Smile Politely

Bevier Cafe: Nutritious meets delicious

Ever wondered what it was like to eat at a cross between a restaurant and a classroom laboratory? No, I hadn’t either, that is until I heard about Bevier Café. Located inside of Bevier Hall on the University of Illinois campus, the café is run by Food Science and Human Nutrition students. After looking at the philosophy online, I noticed the healthy options on the menu, the picture of sliced vegetables, and the fact that it’s run by Nutrition students and expected it to be a café for health nuts. For most people the phrase healthy food has positive connotations, but for me it brings to mind my worst nightmare: salads. Like Ron Swanson, I believe salads are for rabbits, and healthy food should still taste good. Luckily, at the Bevier Café the options are varied, healthy, and delicious. 

I headed over to Bevier Hall between classes just before the café’s lunch hours began. I was there just over ten minutes before the doors opened, and a line had already formed. By the time the doors opened, which by my phone’s estimate was a minute early, the line was well over halfway down the hall. As I entered the café space, waiting in line for food was reminiscent of a typical school cafeteria. First you order, then walk down the line with your tray, picking out fruits, desserts, or sides at your discretion. The menu was divided into four parts: student prepared entrées, salads and wraps, featured sides, and desserts. The entrées offered two meat dishes and a vegetarian option (the first of which sorely tempted me): Herbed Pork Chop ($5.50) and Fish n’ Slaw Basket ($5.00), and Lemon Caper Manicotti ($5.00). Showing their health streak, the café’s salads and wraps options were more extensive, five compared to the three entrées, and the sides were health-oriented options including carrots ($.75) and roasted zucchini ($1.00), with only the crispy cut fries ($2.00) defying this trope. The café’s mission statement to serve healthy, fresh, and homemade food was clearly reflected in these delicious yet nutritious menu options.

I ordered the day’s special—grilled cheese and tomato soup—a childhood favorite. I picked up two slices of bread for added dipping options, a plate of two lemon glazed sugar cookies, and two wrapped chocolate chip cookies to go. I know what you’re thinking: early on-set diabetes. But two of those cookies were for my girlfriend… I swear. After paying a cheap $8.99 for this veritable feast, I was given a number and took a seat to await my order.

I noticed a few things while waiting. First, those ordering to go had a set of comfortable armchairs to sit in while waiting, which was a nice affectation for those in a rush to get a few moments of comfort. Second was the diversity of the customers. I had expected the café to be filled with your prototypical undergrad students grabbing a bite before class, but the clientele was as varied as the menu options. There were undergrads, but there were also grads, faculty, and what looked like a few community members on lunch break. As I continued to look around, my food arrived promptly accompanied with a warm smile from the server.

The grilled cheese and tomato soup worked together exceptionally well. When I dipped the grilled cheese into the soup, the buttery bread and melted cheese combined with the creamy tomato soup for a delicious effect. The bread was soft and fluffy, perfect for absorbing the velvety soup and giving moist, but not overly soppy, bites. There were only two downsides, and those have more to do with my own personal preference than anything else. I’m a cheesehead, and that absolutely does not mean a Packers fan. I like when my grilled cheese is nearly overflowing with cheesy goodness, and I found this sandwich a little underwhelming in that department. Once my dipping options were devoured (both sandwich and bread) I found it difficult to finish the tomato soup alone. While effectively seasoned, I’ve always found tomato soup at its best paired with grilled cheese and have never been one for eating it solo. The lemon glazed cookie I had was tasty, and the attractive glazing is what drew me in to begin with. However, I prefer when my cookies crumble gently rather than having to crunch them myself, and the lemon cookies were a bit crunchy for my tastes. The chocolate cookies were of the crumbling variety, and were a delicious end to my Bevier Café experience.

Overall, the service was fast, prices were cheap, the food was nutritious, and tastier than I have come to expect from healthy cafés, especially considering it’s run by students.

Bevier Café is located in Bevier Hall on the University of Illinois campus and is open Monday through Friday. Hot Breakfast is from 8-10:30 a.m.; Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; After Hours from 1-3 p.m.; and remains open for self-serve beverages and snacks. 

All photos by Michael Beauchamp. 

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