As a grad student, there is perhaps nothing as essential to my sanity (and productivity) as a good, reliable coffee shop. There’s nothing better than a Sunday afternoon spent holed up in a local café, and I am constantly on the lookout for the proverbial coffee shop trifecta: relaxing ambiance, strong coffee, and something delicious to snack on.


From across First Street, there is a two-story brick building. On the first floor, there is a sign for Flying Machine Avionics, and a black sedan parked in a metered spot in front of the coffee shop Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

Tucked away on First and East Clark Street, Flying Machine Avionics meets all three of my criteria, and my partner and I recently spent a rainy Monday afternoon sipping delicious coffee and indulging in some wonderful baked goods.

A wood paneled counter is shaped like an L. Two baristas are busy making coffee orders. Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

There was immediately a warm, welcoming feeling as I walked in to Avionics: from the exposed brick interior to the elegant wooden coffee bar and chalkboard menus, Inside, there were shared tables and bar stools. I felt beckoned to come in and relax, whether to work, read, or catch up with a friend. The inviting smell of coffee permeated when we walked in the door. The menu here is not extensive, but by no means is it restrictive; it offers an ideal selection of food and drinks (caffeinated or otherwise).

 

On a brown wooden table, there is a white plate with a cinnamon walnut scone. Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

My first priority is always a sugary baked good. The cinnamon walnut scone ($3.25) immediately caught my eye. A light, buttery pastry with just the right amount of cinnamon, the scone was the perfect pick-me-up for a rainy day. Each bite contained a mouthful of flaky deliciousness. As my partner can confirm, I repeatedly tried to save some for later — and repeatedly failed. I mean, a scone only stays good for so long, right? Fortunately, I had another baked good and some coffee to try.

On a brown wooden counter, there is a white cup of cappuccino with a perfect foam top. Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

I paired my comforting treat with an 8 ounce cappuccino ($4.00). I typically do not stray from black coffee, but when I’m feeling indulgent, I enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon. Avionic's cappuccino had the perfect balance of espresso and foam with a bold espresso taste. It was an ideal complement to the cinnamon walnut scone, and I highly recommend the pairing.

A glass cup of drip coffee sits on a counter at Flying Machine Avionics. Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

My partner stuck with a simpler beverage; she ordered the 12 ounce drip coffee ($2.50). Although I, of course, had to sample it, but she wanted to share what she thought. She thought it was a super smooth, eminently flavorful cup of coffee. It was the perfect pick-me-up without being too bold or assertive. For coffee enthusiasts out there, you will like the coffee at Avionics.

On a brown table, there is a mini loaf of zucchini bread on a small white circular plate. Photo by Rafay Khan.Photo by Rafay Khan.

Finally, I tried a slice of the zucchini bread ($3.50). As a disclaimer, I have never had zucchini bread before, and a part of me expected it to taste like zucchini. Fortunately, that was not how my experience went at all. The zucchini bread was moist and hearty with a wonderful caramelized crust. While it was sweeter than I expected, it was certainly not too sweet, providing just the right amount of sugar to complement coffee.

The C-U area boasts a number of excellent coffee shops, and Flying Machine Avionics is among the upper echelon. I will definitely be sampling more of their offerings the next time I go in.

Flying Machine Avionics
202 S First St
Champaign
M-F 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Top image by Rafay Khan.