There’s vibrancy in monochrome. Splashed within Cafeteria & Company’s black-and-white interior is its unique taste in decor. The downtown Urbana cafe reigns in minimalism, with simple white walls speckled with art and boardgames and plants potted in coffee carafes. I visited on a Saturday afternoon, and it shouldn’t have surprised me that the space was crowded. In my egocentric perspective of never having heard of Cafe & Co. previously, I didn’t think this was a popular hub for studying and patronage. But seeing the young crowd hunched over their laptops and coffees made me wonder if had I been missing out on something my whole time living in this town. I guess I was about to find out.

As a fan of nitro cold brew, I was excited to see the item on the menu, which cutely hung from the ceiling with metal chains ($4.25). Upon presentation, the order confused both me and my friends that I had brought along: it was served in a beer glass. The hazelnut colored effervescence reminded me of nitro, but the dark brown hue and foam could have gone either way. I even asked the employee behind the register whether this was, in fact, coffee. Her friendly disposition comfortingly assured me with a chuckle that, yes, it was coffee, and thus ensued a pleasant exchange along regarding our enjoyment of watching the pattern of nitrogen bubbles produce waves up the cup. The neighborly demeanor I was treated with by the staff eased me into the comfortable atmosphere, and even before tasting anything, I liked the people at the cafe.

Nitro coffee from Cafeteria & Company. A cold coffee is served in a pint glass. It is a reddish brown color with a cream-colored foam on top. Photo by Elaine Sine. Photo by Elaine Sine.

I’m 21, so I can legally say that this coffee not only looked like beer, but it tasted like it, too. It posessed the earthy quality of a chocolate-noted malt I’d had once before. It was welcomingly bitter and grounded, not necessarily soft and sweet in the way I recognize nitro to be. I’d prefer if my coffee tastes like coffee, but nonetheless the experience was intriguing and taught me that nitro is not a one-taste-fits-all. If you like a more malted, rich flavor to your coffee, it’s definitely worth a try. It comes in one big size which makes it worth the money, and I even had to take it in a to-go cup afterwards because I couldn’t finish it.

My friends ordered the ALT (avocado, lettuce, tomato, $8.50), mac and cheese ($4), and matcha latte ($4.75).

Avocado, lettuce, and tomato sandwich at Cafeteria & Company is served on golden pressed bread with a side of sea salt chips. The sandwich and chips are served in a plastic red basket with a white paper lining. Photo by Elaine Sine. Photo by Elaine Sine.

The fresh ingredients were promising attestors to quality in the ALT. The side of chips made the sandwich a meal, and you got more for your money. Although the sandwich wasn't very filling, this vegetarian option glistened with its balsamic glaze which was the highlight of the dish. My friend acknowledged it was a good snack, especially for a fresh bite.

Macaroni and cheese at Cafeteria & Company is served in a round white bowl which sits on a round white plate. The macaroni adn cheese is bright yellow, and garnished with unmelted cheese shreds. A metal untensil is stuck in the bowl. Photo by Elaine Sine. Photo by Elaine Sine.

The mac and cheese was presented beautifully and was the most liked of all the foods we ordered. My friend appreciated how the mac and cheese was cheesier than the ones served at most other places, and I couldn't stop staring at every cheese pull his fork produced as the macaroni made its way to his mouth.

A matcha latte at Cafeteria & Company. Green matcha latte features a white feather design in the milk foam. The mug is white and sits on a black table. Photo by Elaine Sine. Photo by Elaine Sine.

And last but not least, the matcha latte had the most adorable little feather painted atop its bubbly surface. The effort and patience that it takes for a barista to brighten your day with just caffeine and milk as their canvas is one of the most rewarding things about visiting any coffee joint. If your cafe doesn't bless your lattes with milk foam art, it's not a cafe. The matcha latte was subtly flavored; as someone who doesn't drink a lot of matcha lattes, my friend really did appreciate the mild taste it offered which did put it above other matcha lattes that she had tasted previously.

A game a called Photo by Elaine Sine.

The food wasn’t something I’d go to visit again, but the ambiance collected a nice, comfortable atmosphere for studying and general relaxation. Attached to the cafe is also a See You CD & Vinyl, a record store, which was a nice addition to the experience. If you’re looking for something a little quirky and comfortable, Cafe & Co. offers outlets and board games that could leave you staying there until all the game rounds end (and we all know how long Monopoly takes).

Cafeteria & Co.
208 W Main St
Urbana
M + T 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
W-F 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa + Su 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Top image of matcha latte by Elaine Sine.