Smile Politely


There are handful of places in C-U where I know I can pick something up on the fly and either impress some guests or hosts, or fulfill an indulgence craving. Need a nice loaf of bread for dinner party? A few pastries to win over the office grump? Mirabelle Fine Pastries, a European-inspired bakery, features sweet and savory applications with the essentials of a good life: bread, butter, and sugar.

Mirabelle offers a variety of breads, including baguettes and batards, whole wheat and fancy flavors, small and super boules. Breads range in price from $2.87 (baguettes) to a little more than $8 (super boules). The boules are adorably round; the super boule is huge, and would be a perfect serving vessel for a hearty soup dinner party. The breads I’ve sampled have all been really wonderful. Check out the killer olive bread — it’s the perfect soup or salad accompaniment. Go early to get the best selection.

For a quick — but not necessarily light — lunch, there are a few options. Although specifics change day-to-day, there are usually at least four savory items suitable for lunch. The BLT sandwich has been available on several of my visits (about $5). The generous baguette is stuffed with bacon, lettuce, and tomato and finished with mayo. These are pre-made and served at room temperature.

On my last visit, there was a tomato, pesto, and rosemary puff pastry ($3.22), also served at room temperature. Hot ptions almost always include some sort of focaccia. I ordered the pepperoni and Parmesan focaccia (almost like Sicilian pizza, about $5) and the ham and cheese croissant ($3.22), and took them to go.

(I should note that in good weather, there are a couple of tables outside where you can enjoy your food. But seating is quite limited, and in most cases you’re probably best eating as you walk to your car, or taking it home.)

The pepperoni focaccia was a massive rectangle loaded with cheese and cured meat atop oily bread. It was huge, and more than enough for two people to share. The abundance of toppings made it a bit soggy. I wasn’t able to eat it with my hands—this was a full on fork-and-knife (extra napkins) situation. Although it was soggy, the flavors were right, and it was quite the filling lunch. I found the cheese and pepperoni to be just a bit salty, but considering the amount of cheese and sliced pepperoni that was on that slab of bread, it was to be expected.

The ham and cheese croissant was also served warm. The knot of buttery, carefully layered dough encased an equally buttery knot of ham and Swiss cheese. This, too, was enough for two people. The pastry exterior was golden brown and just a bit crunchy. The inside, though, was soft as a pillow and unbelievably buttery. This fatty lubrication was further enhanced by the melted cheese, which oozed into the cracks not already filled by butter. The ham was salty and meaty, and each bite was a decadent, artery clogging experience of bliss. The best (and worst) part of the croissant was the ultra buttery bottom, where all of the extra butter and cheese fat crisped up the bottom layer of pastry.

There are sweet treats to meet all cravings. The chocolate chip cookies (about $1.50) are large, crispy, and chewy. Other baked goods like the ever-popular chocolate dipped almond horn, danishes, and turnovers make for excellent morning treats. There are also muffins and scones and coffee cake. For more traditional desserts, slices of cake (about $4-$5) come in a variety of flavors. You can generally find some fruity layer cakes and something chocolaty. The tiramisu isn’t really tiramisu, but rather a tiramisu-inspired layer cake. As long as you don’t get caught up on semantics, it’s quite enjoyable. The strawberry layer cake’s tender, spongy cake is nestled between strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting. Sweet and moist, it reminded me of an excellent wedding cake, one that could please many dessert lovers.

I’m also a fan of the house made biscotti ($5.94 per bag.) There are usually two flavors available, and all of the ones I’ve had have been quite delicious. These bags are perfect gifts for officemates and brunch party hosts.

I doubt many would pass judgment if you get a cup of coffee (about $2), open up the bag of biscotti, and enjoy both while sitting at the table outside. In fact, that sounds like a lovely idea, especially on a cooler late summer/early fall morning. 

There doesn’t appear to be a set baking schedule, which is quite annoying, actually. Sure, I love to be surprised, but it is helpful to have an idea of some basics you know you’ll be able to find regularly. The bakery’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated in months, so that is of no use for information or annoucements about available goods. 

While the food is consistently good at Mirabelle, the service leaves some room for improvement. In years past it’s been downright terrible and staff behind the counter have been less than pleasant. The bakery counter is quite shallow within the space of the building, and there have been plenty of times when I’d enter the empty store, wait patiently for a couple of minutes, call out for someone, continue to wait, and then leave empty handed. However, the last few times I’ve gone in I’ve been met with a courteous and patient smile, and the young women working behind the counter have at least appeared to be more than happy to answer questions and take my order. It seems like things are improving.

Mirabelle Fine Pastries in Downtown Urbana is one of the most delicious places in all of C-U. It’s one of those places I am compelled to visit whenever I’m in or near Downtown Urbana. This boulangerie-pâtisserie offers a variety of sweet and savory delights: from boules to biscotti, you’re sure to find something you like.

Mirabelle Fine Pastries is located at 124 W Main Street, Urbana, and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash and credit are accepted (credit is a $5 minimum).

All photos by Jessica Hammie.

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