I began this quest to discover the variety of French toast offered in our community several months ago. It’s quite the labor of love, but I must confess I’m glad it is at an end (and so is my waistline). As mentioned previously, French toast isn’t French at all but most likely originated in the Roman Empire( or at least its written history does). The truth may never be known. I also doubt there will be a movement to correct menus throughout the region to pan dulcis either.
Since part one of this article covered all of the important details lets jump right in to the next establishment. Again, for those of you that don’t remember from before, these are not listed in any special order or rank; I did try and reverse the trend from before and go from complex to traditional mostly for symmetry (for my left brain). I also probably missed a spot or two, so this isn’t comprehensive either.
V. Picasso is a relative new comer to the Champaign food scene (see here, and here); however, the owners are anything but. Brought to you by Victor Fuentes (think Wedge, El Toro, Pink Pig) and Traci Lipps of Willow Creek Farm and Pink Pig, it is a great example of farm-to-table. This is not a short order diner, so expect changing menus, higher prices, and some more artistic interpretation of classic dishes, none of which are bad things. The French toast is no exception either, made with challah bread and finished with a sweet lemon glaze and chopped walnuts (this changes from time to time, but I was told the challah will be a constant)…I was thoroughly impressed. The plate came with two large pieces cooked perfectly. For $12 it’s a good dish to share with the table and compliments the saltiness of the other brunch items quite well.
122 N Neil St
Sa + Su 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Huaraches Moroleon is serving up some French toast that could double for a dessert — look at this plate! The bread appears to be thick-sliced French loaf. Decorated with a caramel sauce, whipped cream, and a dusting of powdered sugar, this will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. At four slices for $4.99 or three slices included with the platter for $7.99, it’s a killer deal. The platter comes with two bacon, two sausage, two eggs your way, diced potatoes and choice of pancakes or French toast…mmm, I’m getting hungry thinking about it. Make sure to add Huaraches Moroleon to your regular breakfast rotation, you won’t be disappointed (more info here).
805 Philo Rd
8 a.m. daily
I’ll admit this next location is a bit of a surprise, as I would have never figured a restaurant inside a grocery store would put out consistently good food. I don’t know if that’s a rational thought or not — they have all the ingredients under one roof. It’s also efficient to get a meal before shopping for food, that way I tend to pull fewer impulse buys from the shelf. The Farmhouse Restaurant is located on the south end of the store and they are open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays. As for their French toast: $6 will get you five slices of cinnamon swirl, which is a remarkably good deal in the local French toast market. I find the need to share with friends because I also need to order other breakfast foods. On buffet days, sharing is a necessity.
2029 S Neil St
Breakfast daily 6 to11 a.m.
I returned to Urbana for one of my favorite places for breakfast or lunch (mentioned here). Courier serves up home style favorites and their French toast is no exception. Courier makes their bread in-house, and in several varieties. They will dredge and fry up any of their breads for you, just ask. Since I was doing a French toast tour I though it only proper to try a variety, and the kitchen accommodated. Sourdough, country white, honey wheat, and raisin; all were great choices and you get three slices for $6.25. I chose sourdough, white, and raisin. Hands down my favorite was the raisin, maybe because it was a first experience with fruit in the bread on this journey. Regardless of the bread you choose, you will be happy.
111 N Race St
7 a.m. daily
At this point, I know there are a few die-hard Champaign-Urbana food fans just champing at the bit to point out a favorite place that I may have forgotten — rest assured, I did not! I also said at the beginning when I said I was not writing about these establishments in any order or ranking; well I lied about that too. This last place touts the best French toast in C-U. I happen to agree. In fact it’s the second item on their menu: Gus’ Famous French Toast. Sam's is not a flashy place or pretentions place, it’s delightfully low key and simple. They only take cash, so come prepared. Don’t worry though — they have some of the lowest prices in town so it won’t break the bank. From what I can tell, they use basic white bread, but dredge it in a batter that is more akin to pancakes than an egg and milk bath. Some might argue that this isn’t really French toast at all, but some freakish hybrid of the breakfast underworld here to take your children and maybe your soul, but I say it still counts because it is so delicious and for $4.35 who cares. Additionally, I can’t tell if it was the other food I ordered with it or just a little love from the griddle gods, but there was a slight saltiness to accompany the sweetened batter that enveloped the plain white bread…no wonder it’s famous!
115 N Walnut St
M-F 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sa 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Su 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Whether you agree with my choices or not, you have to admit Champaign-Urbana offers a wide array of choices for those with a breakfast sweet tooth. Take a tour for yourself, but be warned! I am a professional and some of these stunts may be hazardous to your health; try spreading it out a bit. Perhaps when I die the previously coined French Country stack will be renamed in my memory — I just hope they remember the apostrophe so several millennia from now people aren’t confused on the true origin. Although if Schaffer’s stack becomes a common thing, civilization may fold from myriad heart complications; with any luck there will be a cure for that!
Photos by Rob Schaffer