke!). I may try it one day...

All in all, this place is a winner and I look forward to coming back again soon (and then walk across the street to Blind Pig!)

Note: the few reviews of this place here that are very negative are all from users who have not logged on in years or whose accounts have been deleted. Take it as it is.

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Photo of DaisyBee
2.28/5  rDev -45.3%
vibe: 1 | quality: 2 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3 | food: 2

Came down from Chicago to see my boyfriend and his friends said we should eat here. Big mistake. What is this place? Feels like a lameass high school art show. I will never go back. I don't think he will either.

The food was old, lettuce was going brown, fish smelled bad, bread had obviously been left out. The service was OK but not great, and the bar was like drinking in a hospital. Bright blue, stainless steel fixtures. Ugly.

Sure, they have 27 taps, and even some good beers, but the bar guy said that some beers don't get poured for days.

The only good thing about the place is that it's across from the Blind Pig.

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Photo of gregalobeer
3.83/5  rDev -8.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Radio Maria has a few pretty good appetizers and vegetarian dishes, but the beer selection is exceptional, rivaled only by the Blind Pig across the street. And they're a tough act to follow. The wines are also interesting, served in nice glassware and usually by a kind waiter, though only if you sit in the main dining room; the tapas bar is a bit frou-frou and the servers are not charming.

You gotta try the "torta maria." Such a delight. Basically a sweet potato/goat cheese quesadilla, but comes with two delicious sauces and some other nutty filler.

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
3.8/5  rDev -8.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Say what you will about Radio Maria, it does have one thing going for it that even the haters have to admit. The bar is pretty freaking cool looking. Not at all sure how it fits into the whole Champaign scene, nor do I understand how this place continues to stay in business considering what the place must have cost to build.

The bar is pretty cool, has a light bright looking thing under the bar that changes colors. A retro-futurist looking kind of place with lots of metal and wood and colors mixed together.

Anyways onto the beer. The selection here rivals any of the familiar faces in town and the prices are resonable as well. Had a CARBONATED Angel's Share here that was totally worth the seven bucks I paid for it, made for an excellent after dinner beer.

The problem is that it doesn't really feel like the kind of place you would want to make your regular watering hole. It's too wide open, the bar dining room takes up too much of the bar area to get really comfortable at the bar. You can't really forget you are at Radio Maria's if you sit at the bar, you cannot escape into a corner like you could at the Pig or Crane Alley.

The food is hit or miss and a bit pricey. The tapas bar is the only thing I am familar with food-wise here and you need to make sure you order the right thing. When I went they had a special avacado salad that was fantastic, but I don't think it is a regular menu item. The crostini trio is good but not worth the six or seven bucks you pay for three pieces of bread topped with shrip or pork. The duck is amazing, incredibly rich and tasty. The chorizo and potatos are also excellent. If you are used to large portion sizes you may also be dissapointed with this place as things tend to weigh in at bite-sized or smaller.

In the end though I enjoy this place. Not somewhere I would eat at/drink at on a regular basis. But a great choice for a date, especially if they like good beer.

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Photo of Gonzoillini
4.4/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Radio Maria is one of the best spots in Champaign - Urbana to grab a beer, but it is a very different place than your typical bar.

The main bar is a huge backlit neon blue that was created through the recycling and re-usage of a variety of materials. That is a theme that runs throughout the establishment from their lighting (reused vacuum tubes) to their tap system (a reused industrial wash sink). It is a "higher class" place that I might feel out of place walking in with dirty / work clothes on.

The quality / selection of beers on tap is pretty outstanding, and often features beers that are unavailable in other CU bars. Jacob, the main beer guy / bartender, takes pride in the cleanliness of his beer lines. They are cleaned every two weeks at a maximum. The same can not be said for other bars in the area.

I was able to drink a Dark Horse brewpub exclusive Beat Your Wheat due to Jacob's good industry connections. In addition he had on Bourbon County Stout, Angels Share (Brandy), HopSlam, Schlenkerla Urbock, Kulmbacher Eisbock, and the list goes on. It is a rotating 27 tap system with a rotating selection of between 95-110 bottles that mostly feature things that are not available (or do not deserve) on draft.

They also do a large sampler, The Wheel, for $35 that is 4 oz of every beer on tap. They also do individual 4 oz samplers of all beers on tap for between $1 and $3.

The food is very solid, and on Fridays they put out free appetizers during their happy hour that makes for a packed house.

Overall one of my favorite places to go in CU. The proximity to Blind Pig is great because if one place does not have anything "exciting" on you can simply walk across the street.

