In the eight-ish months since opening, Avionics has become an essential part of our eating and drinking community. Shouldered with the responsibility of being the sole Flying Machine Coffee outpost, Avionics has exceeded the task: The coffee is just as good as it was at the Urbana location, and it has a food menu. No, Avionics is not really the place for wary students or tenure track assistant professors to post up for hours on end as they used to at Cafeteria & Co./Flying Machine Coffee (though some do). There isn’t that kind of space or seating — you find neither cafeteria-style tables and stools nor cushy, oversized chairs. This isn’t really the place to park your behind as you crunch out your next chapter. It is the place to meet someone for a cuppa, some lunch, or for a meeting. (Guilty on all counts.)
Page Roasting Company shares the space — you’ll find that delicious coffee available by the cup and the bag. Avionics offers a variety of fancy caffeinated beverages ($5.25), my favorite of which is still the Rosemary Mocha. In close second is the Harvest Moon (saffron, sea salt, maple syrup). The Sweet Heat Latte is just as delicious, and makes for an invigorating afternoon pick me up. The last main menu specialty drink is the Green Phoenix (matcha tea, vanilla, lemon ash), which I’m sure is tasty. Standard coffee drinks are equally good ($2-$5.25).
The food menu includes all day breakfast as well as lunch items (11 a.m. to close), with options for omnivores and vegans alike. The first thing I ate at Avionics was the avocado stack ($8): a grits cake topped with avocado, a soft boiled egg, and greens. It’s an incredible looking and tasting dish — there’s a bit of fruit jam or compote on the bottom of the plate, and the sweetness ties together the various flavors held above incredibly successfully. The many textures — the grittiness of the grits, the creaminess of the avocado and the viscosity of the egg — all work in harmony for a very enjoyable eating experience. If you’re only going to eat one thing at Avionics, ever, it must be the avocado stack.
If you have other opportunities to eat at Avionics (and you should create those opportunities), you won’t be disappointed. The breakfast sandwich ($6) is a solid take on a classic: eggs, muenster, veggie cream cheese, tomatoes, and greens. It’s hefty and delicious; the bit of veggies makes it feel like you’re getting a well-balanced meal for breakfast. I’ve had it a couple of times, and the bread varies.
drip coffee, egg sandwich
The vegan rice bowl ($7.50; balsamic, sweet potato, avocado, arugula, salsa seca, orange marmalade) offered a serious punch of flavor for a breakfast item. In my notes I wrote “surprising,” which is to say, I found the flavors of this dish to be particularly powerful and unexpected. Though the menu indicated balsamic, I tasted more mustard, so perhaps the dressing was subbed out that day. The salsa seca (dry seed and nut mix) brought some crunchy bits to an otherwise soft-textured dish. Like the other menu items, this was a hearty way to start the day. I’d certainly eat it again, and it would also make for a really nice side salad with some of the lunch items, or a shared dish if dining with friends.
vegan rice bowl
The roasted root sandwich (lunch menu, $8.50), was as yummy as it was colorful. The combo of beets and goat cheese is a classic for a reason — the tang of the goat cheese mellows the earthiness of the beets. Spicy arugula and caramelized onions further balanced the flavors and textures of the sandwich. The caramelized onions were absolutely delicious. I could probably eat a bowl of them on their own.
roasted root sandwich with farro salad
I selected farro salad as the side to accompany my sandwich. The farro was perfectly cooked; it still had that chewy yet tender consistency. Herbs, tomatoes, and red onion were the other components; everything was tossed in a carrot-ginger dressing. There were too many pieces of red onion in the small serving; I picked them out so they didn’t overpower everything else. The dressing was so, so delicious; the ginger really brought everything together. The farro salad would make a nice bed for a soft boiled egg…perhaps a future brunch item?
I’ve not been disappointed by the food I’ve had at Avionics. The menu shifts seasonally, but not in that pretentious, fake, (where’s the) farm-to-table way. Instead, there are specials when special ingredients are available, and the menu changes reflect some seasonality, but includes nothing too fleeting that makes you wonder where and how and why they continue to procure such ingredients. A keen example of this is the cherry blossom shrub ($5.25) — a refreshing beverage made with drinking vinegar (apple cider vinegar). Using the cherry blossoms donated from trees at Japan House, Avionics made a syrup for the shrub. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
cherry blossom shrub
lavender Lucky Pierre doughnut, Mikado
Seasonal cold drinks ($5.25) are also available. This menu also shifts, depending on what is available (like the aforementioned shrub). I had the Mikado (peach tea, cherry juice, fresh lime) and it was ever-so-slightly sweet and refreshing. I recommend it.
Avionics’ newest undertaking is brunch, which kicks off this Sunday, June 17th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Menu items include a few things from the regular menu as well as brunch specials like a pork belly dish, lox tartare, and French toast (prices $7-$13).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Avionics also serves up Lucky Pierre Doughnuts, which are among the best doughnuts in C-U. There are some other pastries (scones, muffins, it varies) available daily, too.
Avionics provides thoughtful and delicious food and beverage menus. It’s the perfect option for breakfast or lunch, or if you need to grab a Lucky Pierre doughnut. Parking in the area is relatively easy, especially when the U of I campus is free of students. It’s become one of my favorite places to go, especially with visitors. It’s a pretty chill environment, without the snobbery and contrived sloppiness of some fancy coffee spots.
202 S First St
M-F 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sa + Su 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Photos by Jessica Hammie