One of my favorite ‘Sunday Funday’ activities is an early morning breakfast (or late brunch depending on how Saturday night turned out) at one of our many lovely establishments in Champaign-Urbana. We have lots of favorites like Courier Café, Dancing Dog, and Radio Maria just to name a few (and now Watson’s Shack and Rail has Sunday brunch!). I had been thinking about how I hadn’t had a Pekara breakfast in a while, so that’s what we chose on this particular beautiful Sunday morning.
Located in downtown Champaign, Pekara Bakery and Bistro has grown to be a local favorite since opening in 2005. Because of its popularity and demand it moved its bakehouse to a larger facility in 2008. After recently changing ownership it has a new moniker, Central Illinois Bakehouse, and can be seen at the local farmers' markets and found in many local restaurants. If you’d like to learn more about their traditional process of bread making check out the article Sam Logan did recently for Smile Politely.
The great thing about Pekara Bakery and Bistro is they serve breakfast all day! You have your choice of a variety of made to order omelets (local organic eggs), savory or sweet crepes, build-your-own breakfast sandwiches, and quiche. I rarely choose to order a sweet breakfast, but on this occassion the Nutella crepe with bananas and walnuts ($7.99) was calling my name. My husband went the way of the breakfast sandwich, choosing an everything bagel ($3.99) with ham, bacon, roasted red pepper, and cheddar cheese (all $.50 each). He also ordered a cold brew coffee ($2.70 one size).
I love coming to Pekara for the Turkish coffee ($3.50 one size) — it makes me feel fancy schmancy. The phrase “Turkish Coffee” refers to the way it’s prepared. You can google it on your own, but I’ll offer some tips: it’s unfiltered, so be prepared for a thick layer of grounds at the bottom. As I have to add sugar to mine, I gently stir and then allow it to sit a few seconds for the grounds to sink. I have read, though, that some choose to gently jiggle or stir as they go as it will help re-mix the grounds with the water, keeping it strong with each sip. And speaking of sip, this is meant to be sipped slowly, don’t shoot it like an espresso.
The food came out exceptionally fast and looked oh-so-scrumptious. My gently folded crepe was topped with whipped cream and was picture perfect. I knife and forked my way through the soft, chewy layers and bite by bite the filling had the perfect proportions. I really liked the crunch of walnuts throughout. Nutella and crepes are the perfect combination. The hubby’s breakfast sandwich tasted great too. I loved the addition of roasted red peppers. It adds such a fresh, bold flavor. The bacon was cooked perfectly and according to him, it's cheddar cheese or bust when it comes to breakfast sandwiches. The ‘everything’ on the everything bagel was a little too toasted, but the bread itself was still soft and chewy.
After devouring our breakfast in record time, we thought we’d take a walk around the downtown area since it was absolutely gorgeous outside. We took a stroll toward West Side Park and ended up meandering around there for a while. It’s such a beautiful park and it was pretty calm and quiet in the morning. The Champaign Park District has done a beautiful job with the flower beds and sculptures. I like seeing how everything changes and what is in bloom at different times of the year. The butterflies and bees seemed happy and so were we!
Before we left the downtown area, we had our hearts set on a couple of iced chai bombs ($4.71 for a large) from Café Kopi (which is just on the opposite side of the block from Pekara). What makes it a bomb? A shot of espresso. I’ve also heard these called a "dirty chai latte." I’m not a big coffee drinker so I really like this combo of coffee and tea. While it wasn’t quite lunchtime yet, we were feeling a little munchy so we grabbed a snack from their case. They had a container of flatbread crackers and hummus for $3.50 that looked like the most bang for our buck. There were lots of other goodies in the ‘on-the-go case’ like salads, salami and mozzarella slices, yogurt parfaits, and sandwiches. Their sandwiches are fantastic too and my all-time favorite is the Mediterranean. We sat at a little table by the window with our iced chais and hummus snack. The flatbread crackers were just a little chewy I think from being refrigerated, but they were still tasty and I loved the rosemary flavor. The chai bombs are great hot or cold. Chai lattes are one of my favorite drinks. If you were lucky enough to get one of their 10-drink bundles for $20 then I’d recommend using one on the chai bomb!
We couldn’t have asked for better weather for this breakfast date. Our Sunday Funday/Date Night total with tax and tip was $41.36. Downtown Champaign has lots of places that fit this category. Aroma Café is another favorite of ours and its located right next to Pekara Bakery and Bistro. These three coffee houses and Sam’s Café are open early, at least by 8 a.m., and there are a handful of other great places that open a little later where you can grab breakfast/brunch too. What’s your favorite breakfast spot in downtown Champaign?
Pekara Bakery and Bistro is located at 116 North Neil Street, Champaign and open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Café Kopi is located at 109 North Walnut Street, Champaign and open 7 a.m. to midnight daily.
All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.