Smile Politely

Pancakes & Eggs: Sunday morning at Courier Café

Last Saturday evening, I set my alarm for 8 a.m. I had some worshipping to do, and my service started at 9 a.m. During the week it’s all business. Saturday mornings are for visiting the market (need to at least try to beat the crowds), and perhaps a weekend workout. Sunday mornings are sacred; they’re the only day of the week for me where there is absolutely nothing to do, and I can therefore do whatever I choose. Sundays are for breakfast.

I love breakfast food. Actually, to be more specific, I love pancakes, waffles, and any other carbohydrate-loaded food item typically associated with the morning meal. I generally deny myself these delicious items, as I’m mindful enough of my health to avoid incessant pancake-eating. Every so often, though, I want a big, carb-heavy breakfast.

This weekend, I coerced my spouse and a couple of friends into a 9 a.m. Sunday morning breakfast outing at Courier Café. This charming little restaurant is located in Urbana. It’s pretty much a diner, which I love because it reminds me of my youth. When you’re under twenty one and have no where to go on a Friday or Saturday night, you head to the diner – or at least that’s what you did when I was that age. There aren’t (m)any diners around here, so I’ll take what I can get.

If you’ve never been to Courier Café, you’re missing out. They serve plenty of breakfast options, and lunch/dinner/random meal options, too. In fact, the menu is kind of overwhelming, as there are a ridiculous number of choices. When it comes to breakfast, I’m pretty boring. I like pancakes and waffles, but I generally don’t like gussied up eggs. I’m sure the fancy egg options are tasty and delicious, but I didn’t order them. (If you did or do, comment below and tell us about your fancy egg experience.)

You may be wondering why I would choose such an early time to have breakfast. Every other time I’ve gone to Courier on a weekend, it’s been crowded and there’s been a wait. I figured that if we went around 9 a.m., we’d miss the after-church crowd and be seated immediately. I was right, of course.

Courier has two seating areas: the large front room, and the small back(ish) room. The front area is where you walk in. There are booths in the middle and tables on the perimeter. As you move toward the small back room, the lunch- and dinnertime salad bar is on your right. I don’t really know if you could call this area a room; it’s more like a few tables in the corner, away from everyone else, and super close to the kitchen. It’s kind of where you’d hope they seat the family with the screaming child, if you know what I mean. Anyway, even though there appeared to be open tables in the large, front room, we were seated in this back cubby area. It wasn’t so much of a big deal to me, but as the staff lunch prep picked up, it became loud and annoying. I did, however, learn how to properly (or so I assume) load up the ice in the salad bar.

The waitress was polite and friendly the entire meal. The first thing I ordered was a cup of coffee. The daily coffee special was cinnamon buttercream, which I ordered with mild hesitation. Sometimes flavored butterednuts-and-stuff coffee in the morning is not such a great way to wake up; it can be too sweet and dessert-y. The coffee was incredibly fragrant; the sweet smell was pretty powerful. Thankfully, it didn’t taste like butterednuts-and-stuff, and the sweet cinnamon smell was where it stopped. On my refill I got regular, and both the flavored and regular coffees were not particularly flavorful. They were a bit thin, but I’m not too much of a coffee snob, so I didn’t mind it all that much. I appreciate restaurants that serve coffee in coffee mugs, and not those little cups that need to be refilled 50 times. I like my coffee, I like it hot, and I want a full mug. Our waitress was on top of the coffee refills, which was much appreciated by our sleepy-eyed table.

After carefully reviewing all of the potential pancake-egg-meat-potatoes-toast combinations, I settled (not for the first time, admittedly) on the Cake and Egger, a combo platter of two pancakes (buttermilk or buckwheat), two eggs, and your choice of meat. As any good lapsed Catholic will tell you, there is no pleasure like that of self-denial and guilt, and thus I chose the buckwheat pancakes. (Actually, I genuinely enjoy buckwheat pancakes, perhaps even more than buttermilk.) Eggs were over-medium, bacon extra crispy. When the plates arrived—yes, plates—I was delighted. The eggs were appropriately cooked and the bacon was appropriately crispy. The pancakes were huge. In fact, they were enormous.

The eggs were just that—eggs. They were as I ordered, and I looked forward to dipping my pancakes into the runny yolk pooled on my plate. The bacon was salty and crispy; this is a necessary flavor when eating sweet syrup and buttery pancakes. There isn’t much else to say about the bacon and eggs: they were done well, and I’d order them again.

The pancakes, though, were another beast, and they were awesome. It’s pretty easy to make crappy pancakes, and buckwheat flour generally prefers more liquid, so they could have been a disaster. They were not only massively generous portions of two pancakes, but they were also thick and fluffy. They were nutty and a little earthy because they were buckwheat. They were also dense, but not in an overmixed, inedible, nasty way. They were sort of like a healthy cake with a larger crumb. They were filling and good. I rubbed them with butter and syrup, and with a little yolk bath, they were perfect. They absorbed the syrup and yolk, which made them a little mushy and awesome. Yolk-dipped pancakes may sound gross to you, and that’s ok, because you don’t have to eat them that way.

My spouse ordered the Cake and Egger also (aren’t we so cute?) with buttermilk pancakes. They, too, were the size of dinner plates. He drizzled them in syrup (no butter), and they were light, fluffy, cakey, and dense. They lived up to their pan-cake title without being too sweet. My only real complaint about breakfast is the syrup. It really needs to be pure maple syrup. I know it’s expensive, but I strongly dislike processed table syrup and how it has the potential to ruin good pancakes by soaking into the pancake and oversaturating it with designer imposter sweetness. Maple syrup is where it’s at.

Our friends ordered fancy egg dishes—well, sort of, at least. The Ham and Scrams, scrambled eggs with ham, side of bread choice, and potatoes was one dish. The other was the Spanish Omelette – an omelette stuffed with chorizo, onions andpeppers, and anejo and Chihuahua cheeses, all smothered in salsa. Quite frankly, the fancy omelettes are too much for me in the morning, but I did have a bite. It was very flavorful and super cheesy; the Spanish Omelette maker was a little salsa-happy, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. Their portions were generous, too. The omelette was obscenely large, and my friend packed half of it in a to-go box. Sadly, and perhaps embarrassingly, I had no leftovers to pack (that’s right, I scraped my plate).

We lingered at the table for a little longer than we should have, but surprisingly there wasn’t a wait at the door, so I didn’t feel so bad. The waitress wasn’t giving us the evil eye, either, which I genuinely appreciated.

I think that Courier Café has one of the best breakfasts in town, and their prices are totally reasonable. The Cake and Egger is only $7.25, or $6.50 without meat. The Spanish Omelette was the bank-breaker ringing in at a not-so-whopping $7.50. You can’t even buy a pack of chorizo for cheaper than that. (OK, well, maybe you can, but you see my point, yes?) Aside from the less than desirable seating situation, the service was good, the food was good, my coffee was hot, and my mug was always full. You can’t ask for much more.

Courier Café is open Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight.

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