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Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Went here to get some food and ordered off the tapas menu. They had Rogue Charlie 1981 on tap (in nonic pints), which I hadn't seen elsewhere in town. The beer list was well rounded with tasting notes and ABV listed. While not huge, it showcased many quality brewers, such as 3 Green Flash (Le Freak draft, West Coast IPA, Hop Head Red) and Boulevard Smokestack options (Double Wide, Saison, Tripel), and the only place in town I saw Bam Biere listed. Current online taplist is also nice to see.

The interior was artsy and unique, with paintings on the walls and contrasting textures all around. Wood floors and beams, with large front windows facing the street. The back bar (and bar itself) were pretty funky with colorful backlit squares, and the doors in back had portholes in them. Empty KBS and Dark Lord bottles decorated one little cubbyhole high on the wall. The hostess station was an old streamlined radio cabinet. These creative touches gave it a modern bohemian type of vibe. We opted to sit outside, and had timely service, though it felt a little routine and not really genuine. The food was creative and of good quality. Four small plates for 2 were a little over $20, not too bad, but maybe pricey for the area. The specials and entrees leaned more to the high end, but you get what you pay for here.

It was a fun place to visit, though I don't know i'd come here every night after work or anything, it's good for a special occasion. The low reviews here strike me as odd, and more critical of the crowd than the establishment and the actual beer that flows here. It's a beer bar and restaurant, which isn't exactly a novel concept. Drag your knuckles elsewhere if it's too upscale for you, this is nothing compared to most high end restaurants.

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Photo of redjameskidd
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

I am changing my review to a more favorable one for this place. I originally allowed my dislike of their restaurant portion to affect my rating.

This place is the different-aesthetic mirror image of blind pig across the street. Both have 27 taps. This place does the industrial modern look instead of the old-time wooden bling pig. They beer lists are similar, though I might actually give a slight edge to Radio Maria.

The thing to consider, though, is that people in Champaign do not come to this restaurant---and it is a restaurant---to drink beer. The people drinking beer are across the street at the Blind Pig. You could very well get a good beer here with your meal (and you will pay dearly for the meal), but most people don't come here for beer. They come for the very frilly, Champaign-chic atmosphere and expensive "tapas," etc. If you walk past this place on any given night, the outside will be dominated by young women in needlessly fancy dresswear, drinking $15 martinis and eating tiny portions of god-knows-what.

The bartenders, however, are very friendly and knowledgeable about beer, and from my past experiences they like to talk about it. This place is usually less crowded and cramped than the pig and you have greater ability to converse with bartenders.

EDIT: and as a final edit, they have a MASSIVE, $35 sampler of every beer on tap, all 27, known as The Wheel. 4 oz samples. Imbibe at your own risk.

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Photo of champ103
3.88/5  rDev -7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

This is a unique bar in downtown Champaign. I am not really fond of the strange lighting, loud music, and a hiippster kind of feel that is prevalent here. Though the service and selection are hard to beat, and they have a nice area to sit outside. Right across the street from the Blind Pig Co. The first thing as I walked in the door, I grabbed a beer menu. The menu had a brief description of each beer on tap. Very informative. As I was looking over the tap selection, the bartender came right over and told me what was available and what had changed. Very knowledgeable and helpful. The bartenders knew the styles, correct temps, and correct glassware. I had a Dark Horse Percolator on tap. I could not understand what brewery it was from because of the nose of a Friday night, but the bartender wrote it down form me on a peace of paper. Another highlight for me was Goose Island Matilda (though it was one of the beers they were temporarily out of) and Bourbon County Stout. There were plenty of other micros and top notch imports as well. I did not have any food, but overall a place I would recommend for a slightly different look at what a beer bar can be.

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Photo of Gehrig
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

Radio Maria is a peculiar place for a few reasons that I'll discuss. Yet on the whole, a very good place to grab very good beer. There are many windows looking out onto Walnut St. and the adjacent alley, very nice during the day and in the summertime, even when I went last--on a fairly snowy night. It's clean and the space provided is fairly good. The crowd is an interesting mix of University of Illinois students (not the loud drunken types) and other good locals, but also snobby yuppies who can be easily ignored.

The beer quality and selections are really excellent, and draft prices, while somewhat expensive, are no higher than many other places around town. There are 25 taps, and PBR is the only macro. The rest are gems--Old Rasputin, Robert the Bruce, Anchor DIPA, Ayinger Brau Weisse, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA, Boulevard Nutcracker Ale, Unibroue Maudite, and more. The bottled beer selection is also first-rate--La Fin du Monde, Trappistes Rochefort 8, Achel Dubbel, St. Bernardus 8 and 12, Koningshoeven, Allagash, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Smith's, Celebrator, Ayinger, and more.

