January 12th, 2011

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Review: Das Café

Tonight we went out for supper as a birthday celebration for my partner Doug and for my mother, their birthdays being a week apart.  We ate at Das Café in Urbana, IL.  This restaurant favors German food, though it also has French and a few other items -- the tagline is "Eclectic European Lunch and Dinner."  By the way, allykat ...?  I've hung around you enough in LJ that I was trying to translate the German parts of the menu, and wishing you were there.  ;)

The menu categories are Breakfast, Cold Sandwiches & Wraps, Homemade Soups, Hot Sandwiches, Salads, and German Dinners.  Bonus points for serving breakfast items all day; I love restaurants that do that.  Variously we ordered the House Scramble, French Onion Soup, Paris-Texas Panini, Pastrami Reuben Panini on Marbled Rye, Sweet Potato Fries, Potato Salad, Pork Schnitzel Oskar, and Bohemian Schnitzel.  Side dishes were red cabbage, sauerkraut, spatzle, bratkartoffeln, and potato pancakes.  I had the House Scramble: scrambled egg on baguette, usually topped with smoked salmon but they were out so it came with bacon.  That was really good; I'd like to try it again with the salmon.  I also got to sample the Pork Schnitzel Oskar that Doug ordered, which is breaded pork topped with crab meat and asparagus and hollandaise sauce; also really good. 

The bratkartoffeln side is sliced potatoes fried with bacon and onion; among the best fried potatoes I've ever had.  One of the morning cooks had made that dish.  The sauerkraut is the sweet variety, very tasty.  Note that the prevailing meat is pig; if you like cooked pig variants then you'll love this restaurant, but if not then you'll need to read the menu carefully to find something else.  Dessert was ... hm, we didn't write this down, carrot cake and cinnamon bun, I think.  They had a raspberry Linzer that I'd like to try sometime.  The carrot cake was made with real carrots  and cream cheese icing, quite delectable.  Oh, and they have a very nice selection of sodas and beers; Doug picked out the butterscotch root beer.  The top note is root beer, the middle is very broad butterscotch, and the bottom note is root beer again.  It goes great with the pork things.  

Overall, this was the best and most authentic German food I've had since Mexico City.  (Long story short: the other little Americanos wanted to go to Burger Boy, I threw a tantrum, and one of our teachers offered to take me to his favorite restaurant, which happened to be a German one.  It was splendid, and run by actual Germans.)  We are very much inclined to go back for more.

The prices vary from reasonable to bargain.  Several of the breakfast items are under $5, most of the lunches and sandwich stuffs are around $7, and the dinners (entree w/2 sides) are $10.95.  The sampler platter is $15.95.  For this you get a respectable amount of food that is quite high quality.  Atmosphere is casual, which suits us just fine.  The restaurant is cozy, with small tables, but it's possible to pull them together for groups -- there were six of us and we were perfectly comfortable.

Tonight's head cook was Stephanie Haddad.  We were all duly impressed with her skill.  (She's an artist too.  How cool is that?  I like the striped "Balance" paintings.)  The restaurant's owner is Pete Schnabel.  The theme was inspired by German/French heritage in his family.  Yep, that's a good combination.  It seems a little odd when you first think about it, but then consider -- there are some light and fancy things from the French side, and some hearty and straightforward things from the German side, and some stuff brought in from other European influences.  It makes a nice spectrum.

Highly recommended.  I haven't eaten at a lot of places that were better than this, and almost all of those were a LOT more expensive.  If you're within driving distance of Champaign-Urbana, this place is well worth a stop for dinner, and presumably for lunch.  We're planning to test out the lunch options too.