Press & Reviews

Press & Reviews

Stango Cuisine

140 Lincoln Square

Urbana, Illinois 61801

844-497-6835

Comfort food · Great food · Healthy options · Creative cuisine
We love traveling to places never been before and learn the local culture. And what we found out is that what brings us together as people is great food cooked in a certain way with common ingredients. No matter our nationality, creed, religion or race we all love great food. Period. So we decided to share our life experiences by opening Stango Cuisine, “Good food cooked in a certain way.” Come out and discover the passion of cooking with the taste of international.

Stango Cuisine has a delightful Sunday brunch buffet

Stango Cuisine moved into the space formerly occupied by Tang Dynasty this summer, and in doing so expanded their hours and menu, which includes a full list of American breakfast options. Now,  if you pop in on Sunday between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., you can take advantage of a brunch buffet featuring both Zambian and American offerings. I had the opportunity to try it out last Sunday, and it was wonderful.

It’s all you can eat for $11.99, and you have the opportunity to sample a lot of their menu items: Rice, sweet potatoes, nshima, chicken curry, beef stew, beans, and greens. They also had scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits and gravy from the American menu. And yes, I sure did put some of everything on my plate.

The regular breakfast menu is still available if you want more choice (it should be noted that their wonderful beignets are on that menu), but I encourage you to embrace their signature cuisine. It’s flavorful and comforting and something you’re not going to get at other local restaurants.

Photos by Julie McClure

What has been your favorite Restaurant Week meal?

Visit Champaign County Restaurant Week comes to close this weekend, and we want to know: What have been your favorite meals, dishes, or experiences?

If you haven’t participated yet, no worries. The event runs through Saturday, February 1st. If you need a primer, or some suggestions, check out our coverage.

Stango is a must for Restaurant Week

January 30, 2020 / 11:00am / By Jessica Hammie

In our preview last week, I shared that I was looking forward to dining at the Urbana Zambian restaurant for a number of reasons, but mostly for the beignets. Last weekend, my husband and I met some friends for dinner to take advantage of the RW specials and get our hands on some beignets. It was cold and gross outside, and the warm and welcoming restaurant was a lovely antidote.

Image: A poster that says Champaign County Area Restaurant Week 2020 at the top. The remainder details the available menu options at the Stango Cuisine during Restaurant Week. Image from Visit Champaign County.

Image: A poster that says Champaign County Area Restaurant Week 2020 at the top. The remainder details the available menu options at the Stango Cuisine during Restaurant Week. Image from Visit Champaign County.

There wasn’t much need to look over the menu — I’d already studied the RW menu — so it didn’t take us long to decide. Of the four of us, three ordered off the RW menu: two vegetarian specials and one chicken curry ($19 each).

Image: Two pyramid-shaped golden brown samosas sit on a round white plate with a stainless steel condiment cup filled with a cilantro dipping sauce. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: Two pyramid-shaped golden brown samosas sit on a round white plate with a stainless steel condiment cup filled with a cilantro dipping sauce. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

The RW menu offered three courses: an appetizer (chicken samosa, veggie samosa, plantains), an entrée, and my beloved beignets. Two of us opted for the veggie samosa, and one for the plantains. The veggie samosa came in a pair, which meant more sharing could be had. They were nicely crisp on the exterior. The potato in the filling was fluffy, and the peas were whole, lending a nice little texture and sweetness to each bite. The plantains were perfectly fried and salted. Most importantly, though, the plantains were the right kind of ripe: not too sweet, not too starchy. The serving was more than enough to share with four people.

Image: Slices of dark golden brown fried plantains sit on a white plate on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: Slices of dark golden brown fried plantains sit on a white plate on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: A round white plate with a light blue decorative design on the edge contains pinto beans, nshima, and chicken curry. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: A round white plate with a light blue decorative design on the edge contains pinto beans, nshima, and chicken curry. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

My friend ordered the chicken curry with nshima (Zambian bread) and pinto beans. Sure, the plate was lacking some color, but the food was fantastic. It was the right kind of hearty and flavorful meal for a cold and snrainy night (that’s snow and rain, of course).

