Smile Politely

Generous savory and sweet breakfast at Sweet Basil Café

The cinnamon roll at Sweet Basil Cafe. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

I love everything about breakfast: cooking it, eating it, going out for it, and having breakfast for dinner. My doctor says it is the most important meal of the day. Of course, I’m sure he is referring to fruits, vegetables, zero-fat Greek yogurt, and whole grains — not bacon, corned beef hash, eggs, cinnamon rolls, and Bloody Marys. One of my fondest memories is waking up at my grandma’s house to the smell of bacon already cooking. In adulthood, I’ve added coffee brewing to one of the best morning aromas.

The exterior of Sweet Basil Cafe. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

So, I jumped at the chance to visit and write about Sweet Basil Café’s breakfast. What I found was great tasting food, stunning presentations, and portions so large, we pretty much got two meals for one.

The cinnamon roll at Sweet Basil Cafe with a cupcake latte. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

My wife and I started with the giant cinnamon roll ($8). When Sweet Basil Café’s menu says giant, they mean it. I saw a guy get the giant burrito, and he maybe finished half of it. This roll not only was giant, but it also came with strawberries, candied pecans, and powdered sugar. Served with a wonderful cinnamon butter and cream cheese frosting on the side, the cinnamon roll was perfectly sweet and soft. The strawberries added a tremendous freshness and brightness to the roll, and it was a great start to the day.

A latte in a plastic cup with a plastic straw. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

With our cinnamon roll, I had a cupcake latte ($5.50). It was espresso with cupcake syrup over ice. Sweet Basil has 23 specialty drinks to choose from, and I had a hard time deciding but figured I can’t go wrong with a cupcake-flavored latte. From a choice of hot or cold, I chose cold. There’s a choice of with or without whip, but how could I get a cupcake latte and not get the whipped cream? The drink had a wonderful espresso flavor balanced with the chocolate cupcake flavor. Just imagine drinking a cupcake.

The espresso specialty drinks menu. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

If chocolate isn’t your thing, there are 22 other options.

The French toast at Sweet Basil Cafe. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

My wife ordered the blackberry stuffed French toast ($16). This was French toast stuffed with blackberry cream cheese, topped with blackberry glaze, fresh blackberries, and whipped cream. The presentation of this dish was stunning. It’s one of those dishes you see go by your table and immediately ask the server what it is so that you can order it. It had wonderfully cooked French toast nestled and topped with fresh blackberries and blackberry glaze. My wife also knew no way she was finishing it. To call it a generous serving doesn’t do it justice. The French toast was crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and ooey gooey with that scrumptious blackberry cream cheese. She took half of it home so our son could enjoy it, and he gave it a ringing endorsement.

The Irish skillet and side of toast. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

I had the Irish skillet ($18), hash browns topped with corned beef hash, onions, Swiss cheese, and two eggs any style with a choice of toast or pancakes. I chose poached eggs and marble rye toast. The poach on the eggs was perfect. There are few things more satisfying than breaking a perfectly cooked egg and letting the yolk drip down hash like golden lava. The corned beef hash was very flavorful, and like the hashbrowns under it, it had a nice crisp from the flattop.

Like my wife, I took half home and enjoyed cheffing up the leftovers the following morning.

A slice of toast with two bites taken out of it. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

Toast seems benign to give its own paragraph, but here it goes. I have a friend named Fred who — when he orders toast — instructs the server that the toast needs to be buttered properly. He wants a decent amount of butter, fully melted, and covering the entire piece of toast. None of this half-melted square of butter in the middle. His record of success is not too good; maybe Fred needs to tip more. Anyway, Fred would approve of Sweet Basil Café’s toast (and I gave no said instructions). The marble rye was nice and thick and perfectly toasted with generously melted butter covering both pieces. All kidding Fred aside, It seems like a minor detail, but great restaurants pay attention to all the details.

The interior of a Champaign diner. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

Sweet Basil Café was a wonderful dining experience. The facility was big, roomy, and comfortable. They have an open kitchen, so diners can see the work going into the meals.

The interior of Sweet Basil Cafe. Photo by Carl Busch.
Carl Busch

The waitstaff was friendly, knowledgeable, and not afraid to make recommendations should someone be challenged on what to order on their menu. They are on Marketview Drive in the old TGIFriday’s building — or, if you are an old townie like me, the old Chevy’s building. They also have locations in Peoria, Springfield, Skokie, Rockford, Aurora, and Algonquin.

Sweet Basil Café of Champaign
103 W. Marketview Drive
7 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily

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