With Hammerhead Coffee under new management, I thought it a good idea to pay a visit and try out their food menu. Located on the first floor of the Latitude Apartment complexes on University Avenue, I thought parking would be easy to find. Unfortunately, the meters a block away from Hammerhead Coffee all failed to register with my MobileMeter app. Without any spare change, I drove a block or so north and parked on a residential street. After a longer and colder walk than I expected, I was struck by the quiet, airy interior of the coffee shop. The high ceilings gave the impression of a much larger space, helping excess noise diffuse throughout the room. Furthermore, the tables made of pitted wood and iron piping contribute to the rustic, quiet atmosphere. Although I chose not to sit on the couches, they certainly looked like a comfortable way to spend an afternoon reading. 

Over at the counter, I placed my order for several warm, pressed bagel sandwiches with a lox and cream cheese bagel ($8) being the first of these. Taken from the belly of a salmon and salt-cured, lox is a staple of bagel shops. Served cold, my lox came with cream cheese liberally spread on a warm, toasted everything bagel. Although I was concerned the toasting would be surface level only, the warm press Hammerhead Coffee used toasted the top and bottom of each half of my bagel, leaving just a thin, soft layer in the middle of each half. The mild, fatty, and very tender salmon blended delightfully well with the rich cream cheese. I was even left with a slight savory aftertaste from the everything bagel after each bite I took. Although a bit pricey, I enjoyed treating myself to this sandwich experience.

Switching things up quite a bit, I took a bite of my Elvis Presley bagel ($7) which was also on an everything bagel. With this sandwich, the sweet bananas blended together with the sticky peanut butter and juicy, savory bacon to make a flavor profile I don’t normally experience. Eating bacon this way feels more like eating a honeyed ham, as the bacon was well-cooked, yet not crispy, and the banana and peanut butter combine into something much more substantial than either on their own. More than a little messy, I was happy with this pressed bagel, although I certainly wouldn’t want to eat a bagel this rich everyday.

Skewing even more towards the sweet, I was very interested to try the strawberry nutella bagel ($5). Since I hadn’t eaten Nutella for years at the time of this review, I was a bit concerned I’d find this bagel too strong. Although this bagel was as sweet as I’d feared, it didn’t bother me as I expected. Nutella and strawberries are both sweet, but in this case the Nutella warmed by the pressing process and the strawberries still cool from refrigeration worked in the favor of this bagel. Nestled between two crunchy bagel halves, I appreciated the texture variance on display thanks to the gooey, sticky hazelnut spread and the crispy, fresh-tasting berries. Despite this bagel being a bit on the lighter side of things, it proved the clear winner for me thanks to the refreshing taste and lower price point.

As I finished my last everything bagel sandwich, I sadly faced the reality of the cold, harsh outdoors once again. Even though I doubt I will be eating three bagel sandwiches at Hammerhead Coffee in one sitting again, I wouldn’t say no to one along with some of their coffee. Although they plan on sticking to just their bagels for savory food for the moment, I hope they find a way to include more substantial items at their University Avenue location. In the meantime, I’ll settle for their bagels, yogurt from their mini-fridge, and cookies from the display case.

Hammerhead Coffee
608 E University Ave
Champaign
M + W-Su 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tu 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Photos by Matthew Macomber