The vegetarian platter was served with sweet potatoes, nshima, pinto beans, kale, and rice. It was a nice sampler of many of the items Stango offers, and I was glad I didn’t have to decide on one side over another. I most enjoyed mixing in the kale with the other components — mixed together, there was a delightful mix of textures and flavors. The kale was nicely cooked and not at all bitter or slimy.

Image: A vegetarian platter includes yellow rice, pinto beans, sautéed kale, and golden-red sweet potatoes. The plate is an oval shaped and white, with a geometric blue pattern around the edge of the plate. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: A vegetarian platter includes yellow rice, pinto beans, sautéed kale, and golden-red sweet potatoes. The plate is an oval shaped and white, with a geometric blue pattern around the edge of the plate. The plate sits on a black glass table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Shortly after we all finished our entrées, our beignets arrived to much fan fare. Each order included two beignets, which I guess is an appropriate amount for one person who has also consumed an appetizer and a big ass plate of tasty food. Those beignets were fluffy and chewy, and the powdered sugar was generously dusted on top. I was not disappointed.

Image: Two rectangular beignets sit on a round, white plate. The beignets are fried and golden brown, and powdered sugar is generously dusted on top. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Image: Two rectangular beignets sit on a round, white plate. The beignets are fried and golden brown, and powdered sugar is generously dusted on top. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

The service at Stango was efficient and friendly. Stango is also offering a nice looking RW lunch menu, which includes omelettes, so perhaps I will revisit for brunch/lunch and more beignets (though the beignets are sadly not included on the lunch menu). If you’ve been looking for a reason to try Stango, Restaurant Week is the perfect excuse.

Stango Cuisine
140 Lincoln Square Mall
Urbana
T-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Top image: A bird’s eye view of a black glass table with two orange napkin rolls and a Stango Cuisine Restaurant Week menu on cardstock. The cardstock menu sits on top of a Stango Cuisine regular menu. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Five things to eat or drink in C-U: February 2020

Did anyone keep up with last month’s resolutions? Did you even make resolutions? I ate mostly vegetarian and vegan, with the exception of Restaurant Week and that burger I had on January 31st because I was feeling iron deficient. But who cares about last month, anyway — it’s a new month!

This month, we’re blessed with an extra day. Leap years are always fun, because it adds a little extra flavor to February. It also gives you an extra day to try some new things, or make your way through this month’s list of goodies.

The goodies on the list this month include a fair amount of veggies (maybe I acquired a good habit last month), some breakfast, spicy hot chocolate (because February = Valentine’s Day = chocolate, I guess), and cake. Allow me to also gently remind you that Valentine’s Day is Friday the 14th, and if that is something you celebrate, you should get your act together and make a plan.

Breakfast | Stango Cuisine

Image: Two rectangular beignets sit on a round, white plate. The beignets are fried and golden brown, and powdered sugar is generously dusted on top. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

As you may have seen, I visited Stango Cuisine for dinner during Restaurant Week. The food is so delicious, and I keep telling myself to go for breakfast. This it the month I do it. Seriously. The breakfast options are more or less exclusively American, and include things that Midwesterners like, like skillets. I’m personally quite interested in the pancake sandwich ($8): baked ham and two buttermilk pancakes, topped with two country fresh eggs.

Stango is the perfect place to grab breakfast either before or after you do your market shopping on Saturday.

Stango Cuisine
140 Lincoln Square Mall
Urbana
T-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Ten things we want to eat this Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week 2020 is officially underway, and with over 30 restaurants participating, you’ll have to narrow down your choices. Many restaurants are offering both lunch and dinner options, and you’ll even be able to find some breakfast specials, too.

Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week runs January 24th through February 1st. Some menus are prix fixe, others are a la carte specials. Lunch will run you about $10, though there are several restaurants offering $19 menus, which seems a little steep for lunch, unless it’s your big meal of the day. Dinners are upwards of $19; most of the dinner options are $29 or $39. There are a couple of shareable options — Bread Co. is perhaps the most notable, so grab a date who you don’t mind double dipping in the cheese.

We’ve put together a list of menus and items that entice us the most; consider these suggestions to help guide you on your Restaurant Week journey. Reservations are encouraged; don’t wait until the last minute to get your act together.

Watch this space next week, as we’ll have reviews of individual restaurants publishing everyday. Oh, and don’t forget to use #CCRestaurantWeek on socials for a chance to win a $100 gift card to your favorite participating restaurant.

— Jessica Hammie, Food & Drink Editor

Image: Three beignets from Stango Cuisine sit in a square, white styrofoam container. The beignets are golden colored and generously dusted with powdered sugar. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

mage: Three beignets from Stango Cuisine sit in a square, white styrofoam container. The beignets are golden colored and generously dusted with powdered sugar. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Stango Cuisine, Dinner $19 or $29

“All served with beignets.”

Do you need any other reason? Okay, fine, let me help you. First, the food is awesome. Even though I’ve already tried most of these dishes, it’s the type of food you’re ready to eat again and again. Second: There are meat, fish, and vegetarian options available. Can’t say that about all of the participating restaurants. Three: All. Served. With. Beignets. Those beignets are among the best desserts in town, no question. (JH)

Sticky Rice, Laap Kai w/ sticky rice, seen savahn, fried pork skins, and dipping sauces, $19

One of the reasons I am excited about this offering at RW is that the actual “sticky rice” they serve is being offered as part of the meal. This salad looks to be a profile in all of the things I love about the restaurant, so it’s a good chance to try a few things out in one shot. (SF)

The WheelHouse, Dinner, $29

Just the other day, when I was looking over the menus with my spouse, an enthusiastic meat eater, he exclaimed, “Roasted curry cauliflower at the WheelHouse!” Who knew vegetables could be so thrilling? Learn something new everyday, they say. But seriously — I’m excited that he’s excited about eating roasted curry cauliflower, and I am also excited to eat roasted curry cauliflower (among other things), so that’s what we will do. We both really like the WheelHouse: the food is consistently delicious, and their dessert options are always fantastic. The other RW menu options (all served with a starter, entree, and dessert) are root beer braised short ribs and house made fettuccini with crab. Sounds like hubby and I will need to find at least one other friend to dine with us so we can try all the dishes on the RW menu. (JH)

Seth Fein, Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer contributed to this article.

BEST new restaurants of the decade: Honorable Mention, Stango Cuisine

From our BEST new restaurants of the decade feature:

Stango Cuisine is apparently the only Zambian restaurant in the United States, which is pretty damn awesome for us. We named it one of the BEST new restaurants in 2018, and even though it’s only been around for a small portion of the decade, it’s made an indelible mark. The food is delicious, and with the new space in Lincoln Square Mall (not in the food court), it’s got the comfort and ambiance to encourage you to linger over your meal. We’re very excited to continue to support Stango into the next decade. (JH)

Photo by Zoe Valentine

Restaurant & Bar Reviews

Stango Cuisine: A welcome addition to C-U

My first introduction to Stango Cuisine was this August at the Taste of Champaign-Urbana. My goal at the Taste is always to try food from places I have not yet visited, so I was excited to see what they had to offer, as I had not visited Stango’s brick-and-mortar establishment yet. Their selection of beignets and meat pies piqued my interest as something I had not come across previously in the area. I ordered a beignet (fried dough pastry) covered in a thick dusting of powdered sugar. It was delicious and I made a mental note to try the rest of their menu at a later date.

