With classes resuming at U of I comes increased traffic and longer lines at restaurants near to the heart of campus, making visits to old favorites from my time as a student harder to manage. However, one of these places is very much worth the effort. Bevier Café is a student run restaurant on the second floor of Bevier Hall. As Bevier Café is quite popular, I recommend visiting as close to opening as possible, since seats become harder to come by around noon and some dishes may run out near closing. When I last visited, a student worker helpfully guided me to the start of the line where I grabbed a tray and began my journey along the counter. With premade desserts and sides within easy reach and appropriately labeled, I quickly made my way to the register where I placed an order for two entrées. Thankfully, choosing what to order was made easier by the display versions of the entrées.
After quickly finding a seat, I took a few bites of my black bean salad ($1.50) as I waited for my entrées. While I did not initially notice this side came covered in vinaigrette, it proved mild. I appreciated this as I find the taste of vinegar off-putting. I also didn’t notice the red onions when I picked this side off the serving counter, yet they, too were milder than I expected. Made mostly of black beans, the fresh crisp of the red/green onion in addition to the red pepper chunks nicely balanced the dense, soft black beans.
Just as I took my last bite of black beans, the Gouda mac and cheese ($6.50) and lemon dijon chicken ($6.50) entrées arrived. Since I hadn’t eaten cheese for at least a week, I of course started with the gouda-based entrée. With two generous scoops of mac and cheese, this mac and cheese is not for the faint of heart. Covered in a delightful crumble and topped with what I think were chives, every bit of this dish was a delight. Judging by the herbs I saw growing in the hallway, I wouldn't be surprised if these came from the students' own supply.
With that taste in my mouth and my need for cheese briefly sated, it was time to decipher the lemon Dijon chicken, a rather interesting meal. Resting on a bed of red/sweet potatoes, sautéed onions and carrots, this was more than a simple chicken dish. Spreading some of the homemade butter (or maybe cream?) on the chicken, I was more than pleased with the result. Not as tough as my recent run-ins with grilled chicken, this chicken was also far from bland since I tasted a hint of Dijon with each forkful. Paired with crisp carrots, soft potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth onions, the lemon Dijon chicken entrée proved much heartier than I expected at first glance. The lemon on top proved a nice contrast to the rest of the savory ingredients, as well. If this is an option when you visit Bevier Café, I wholly recommend ordering it for a cheap meal that is not cheap tasting.
Primed for dessert, I readied myself for the first of several that I’d ordered, a lemon cake parfait ($1.50). Smelling mostly of whipped cream and only faintly of lemon, I wasn’t certain what to think. True to the smell, the cake had a hint of lemon and plenty of cream. Despite the amount of cream, the lemon cake parfait was not overly sweet, thanks in large part to a minimal amount of sugary lemon filling and the choice of whipped cream in lieu of frosting. In addition, the cake was crumbly, although not dry, which was fine as I enjoyed my parfait with a spoon.
Ready for something simpler, I quickly demolished a rather large chocolate chip cookie ($0.82). Crispy on the outer edge and soft towards the center, I approved of this cookie’s quality, especially as the baker did not skimp on the chocolate chips. Half the price of cookies I typically see of this size, I suggest any of Bevier Café’s cookies to someone looking to maximize dessert and minimize the cost.
Starting to slow down, I finally made it to my last item, a snickerdoodle blondie ($1.50), the Baker’s Choice dessert of the day. Smelling strongly of cinnamon sugar, I was met with a thin, crispy exterior followed by a doughy interior as I bit into the blondie. Continuing to work my way through this rich dessert, I soon realized it was more substantial than I had anticipated. Be warned, you might as well eat three cookies for every one blondie at Bevier Café, as they add up quickly.
Leaving Bevier Café, it was still bustling, although the line was now gone. Walking by the display of entrées, I started to plan for my next visit, only to remember the menu shifts around. Regardless, that only makes me want to return sooner so I can sample more well-made meals at reasonable prices made by the students working the café. Although off the beaten path for many in the Champaign-Urbana community, Bevier Café is worth the trip.
2nd Floor Bevier Hall
905 S Goodwin Ave
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., weekdays
Photos by Matthew Macomber