In the next few months we are moving from Savoy to Champaign. One of the things I’m most excited about is being closer to new restaurants and shops.
There’s been a recent resurgence of coffee/sandwich shops in a more neighborhood setting — rather than a shopping center or downtown.
This includes Art Mart, Hopscotch and now Pekara Bakery & Bistro’s second location at 811 W. Springfield Avenue in Champaign. We’ve been to the downtown Champaign location a few times. (The menus differ a bit.) I expected the same vibe at this central location, but I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed more family friendly. I was pleasantly surprised because there were other babies, no other toddlers, but a few car seat babes. The shop is warmly decorated, and it has a long row of stools by the windows. You can watch Springfield or Prospect Avenue traffic go by.
This cool building is about as visible and centrally located as you can get. (It’s the building with the Rolling Stone tongue painted on the Springfield Avenue side. (If anyone knows anything about that painting, comment below!) The parking was plentiful and accessible.
I’ve been to the new location twice. The first time I had the chicken pesto. It had chicken breast, provolone, pesto and red onion on focaccia ($7.29). The second time I just asked if they had a grilled cheese. It wasn’t technically on the menu. Each time I had the roasted red pepper with smoked gouda soup and bread (cup $4.79, bowl $5.95). Add chips for .99, fries (or half order of sidewinder fries) for $3.99. The sidewinder fries are very good by the way. They are like a wide, flat fry that’s twisted. They offer a sub menu that has loaded sidewinder fries. One pound of fries! Try the Sriracha taco fries with Sriracha sirloin, Pekara-made ranchero sauce, shredded cheese, Pico de Gallo and a Sriracha sour cream ($14.99).
My husband had the ham and swiss melt. It had ham, swiss, Herlocher’s mustard on a Pekara-made Bavarian pretzel bun ($7.29). The bun made the meal!
You can do a half and half for $9.99. Pick two: ½ sandwich, ½ salad or cup of soup.
The menu for kids was perfection ($4.99). Each had removed crusts, fruit and a cookie. One son got the grilled cheese, the other got a peanut butter and jelly. They offer chicken tenders and a ham and cheese sandwich, too.
If you would rather do breakfast, you may want to consider the build-your-own breakfast sandwich (starting at $3.99). You can include bacon, ham, prosciutto, portabella mushrooms, red onion, roasted red peppers, spinach, tomato, cheddar, feta, provolone and swiss (.50 each).
They even bring your food to you!
Salivate over their display of pastries and breads, too. We’ve had the vegan “Hostess” cupcake, and I had the peanut butter chocolate cupcake. They were good, but they were a little dry for me. The chocolate chip cookies for the little ones were good, but they were also a little dry for me. OK, I ate most of them! (My kids liked the few bites they had.) My taste leans towards liking things almost raw. To those who like a crisper cookie, you’ll love.
My husband also got a small coffee with a shot of espresso ($3.05). They called it a “red eye.” Very good. And strong.
Stop by this local spot with your family. It’s more family-oriented than its downtown sister. The food is tasty and fresh, and the menu for kids was thoughtfully designed.
Hours: Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.