I soon learned that Stango Cuisine is operating out of the Lincoln Square Mall food court for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Stango offers a menu including chicken curry, beef stew, sausages, and oxtails. Most entrees will cost you just under $10 for a hefty portion. For sides they offer stewed sweet potatoes, rice, baked beans, cooked greens, and crowd-favorite, nshima, which is an authentic Zambian porridge made of water and cornmeal (also sometimes called papa, fufu, or ugali). They also offer vegetarian options where you can get a platter of the side items plus sautéed vegetables for $8.99. If you have little ones with not-so-adventurous palates they do offer kid-friendly selections, so everyone in the family can order something they would enjoy.

In addition to their normal menu, they also offer a rotating specials board from which you can sample their latest offerings of soups, snacks, and fresh juices. Additionally, their counter proudly displays their famous meat pies for a quick, grab-and-go snack.

I could not decide what to have, so I decided to order Emma’s Special Platter, which is a sampling of chicken curry, beef stew, and Hungarian sausage. If $13.99 sounds like a lot, no worries — you get a ton of food. I could not finish it all in one sitting. I recommend ordering it to share with a friend. Unfortunately, they were out of the authentic nshima, so I got double steamed sweet potatoes and cooked kale for sides. I could not resist and added a Jamaican beef meat pie to the meal for $3.50.

The chicken curry was probably my favorite with its thick, yellow curry sauce, and big tender pieces of chicken. I generally like my curries with a little heat, but this dish was sweet and savory. It paired really well with the chewy and lightly sauced stewed sweet potatoes. The beef stew had a nice flavor as well, although the beef was sometimes a little tough. The grilled Hungarian sausage was okay although it seemed steamed and did not have much flavor. The meat pie had a flakey cracker crust (think ‘pot pie’), with a zesty ground beef mixture inside. It was something really different and I recommend giving it a try.  All-in-all, I walked away from the meal very full and satisfied.

Given how early it gets dark these days, you might be surprised at the dim lighting at the Lincoln Square food court. If you are planning to eat there, I think the space would be better suited for a trip during the day while the stores are still open. You can always order your food to-go, or, if you live in town, they now offer delivery through GrubHub.

If you check out Stango’s social media, you really get the sense that it is not all about the food for cofounders Betty, Oliver, and Mubanga. Do not get me wrong — they have photos of their meals and catering that will definitely make your mouth water — but they have a mission for their business: 10% of the sales are donated to One Dream Foundation to help build a hospital in Zambia, Africa. That makes the food taste even better.

Stango Cuisine
Lincoln Square Mall food court
300 S Broadway Avenue
Urbana
Tu- Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photos by Madeline Trimble

Stango Cuisine is moving into a larger space

Stango Cuisine, the restaurant located in the Lincoln Square Mall food court, will move into the restaurant space within the mall, formerly occupied by Tang Dynasty.

To accomodate this move, Stango will close on June 29th and reopen in the new space on August 3rd. The added facilities will accomodate daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which is exciting because Stango was among the best restaurants to open in C-U last year. (Read our review here.)

Stango Cuisine
300 S Broadway Ave
140 Lincoln Square Mall
Urbana
Photo by Jessica Hammie

Restaurant & Bar Reviews / Featured Article

Stango Cuisine is the Zambian restaurant we need

Stango Cuisine might be the nation’s only exclusively-Zambian restaurant, and we are fortunate enough to have it right here in Urbana, Illinois. The newly opened location in Lincoln Square Mall resides on the south side, around the corner from Common Ground with its own entrance. That means you can park just outside of it without having to go through the mall if you’re in a hurry or don’t want to browse the other shops.

At first glance of the menu, you might think Stango Cuisine is another diner-esque spot to eat in Champaign-Urbana. The breakfast and lunch sections of the menu boast the usual array of American-style dishes, including omelettes, sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and grilled cheese. The standout on the breakfast menu is the Urbana City Beignet Combo for $5.39, which is three of their freshly fried beignets with a cup of hot tea or coffee. While I can’t speak to their breakfast or lunch just yet, I can report that the magic of their unique offerings lies in their dinner menu.

Stango Cusine’s new spot is quite large, with a waiting area that opens up to the mall, in addition to the separate entrance that leads out to the south side of the parking lot. The dining room has plenty of tables to accommodate a large number of people. When my husband and I dropped in, there were a few tables taken but it wasn’t full. We didn’t see a hostess, so we seated ourselves. A friendly server greeted us with menus and gave us time to decide what we would like to try. There are options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike; there is something for just about everyone.

From the generously appointed appetizers menu, which includes plantains ($4.29) and gizzards ($4.29), we chose to share a beef pie ($3.79). Unadventurous eaters: they also have cheese fries on the appetizer menu for $3.59 for a medium size. Vegetarians can also try the vegetable samosas for $4.59.

The beef pie arrived enveloped in a bright yellow wrapping and shaped like a pocket. The crust of the wrap was flaky with a distinctly subtle flavor. We found seasoned beef inside and that’s about it. However, despite what initially seemed to lack moisture or sauce, said seasoned beef was full of flavors, some recognizable and some new to us. All in all, the beef pie was very tasty, definitely unique, and we were happy we tried it.

For our entrees, I went with the chicken curry to step out of my comfort zone, as I don’t usually go with curry dishes, paired with yellow rice and greens ($11.59). For those who don’t want spicy, this is a savory dish and spiciness is optional. More on that in a bit. My husband went all out and got the oxtail with a side of nshima and beans instead of greens ($16.49). Nshima, according to the menu, “…like polenta, is an authentic Zambian staple food prepared with cornmeal and water. Also known as Ugali, Fufu, Papa, etc. in other parts of Africa.” On the plate, it looked like bright white mashed potatoes and my mind immediately went to the scene in My Cousin Vinny where the New Yorkers are trying grits for the first time.

We eagerly dug in when our dishes arrived. As advertised, the chef expertly flavored my chicken without making it at all spicy. I really enjoyed my helping of yellow rice with it, too. My husband was oohing and ahhing over the oxtail and then his nshima, which was extremely creamy and not gritty at all. It sops up flavor, such as the sauce from the oxtail. If something could convert a person to try a corn-based side, this would be it.

Just after we started eating, our server asked if we wanted hot sauce. We said sure and when it arrived, it was about a tablespoon’s worth of orange paste in a small dish. We were warned with a smile that it was very hot. We each dipped the tine of one fork into the sauce and tried it. If you are sensitive to heat, you might not like the punch — or maybe a stab? — of spice that hits your tongue. Immediately following, however, is a burst of flavor. I don’t usually eat incredibly spicy food just for spicy food’s sake, but once I adapted to the heat, I dipped my fork in a few more times to complement the other flavors in my dish. We informed our server how much we enjoyed the hot sauce and she told us that they make it with habanero peppers, plus what I can only assume is a secret blend of spices. If anybody at your table puts hot sauce on their food, absolutely get Stango’s version with your meal.

Sides: the greens appeared to be sauteed mustard greens, perhaps some spinach, in addition to some onion. I preferred the beans that my husband had, and although he agreed he enjoyed the beans more, he also really liked the greens and helped me finish them. The beans had a bright flavor to them from tomatoes and peppers, resembling more of the taste of salsa.

As for the entrees, we swapped bites throughout our meal and my husband and I agreed that the oxtail was our favorite. The sauce has an incredibly rich, heartiness to it and is thick like a hickory barbecue sauce. The meat arrives still on the bone, which adds to that richness. After we ate every last bite of our entrees and because the portions were just right, we plowed on to dessert. There was no way I was not going to try the beignets, regardless.

Initially, we were just going to split an order of Urbana Beignets ($4.50), to which our server gave a thumbs up, but they were also serving a dish of fried ice cream that evening, so my husband tacked that on to our order. (It should be noted here that it was difficult to choose among the desserts, as they also serve a lava cake and an apple blossom, plus assorted pies. Make room for dessert!) The fried ice cream arrived first, as the beignets are made fresh and take a little bit. After the hot sauce from dinner, the ice cream really helped. They seal the ice cream in a cornflake-based crust and quickly flash fry it without melting the ice cream. It didn’t hurt that there was a Leslie Knope-approved dollop of whipped cream and two cherries atop this miniature mountain of a dessert.

As to the beignets…If you have never had a beignet or aren’t really sure what one is, it is a pillow of fried dough — think funnel cake — sprinkled with a healthy amount of powdered sugar on top. Simple, yes, but when done properly, you won’t want anything else. You receive three in an order and they are perfect for sharing. The hot, lightly sweetened dough is just crisp on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, and best of all, not greasy with no residual flavor of oil.The powdered sugar on top gave the perfect hit of sweetness and melts into the warm dough as you bite into it. It’s some of the best fried dough you can find here in Champaign-Urbana.

There are probably many people wondering whether to try Stango Cuisine and I’m here to tell you with a resounding yes, you should. The place is easy to find with plenty of parking, they have a large menu that caters to the pickiest of eaters, including a kids’ menu, and of course they serve some Zambian dishes that are incredibly well made. More people trickled in during our meal and we heard many compliments about the food going to the servers. There was only one family who came in, looked at a menu and left without eating, but it is truly their loss. Hopefully they’ll try again sometime.

If nothing else, go to Stango Cuisine for the beignets but I bet you’ll end up staying for so much more.

Stango Cuisine
140 Lincoln Square Mall
Urbana
T-Sa 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Photos by Zoe Valentine

Best restaurants opened in 2018

Despite the recent closures of a handful of beloved restaurants in Champaign, the food and drink scene in C-U is actually quite robust. There were a whole bunch of places that opened last year, and in the spirit of fun and celebration, we decided to rank them. We focused on new restaurants, not additional locations for already existing restaurants (like Pekara’s Springfield and Prospect location). When we began to compile the list, the number of restaurants surprised us. With everything from fast casual sandwiches to table service and bottles of wine, there really is something for all price points, across all sorts of cuisines. Each of these new restaurants offers something to the community that wasn’t entirely available before, whether in cuisine or location or some combination of both. And even though the restaurants making this final list are all very different from one another, they have one thing in common: We want to revisit them. — Jessica Hammie, Managing Editor/Food & Drink Editor

6. STANGO CUISINE

300 S. Broadway Avenue, Urbana

This year brought a few restaurants that offer cuisine not previously available in C-U, and Stango Cuisine is one of them. Stationed at Lincoln Square Mall, they offer a delightful selection of African cuisine and it is comfort food at it’s finest. A bonus: They donate 10% of every meal to a charity in Zambia. If you really want to get a good sampling of what they have to offer, I recommend Emma’s Platter, as it has a little bit of everything and it will for sure leave you with another meal for the next day. Also, don’t skip out on some of the extras: Jamaican hand pies, plantains (pretty much the best I’ve ever had), and beignets. Basically you should grab a buddy and then just order all the food because it’s all tasty. Then go home and take a nap. Lincoln Square can be a dicey place to maintain your business, so fingers crossed that they stick around for awhile. (JM)

Photo by Jessica Hammie

STANGO CUISINE LIVE ON T.V

Yes…Stango Cuisine is the first Zambian restaurant in the United States. Come and taste Zambian food. It’s comfort and healthy food. We are open for Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Tues- Sat 7am – 8pm Sun 8am – 2:30pm. #WeLoveToServeTheCommunity

Watch video please

TUESDAY, APRIL 17 Stango Cuisine is FULLY opened – Business hours, open Tuesday – Saturday 11AM-7PM Closed Sunday and Monday. Come out in numbers to experience diversity in food. (Scrumptious 😋) 10% of every PLATE is donated to help build a hospital in Zambia, Africa at onedreamfoundation.com. We look forward to serving you!

Photo by: Tim Mitchell/The News-Gazette

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