Tucked away in the University of Illinois College of Law building lies Jitters Cafe, the casual dining cafe where law students can get some fuel. Although I don’t typically frequent the area around Peabody and Fourth, Jitters Cafe offered me a perspective into a new corner of campus. Nestled into the far end of the Law Building, the cafeteria setup in which Jitters Cafe dresses itself allows for a very casual and welcoming atmosphere.
As I waited for my friend to arrive, my gaze lolled between the menu and the bakery display while I strolled from the cash register to the open display refrigerator decorated in cold sandwiches and salads. I felt awkward as the staff waited behind the counter and the service line grew shorter until it was just me and the cashier in the establishment. When I quickly apologized for not ordering and that I was waiting until my friend came, the cashier just laughed in relief before adding that she was worried that she had forgotten my order and that I was still waiting for it. It was nice to see the people who work at Jitters exhibiting an enthusiasm that you don’t really witness in other campus dining areas; they’re not downcast with a lack of energy, and their approachable attutudes make this casual spot for food understandably comfortable.
Once my friend had gotten to Jitters and we were ready to order, I got the vegan southwest wrap ($5.50) with a blended coffee ($1.60) while my friend ordered the chicken and andouille gumbo ($3) with the pumpkin pie overnight oats ($2.75), which was also vegan. The vegan options that the cafe offered were a pleasant surprise. When I studied abroad in England, restaurants were abundant with vegan choices. Now that I’m back in the States, it’s hard to see much diversity in protein options or dietary flexibility at many establishments. Even though I’m not vegan, I like ordering vegan foods because of the creativity they offer.
The vegan southwest wrap was bundled in plastic wrap. Because it’s served cold, the tangy yellow tortilla’s scent was muted in its envelope of plastic, even after unwrapped. Although the smell was reminiscent of Chipotle flour wraps, the crunch of the lettuce and onions created a bright bite because the vegetables inside were still fresh despite the rice being a little too hard. Although not a culinary revelation, the food was filling enough through the creaminess of the beans spread on the tongue and the slight spiciness from the tortilla.
The gumbo bathed in a fatty broth that coated the mouth. It offered a hint of spice that wasn’t overwhelming. As one of the soups of the day, the gumbo remained a satisfying option packaged neatly in a portable container for anyone who either would want to dine in or get it to-go.
Of all the food eaten, the overnight oats was comparably more bland. Even with its pumpkin spices, there was not much flavor. However, if you wanted to make a vegan swap for your yogurt, it’s not a bad decision since the overnight oats still fulfills that sweet craving.
Between the food and the drinks, the coffee stood with the most flavor. The blended coffee is served through a Starbucks coffee machine that offers the choice of a blonde, medium, or dark roast — I chose the Caffe Verona, a dark roast. I’m not a regular coffee drinker, to say the least, and I don’t really like the acidic quality of most hot coffees, so it was pleasant to come across the spicy and clear flavor of the cup upon first sip. The dark roast had a rich flavor that coats the tongue like molasses, and the coffee had a brightness bloom in the back of the throat, giving it some citrus-like notes. I didn’t add any milk, yet the texture was still silky and smooth without an acidic bite.
With a casual atmosphere and a friendly staff, Jitters Cafe is nice if you’re nearby or making a trip to Krannert Art Museum. The food is similar to other campus dining options, so if you’re in a hurry, it’s a familiarly casual spot to stop for a quick bite and coffee in the company of friends.
504 E Pennsylvania Ave
Through December 10: M-Th 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; F 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
December 11-19: M-F 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Closed December 20 – January 20
Photos by Elaine Sine