It’s no secret that if you mention The Bread Company on Goodwin to locals, most will mention how the food is good, but the service is slow. A few months ago I had brunch there and was impressed by the food and the improvement in service. A few weeks ago, I returned with a large group for dinner. It was a last minute thing, and a quick phone call ahead secured us a table for seven. I was super hopeful that the past was in the past and a new Super Service mentality had taken hold. It was a leisurely dinner with a sizable group of friends; we were seated in the back room, which was dimly lit and private (aside from other patrons visiting the restrooms, in front of which we were seated). The conversation was lively and drinks were flowing. We shared food and stories, and it was a lovely way to linger over a table. In hindsight, the service was a little slow, but no one was too worked up about it. The server was accommodating, and serving a table of seven can be challenging. Because I had such a nice meal that time, I made plans to return. This time, it was a weeknight and there were four of us. We arrived at 6:30 p.m., and there were only a few other parties in the restaurant.
Our server quickly brought over menus, and took our drink order. It was a little while before she returned with drinks, ready to take our food orders. I ordered the balsamic roasted veggies to start; my friends ordered the baked goat cheese served with tomato sauce. Each of us also ordered a pizza; I guess it was just that sort of evening. I also ordered a small lemon garlic greens salad to put on top of my pizza.
The wait for our appetizers was pretty lengthy — it was 7:30 p.m. they came out, just about an hour. In between ordering and receiving the appetizers, the server didn’t return to our table, and we desperately needed a refill of the water pitcher. The absence of the server couple with an hour-long wait is not acceptable. I understand it’s often difficult to schedule the right amount of people, but maybe it’s worth crunching some number each week to see what the best plan of action is. Let’s hope that things improve soon. I should note though, that the server was perfectly polite, although she didn’t apologize for the ridiculous wait.
During the conversation without food or water, I had an opportunity to really look at the décor of the restaurant. It’s interesting, for lack of a better word. It’s bohemian in the randomness of the recycled seating, café-inspired with the lunch menu written in chalk behind the counter, and oddly European in the abundance of signage indicating when you can watch soccer matches and presence of a foosball table in the back room. There’s no question that it’s a charming place. When you read “The Bread Company, Swiss Bakery & Bistro,” on the first page of the menu, it sort of fits. I’ve not actually been to a Swiss bakery and bistro in Switzerland, so I can’t really compare, but The Bread Company’s reality matches my imagination.
So after about an hour, the appetizers arrived, and they were hot. I could assume that meant that they were made to order, but if the time to make those appetizers was known to be lengthy, it should have been communicated up front. Despite the sour taste in my mouth from the long wait, the roasted veggies ($6) were incredibly delicious. The heaping platter included carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms, as well as a few slices of bread and balsamic dressing to drizzle. The dressing wasn’t even needed — the veggies were incredibly well seasoned and soft while still retaining a nice, veggie crunch — but it was sweet and tangy and a nice way to jazz up the veggies. The bread was crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and a great tool for sopping up the remnants on the plate. Thankfully, The Bread Company on Goodwin can make some damn good bread. It’s always delicious.
My friends ordered the baked goat cheese ($7.50), which was served in a tomato and basil marinara sauce, with some bread on the side. It was quite lovely to look at; the rustic presentation fit in well with the aesthetic of the restaurant. The goat cheese was creamy and smooth, the tomato sauce perfectly acidic and well salted. The basil brightened and lightened up each bite. This dish could have easily been done with ricotta, but goat cheese is a little more flavorful and kind to the lactose-intolerant.
The wait time for the appetizers was super long, but the pizza followed shortly thereafter. They looked great. I ordered a roasted garlic pizza. My friends ordered a pepperoni and a roasted Portobello (with artichokes, roasted bell peppers, and fontina), and my husband ordered that evening’s special, a beef tenderloin pizza with a red sauce, roma tomatoes, gruyère, mozzarella, red onion, blue cheese, and seared beef tenderloin (pictured below).
The crusts are thin, and a little crunchy on the exterior while remaining chewy on interior (between the crispy bottom and the toppings). The roasted garlic ($12.50) is one of my favorites in town (I get it pretty much every time). It’s simple and sophisticated; the roasted garlic sweetens the tomato sauce, creating a sauce that is robust and complex in flavor. That evening’s pizza was no different. The ingredients were in the right amount to provide an appropriate ratio of crust, sauce, and cheese; grated Parmesan cheese dusted the top, texturally mimicking the cornmeal on the bottom of the crust.
The lemon garlic greens salad (small, $5) was brought out with the pizza, and like the pizza, was a simple but sophisticated dish. Field greens were tossed in a lemon-garlic dressing and topped with grape tomatoes, capers, croutons, and shaved Parmesan. The salad was a delight — bright, simple, refreshing. I piled it on my slices of pizza and recreated an item on the menu a year or more ago: roasted garlic pizza topped with lemony greens. It was delicious. The roasted garlic and the unroasted garlic combined for the ultimate garlicky deliciousness. The tomato and lemon added some acid to simultaneously enhance flavors and mellow things out. The heat of the pizza slightly wilted the greens on the bottom, further accentuating the flavors in the salad dressing. It was a delightful experience, and as I noted in last week’s BEST Food & Drink article, certainly the best use of garlic in C-U.
The other pizzas were also delicious. The pepperoni ($13.50, above) was straightforward: salty, meaty, cheesy, but not too greasy. The Portobello pizza ($14.50, pictured right) was laden with veggies, and the aromatic bell peppers filled the nose while the Portobello mushrooms and artichoke hearts added some heft and texture.
The beef tenderloin pizza ($18) was a bit on the salty side, with the ample amount of diverse cheeses and all. The tomatoes served as a means to cleanse the mouth a bit, or absorb some of the salty cheese, at least. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender. So tender. It was really quite good.
There are some other good dishes on the menu. The lamb leg medallions ($22) were perfectly cooked, super tender, well seasoned, and delicious, last I had them. I’m also a fan of the fried goat cheese croquettes ($8). The dessert menu is worth checking out, although I wasn’t a fan of some bread pudding I had (too dry). Although the separate vegan menu of the past is no longer available, there are a few vegan and several vegetarian options. With multiple goat cheese dishes available, there are options for your friends who cannot eat dairy. With six different fondue options, The Bread Company also has choices for cheese lovers. What I’m saying is that there are few places in town that can cater to groups with different dietary preferences and restrictions, which is why it’s on the top of my list when I’m dining with a group of limited or diverse eaters. The prices might seem high on first glance, but the pizza prices are in line with everywhere else in town (and they are better pizzas), and entrées are in line with or cheaper than places like Big Grove Tavern, Destihl, and Radio Maria. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, and has different beer on tap, including beer from JT Walker’s in Mahomet.
With summer upon us and the campus cleared out, a dinner outside at The Bread Company sounds like a nice way to spend the evening. It might be a leisurely evening, if service stays as it was. I’m hoping that service was just off that night, and slowness and lack of attention aren’t regular things. Nevertheless, the restaurant has replaced the old, rickety, splinter-in-your-ass outdoor seating with nice, new tables and benches, so you’ll at least be comfortable.
The Bread Company on Goodwin is located at 706 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, and open for lunch (sandwiches, salads, and soups) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. They will deliver if you’re within a few blocks — check out the delivery map. Dinner is available Sunday through Thursday, 5–10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5–11 p.m. Brunch is Sunday from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.