I don’t get to Monticello often but when I do go, it’s usually to sample some of the terrific food people are making over there. That’s how I got to try Bergie’s Place, a caterer who has opened their doors on the weekends as a breakfast and brunch spot. This quaint place is situated next to Three Ravens on Charter Street, right in the mix of the downtown action on the square. The tall ceilings strung with lights and garland give the place a large, airy feel.
My husband and I went in at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, not knowing if we would be competing with a breakfast crowd similar to Original Pancake House or any of the other popular places in Champaign-Urbana. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we could be seated right away, although I noted that it doesn’t take many people to fill up the space. Only six or seven tables, max, fit in the open dining area. The space is also used for special events so I got the impression that the layout of the tables probably changes regularly.
Our server was a very friendly woman who got us hot coffee ($2.50) while we struggled to decide what to order. Not only did everything sound delicious but the prices were also very reasonable, making it easy to try a couple of extra dishes if you’re indecisive. If you’re as picky as I am about coffee and you like to ensure that when you go to breakfast you’re also going to get satisfying java, you can add this to the list of places that also serve delicious and hot coffee throughout your meal. Real cream (possibly half and half) was also served.
I usually stick with breakfast items I feel are safer, bets but I went out on a limb and ordered the special for the day we were there: the breakfast burrito/wrap ($8.95), which had bacon, sausage, eggs, cheese, potato hash, and a touch of gravy in it. My husband wanted to try a little of a few things, ordering two sausage links ($3.50), a biscuit with gravy ($5.95), and a side of hashbrowns ($2.50). I don’t say this lightly: it was difficult to choose because so many of the menu items looked appealing.
Everything ranged from very good to outstanding but there were definitely a couple of all-stars here. My husband and I both agreed that the breakfast burrito stole the show. The sausage was soft and flavorful—and fennel free, which is how I prefer it, in case anyone else wonders the same—the bacon bits had a crispy, chewy texture, the scrambled eggs were perfectly cooked, and the hashbrowns, plus touch of gravy added some peppery, fatty texture and flavor. I also ate the entire tortilla on this wrap, something I almost never do. All of the fillings were layered perfectly within the tortilla and it was easy to eat. It didn’t fall apart and I didn’t have to use a fork. It was a breakfast burrito par excellence. Though it was a chef’s special, I told our server that they should keep that in the rotation or make it a regular option. She agreed it is a standout menu item.
My husband enjoyed all of his food, with the biscuit and gravy being his favorite. He is particularly picky about biscuits and sausage gravy, and stated the Bergie’s sausage gravy was the best he’s had from a restaurant. He was able to tell it was made in a smaller batch, seasoned well with pepper and sage (without tasting like a Glade plug-in-—no small feat), and thickened with flour and not cornstarch. The biscuits they make at Bergie’s are “cat’s head” biscuits, which means that unlike a drop biscuit that comes out round and fluffy, it’s a flatter biscuit made in a pan. It’s cut into a triangular shape, hence the cat’s head reference. It has a crumblier texture, which made it perfect for folding into the sausage gravy.
Following as a close second behind the biscuit and gravy were the sausage links: there was no chewy casing and they burst with proper seasoning (but no fennel). Both he and I have left many a hocky puck-sausage patty or overly tough link behind at breakfast, but these were devoured. The hash browns tasted good but came in last out of everything we had. That said, they were more than edible. They needed a little help with some salt and hot sauce, at least for us, but if I had to err on the side of undersalted versus oversalted, I’ll take undersalted any day.
Discovering that Bergie’s knows how to serve up awesome grub, we decided to go all out and split something for dessert. We settled on the apple pancake ($9.95; great for sharing or as your entire meal). This was one of their German pancakes, which states that it’s a “plate-sized, egg-filled puffed pancake, served with apples and cinnamon sugar glaze.” The pancake itself was a bit too eggy/custardy for my taste, but the apples and cinnamon glaze were delicious. It would go very well on some vanilla ice cream, in fact. This was the only item on which we differed in opinion, so I don’t want to say it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t my taste. (Example: I don’t care for crème brûlée and I think I’m in the one percent of people who don’t like that dessert, so take my opinion on this pancake with a grain of salt.)
Bergie’s had filled up by 9:30 a.m. with a handful of people waiting to be seated. Just a note on the ambiance: There is no music playing and it is library quiet in there, so if you go with more than four people and/or children, you could potentially overtake the space. But for those who want a quiet dining experience and incredibly well made food, this is your new spot.
We left with full bellies and intentions to back again extremely soon. Go for a nice drive and end up at Bergie’s. Bonus: The restaurant extended their days to more than just the weekends and are now open Thursday and Friday.
106 S Charter Street
Th-Su 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Photos by Zoe Valentine