The food is decent but expensive, and they veer toward the eccentric, with mixed results. It's also expensive, and not a place to grab a burger. I had a tuna steak positively coated with peppercorns that I actually had to remove with my knife and, for $17, the entree wasn't worth it. Yet the beer is tremendous, and that alone makes it worth stopping in.

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Photo of MasonBeerMan
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Modern looking bar, nice open space, very large bar. My wife and I stopped in at lunch time for some beer. At least 20 beers on tap, all but one were micros (PBR the exception). We had old rasputin in correct glassware and tried a couple other beers I can't remember. Great selection and the cool thing was that you could get 4oz tasters for $1 to $2. Most beers on tap ranged from $4 to $5, they also had about 25 bottled beers to choose from, including Founders Breakfast Stout. Wish we could have stayed there all day.

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Photo of Blupoet03
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Since opening their tapas bar, Radio Maria has gone to the top of my list. The tapas food is good and affordable, and the waiters and serving staff know their stuff. Radio Maria has a lot on tap and they can help you pick out what you really want.

With almost thirty beers on tap, the wait staff does an impressive job of being able to detail each and every one of them. As an added bonus, the man in charge of their ordering runs an email list to keep you updated when the menu changes - and when a tasting group is scheduled to meet.

Prices are lower than other bars in the neighborhood and if you stay away from the dinner menu, food prices are good too. The food is eccentric and there are many vegetarian options.

The atmosphere is modern, but pleasant. Good place for a conversation. Another plus: Radio Maria is smoke-free.

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Photo of unknownoffender
4.35/5  rDev +4.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

After spending many, many, (and I do mean...many) hours sitting at Radio Maria's bar, I finally feel fit to submit my review.

The first thing to appreciate upon entering is all the hard work that went into building this bar. Almost everything was built from scratch. My favorite accent is the lights hanging above the bar. Look closely, they're old vacuum tubes. You won't find this kind of creativity in the other bars around town. I couldn't help but notice the word 'sterile' used in other reviews. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I think what others find to be sterile will be short lived. Yes, the bar is new and the tables are shiny, after all they were hand-painted. So the lived-in feeling some might be looking for are beginning to appear. Several works of art were recently added to the walls, giving the space a more cozy feel.

Enough about the interior, let's have a beer from one of the 27 taps!! The selection is awesome and the variety of styles is impressive...quite the comprehensive lineup. The bar manager has also set a new precedent for beer bars in town. While most of the beer comes from microbreweries, you can also order beer from one of Illinois' finest small brewpubs, Flossmoor Station. Flossmoor Station only distributes their beer only to a small handful of bars in Chicago... and now Champaign is on their list! Radio is the first bar in Champaign to recognize a brewer of this size, and I promise you this won't be the last of their firsts! Just to give you an idea of the quality on tap, some of the recent beers I've enjoyed include Founders Breakfast Stout, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Michigan Brewing Co. Hophead Switch, and of course Flossmoor Station brews.

The food menu at Radio offers a variety of different tapas. Some of the plates are more traditional than others, but then again I don't think the chef is going for a completely traditional approach. However, I do think there are some spanish tapas staple items that could be added to improve the menu. My opinion of the tapas might be a little biased since authentic tapas are some of my favorite dishes, so it's important to say that I have liked every item I've ordered.

Over all, this bar is a great addition to downtown Champaign. Word keeps spreading and things are only improving. It's definitely worth the trip, and in case you visited closer to their opening and weren't satisfied, I'd say it's worth a second trip.

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Photo of kdog630
4.15/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This one is a little complex. You walk in to a laminate and brushed metal bar room with stalls along one wall. A little brighter than necessary. Luckily, we had reservations in the original area that is darker, brick with eclectic furnishings and more relaxed in atmosphere. 27 taps including some I hadn't seen in other than 22 oz bottles. (i.e. Avery's Jubilation)

Beer was resonably priced, hence the $$, but the food would be more of a $$$. The shrimp, crawfish and chorizo pasta I got was excellent, however.

I would rather only go here to eat and have a few drinks in the older section than sit in the more sterile bar area to drink. The Blind Pig across the street would be better suited for that.

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Radio Maria in Champaign, IL
Place rating: 4.17 out of 5 with 23 ratings
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