A wonderful double threat of a local bakery that serves both sweets and meals, Pekara Bakery and Bistro is a staple of Champaign.
Once located in Downtown Champaign, Pekara now resides at the southeast corner of Prospect and Springfield Avenue. With the store where it is now, local residents have a bakery within walking distance which is a great resource to have.
Pekara also offers other assorted goods such as bread from Central Illinois Bakehouse and packaged goods like tea, coffee beans, and snacks.
Mixing new treats with old favorites, I picked up a Quiche Lorraine, a salmon West Coast toast, a slice of Selva Nera cake, and a Bombolone. While Pekara has ample indoor seating and some outdoors as well, I took my food to go this time.
The first of my favorites was the salmon West Coast toast ($8.50). All the toasts at Pekara are served on the same warm, crispy, grainy bread. The salmon version began with a thick layer of dill cream cheese, followed by cucumbers, red onions, a generous helping of salmon, and some capers (pickled flower buds).
Don’t go into this toast thinking it will be a light experience, as the rich cream cheese and salmon add up quickly. I appreciated the juicy cucumbers, pungent red onions, and salty capers as the cream cheese with the salmon would get boring quickly without some variety.
There was also a side salad served with a sharp, tangy vinaigrette which was a bit too strong for my preference. Overall, this toast was a complete meal and great for any fans of salmon and toast-as-a-meal out there.
To try out something new, I also picked up a slice of Selva Nera Cake ($4). New to Pekara, this cake is a decadent combination of chocolate and cream with a few cherries added into the middle of the cake. While there is a lot of chocolate in this dessert, it was drier overall than Pekara’s Death by Chocolate dessert, which is more like fudge. Thankfully, the cherries and cream keep the Selva Nera from being too dry from the cake and ample cocoa powder.
For another new treat, I wanted to taste a Bombolone ($2.50) and find out how this Italian cream pastry compared to other cream filled donuts I’ve tried like Boston cream. This fluffy yeast donut wasn’t too doughy, which I prefer as it keeps the experience less rich. While the powdered sugar on top was messy, it paired well with the less sweet donut breading.
The highlight for me was the Italian cream. Even though the cream didn’t fill the entire Bombolone, the strong vanilla taste and denser cream is an improvement over the more pudding-like Boston cream. If you enjoy cream filled donuts, this is a must try.
For a classic, I went with my favorite quiche at Pekara: the quiche Lorraine ($6). Made with egg, Swiss cheese, bacon, ham, and a rich, flaky crust, I highly recommend this quiche. Despite me cutting corners and heating it up in a microwave at home, the crust retained most of its integrity and the salty meats and cheese turned out perfectly fine. A great size for a small meal if you want something filling, but not too much food.
Pekara is the place to go if you don’t know what you want to eat since they have so much to offer. As with any bakery, Pekara likes to try new things, so make sure to stop by every once in a while to check on the latest in their display case. I know I always like trying out their sweets, personally.
Pekara Bakery and Bistro
811 W Springfield Ave
8 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily