The Lastest in Champaign - Being Home Is My Vacation

I’ve often said that a vacation for me is time at home. While I still had to work, I did recently get two weeks back in Champaign. I had a chance to discover a great new place in the neighborhood and a major change for another.

When you go to your regular salon to get your haircut and find out that they’ve done a few renovations it’s not shocking, but when you find out they are building their own one stop beauty block, it’s a different story. That’s what I faced at Rod Sickler Salon & Spa in Champaign. The expansion has added chiropractic care, cosmetic dentistry, photography, personal training, a medical spa and a tattoo parlor!

“We’re getting all ages, from teenagers up to people in their 60s.” says Rod Sickler himself. “We call it now a ‘Center for Art, Beauty and Wellness.’ Where else can get a tattoo and have it lasered off in the same place?!”

In addition to the unusual set up he’s orchestrated, my reason for giving a shoutout to Rod is that he is very involved in charitable events. “I just think you can’t expect your business to grow without the support of the community unless you give it back.  We try to say ‘yes’ to every Philanthropy that comes in. Sometimes we can do more than others with shows and sometimes we do ‘cutathons.’ Even if it means giving 200 $10 gift cards out, I feel that I should give back.”

The new momentum of the Rod Sickler Salon is definitely not the only thing people in Champaign have been buzzing about while I was busy travelling. I kept hearing about the great food and fantastic time they had at Destihl. I was curious about it so I decided to check it out myself, bringing my friend Paul to take care of the two things I don’t do – drink beer and eat seafood.

Paul and I were greeted by Manny Martinez, the executive chef and on of the owners of Destihl. I had actually stopped by the previous day to meet Manny and get a feel for the Normal location, the only other Destihl property they currently have. Like that location, the one in downtown Champaign popped up without any fanfare, but word of mouth has led them to a packed bar, patio and restaurant every night.

The idea behind Destihl, which has been fulfilled to perfection, is to make a variety of high quality beer to go with an unusual menu that was closer to gourmet dining than pub fare. The Champaign Destihl has windows showcasing the brewery. Once inside, the bar area is large and has a blackboard highlighting the current beer selections. The dining areas are separated into various rooms, making it a comfortable place for intimate dinners or parties of all sizes.

While I was more than happy with the fruity White Sangria and then the Pomegranate Gin-Lit (there’s also an impressive wine list), Paul got to work sampling the 13 beers currently available. His favorites were: Black Angel Stout, which he called like an espresso, full bodied with chocolate overtones; Hawaii Five-Ale light with no hops after taste and soft tropical fruit; Lawnmower Ale, citrusy and light in body and alcohol; and Champaign Blonde, a mixture of light and dry, with a hint of hops, made in an Americanesque fashion. He also added that the Frankengluten Belgian Sorghum Ale, a gluten free beer, was funky and fizzy, and a bit tart. (Note: Destihl brews are also available to go if you can’t get enough in the restaurant. )

The idea to start a Destihl actually started with a home brewing kit that the wife of now CEO Matt Potts got him as a present. Potts, a lawyer, had been selling beer to Biaggi’s, an Italian restaurant Manny Martinez was the chef at. The duo became friends and brought in Laurie Nelson and Jason Brather to the partnership.

While the beers at Destihl are appealing, I was more interested in the food and each dish I had impressed us more than the last.  Some can’t miss appetizers that the restaurant is fast becoming famous for are the Beer Battered Asparagus, Thai Wings, Potato Croquettes and Marinated Stuffed Olives. For a meal, try the Flat Iron Steak Quesadilla with Blue Cheese, which you can eat with the steak on the side or inside, or the pizzas (Mediterranean, with roasted garlic, artichokes, olives, mozzarella, spinach and feta is wonderful). Paul loved the Spiced Seared Swordfish with carrots, mint, bok choy and grilled pineapple in a coconut curry sauce. The Gaucho Skirt Steak on rice and beans is excellent, but the best Tex-Mex you are going to ever find is their Stuffed Poblano Pepper.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, Martinez brought out the most scrumptious desserts.  His own take of S’Mores – baked marshmallows, melted dark chocolate, homemade cinnamon cookies and cinnamon cream – was delectable, and the Sour Cherry Bread Pudding was creamy, rich and fruity. For something lighter, we tasted the Fresh Berry Napoleon, with flaky pastry, homemade lemon curd and fresh berries, topped with raspberry-lemon ice cream. There was even more treats on the dessert list that I wish I could try so I guess I’ll know next time that I need to save some room!


  1. I love the beer battered asparagus! It is almost a meal in itself. I love all of their brews, too. The last time I was there, I took home a growler. It definitely won't be the last time I take one home.

  2. This is great. Thanks for sharing such a nice story of your stay. I just bothered about on your blog and this seems like to have some stay here.


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