Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coco Berry Cafe, Aurora

Coco Berry Cafe
4250 Fox Valley Center Drive
Aurora, IL 60504

January 27, 2008


We spotted this place the last time we went out to the Fox Valley Mall and decided to give it a try. We had some difficulty finding it again, because all we remembered was that it was near the entrance to one of the large department stores, but it was worth the trouble. Coco Berry is much classier than it looks on the outside. Really spacious, clean and bright. There was a host waiting to seat us when we walked in the door, and we didn't have to wait more than a minute or two for the waitress. Of course, it was early afternoon on a Tuesday and there were only a couple other customers in the restaurant. I imagine it's a little busier on a weekend.

I got the cinnamon roll french toast and a side order of sausages. Very tasty. Not quite as good as Mother's cinnamon roll french toast, but I have yet to find anything to compete with that. There were lots of other interesting things on the menu too, so I'll probably come back here to try some of their other entrees.


Joe here. I'm not sure just how long the Coco Berry Cafe has been open for business. I noticed it for the first time just before Christmas, and an encouraging profile appeared in the Beacon News a few weeks later. The name alone promises a sweet refuge from the frigid winter cold, a cozy and decadent oasis of hot and steamy treats. Look closer and you'll find more than just comfort food. Coco Berry Cafe offers much more.

To get the most out of our experience, we probably should have ordered some of their cocoa. Our server suggested some, or a latte, but we passed for common coffee. I'd venture to guess that their signature beverages are worth trying; there's a big coffee bar with tall in the front of the restaurant made just for their consumption. The picture I have of it is the only one I was able to take of the interior of the restaurant. The seating areas are large and spacious but not very photogenic and would require a wide angle lens to properly capture.


I ordered the wildberry pancakes. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries top off five (count 'em, five) satisfying and fluffy pancakes. There's a lot here, so much that I shouldn't complain that there wasn't any fruit baked into the pancakes themselves. You'll find lots of variations on this dish from pancake house to pancake house. At Coco Berry Cafe, the emphasis seems to be on freshness and subtlety, not on drowning their cakes in fruit sauce to win over the taste buds of sugar-addicted customers. But perhaps there are plenty of examples to the contrary that I haven't sampled yet.


Though the prices are a little on the high end and the ambiance felt a little on sterile side (probably less so depending on where you're seated/how busy the restaurant is), I enjoyed our visit to the Coco Berry Cafe. In the sea of chain restaurants that orbit the Fox Valley Mall (sorry "Westfield Shoppingtown"), Coco Berry brings a welcome personal touch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jam n Jelly Cafe, Darien

Jam n Jelly Cafe
7511 Lemont Rd
Darien, IL 60561

January 6 and 13, 2009


It's been nearly a year since Shea Cafe closed its doors, leaving the location at 7511 Lemont Road waiting for a new tenant. We anticipated something dull and useless like a loan office or a mattress showroom. What we got was... another restaurant, the third there in almost three years. It's a mystery why Lemont Street Cafe and Shea Cafe closed. As regular connoisseurs of their breakfast and lunches, we're pretty confident that it wasn't because of the quality of their food. But this sets the bar pretty high for Jam n Jelly. Just to stay in business, it reasons to assume, they'll have to somehow top their predecessors' efforts in almost every way. Will they succeed? Only time will tell.

Our first visits to JnJ gave us reasons to be optimistic. The restaurant has been renovated yet again, with a new pallate of gentle colors on the walls and pleasant decor hanging here and there. All the windows make sure that your meal is spent in pleasant (but never overwhelming) sunlight. Some of the servers (and possibly other staff) from Shea Cafe are back, bringing the same friendly service that we enjoyed before. Altogether, this is a comfortable and inviting place to spend a meal's time. Really don't know how I feel about the all-80's radio station that was playing on the overhead speakers during both of our visits, but at least it wasn't the horrible Jack-FM.

On the menu you'll find everything from traditional favorites to decadent breakfast treats that within less than a fortnight, surely ruined scores of healthy New Year's resolutions. One of the tamest of these are the PB&J cakes, covered in grape jelly and peanut butter chips. If you love peanut butter and jelly, you'll love these. Personally, after a few bites I'd really had enough, but this has more to do with unpleasant elementary school-age associations I still hold between brown bag lunches and chronic childhood headaches, not because of any failures on the part of the fine cooks.

JnJPBandJCakes JnJBlueberryPancakes

On my second visit a week later I ordered a plate of blueberry pancakes. Certainly not as adventurous of an entree but pretty good by my own standards. Plenty of blueberries cooked into the pancakes, along with a blueberry topping and a cup of warm, whipped butter. No surprises here, but that's just fine.

Overall, dining a Jam n Jelly Cafe is a wholly pleasant experience, with a great atmosphere and creative entrees that will leave you satisfied. I've yet to sample any of their more traditional breakfasts, but it's safe to say that we'll be going back to do so sometime in the near future. If Jam n Jelly shares the same unfortunate fate as its predecessors, then it's probably safe to blame the building itself on a continued lack of success, not the businesses inside it.


Ayinsan here. I was rather excited to see a new pancake house opening in the location of the now-extinct Shea Cafe...which was formerly Lemont Street Cafe, which was formerly another breakfast place whose name I can't remember (The Egg and I, or something quirky like that). Here's hoping this one lasts. Fourth time's the charm. Right?

This restaurant has a very good, breakfasty-sounding name, which is usually a good sign. Makes it seem more like a true pancake house as opposed to a family restaurant that just happens to serve pancakes round the clock...and real pancake houses tend to offer a better selection of breakfast foods. Sure enough, Jam and Jelly's menu has a lot to choose from, offering such creative options as PB&J pancakes, S'mores pancakes, turtle pancakes (Peanuts and caramel on a pancake? You bet!), banana bread french toast, and many more.

True to their name, they also have a selection of jams and jellies for sale, including some unusual options. Jalapeno jam? Worth a try, I suppose.


On my first visit here I ordered the banana bread french toast, which was quite decadent. I had a few bites of Joe's PB&J pancakes as well. The first two bites were absolutely delicious. After the third or fourth bite, it was almost too much sweetness. For me, that's really saying something. I'm a terrible sugar junkie. I'd probably chug maple syrup straight from the bottle and eat bowls of buttercream frosting with a spoon if not for the knowledge that such habits would soon turn me into an orb-shaped jelly creature with the arteries of a ninety-year-old. Even so, I'm not sure I could finish a plate of PB&J pancakes on my own. The sudden spike in my blood sugar would probably cause all my neurons to spontaneously combust or something. It's very sweet--a stack of pancakes slathered with warm grape jelly and peanut butter chips.


On my next visit, I tried the Have Somore Cakes (S'mores pancakes) along with some eggs, sausage links and bacon. The eggs and sausage were both above average, but the bacon was rather dry. As for the S'mores pancakes? Well, if you've ever had chocolate chip pancakes, they're rather like that, but garnished with mini-marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers. Pretty good, but not the mind-blowing experience I was expecting. Personally, if I were making S'mores pancakes, I'd cook the marshmallows right into the pancakes so they melted and mixed with the chocolate into a gooey sludge of delight.

In any case, this is a good place to visit if you're feeling adventurous and want something a little different than the ol' pancakes, bacon and eggs combo...though they have the old favorites, too, along with a variety of lunch and dinner options. I'll definitely be coming back here.