A local favorite since the 80s, The Bread Company on Goodwin has been serving up delicious Swiss (and European) cuisine for years. In the mood for a mushroom and spinach omelet? Or maybe a grilled Portobello sandwich on fresh bread made in-house? Perhaps homemade pizza and pasta are your thing? By serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Bread Company has got you covered. There’s a reason they’ve been in business for so long — it's damn good food.
If I’m not mistaken, I believe it’s also the only place in Champaign-Urbana that serves fondue. After I had their raclette during Restaurant Week my cheese craving has only intensified. At that time, I also tried the classic cheese fondue, and I must say I was surprised that the raclette won me over. Raclette is a Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk and melted using a special machine. Once hot, bubbly, and melted, it’s scraped on to a plate of potatoes (typically). It was creamy, nutty, and a little sweet which was preferable to me when compared to the classic cheese fondue made with Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese (and was a bit more sour to my taste buds). But, since then, I’ve been curious to try the other fondues on the menu.
Fondue, if you are unfamiliar, is a communal pot of melted cheese (but is now generalized to include other deliciously melty things like chocolate) that is kept warm over a portable stove. With skewer in hand, one then dips until their heart's content: potatoes, bread cubes, veggies, etc. If you’ve never tried it before, don’t worry, the servers there will instruct you on what to do and also provide recommendations on how much to get for your party. Fondue is best enjoyed with a group of friends, so three other ladies and I decided to make a night of it.
We went on a Friday night and, not surprisingly, it was very busy. Bread Co. does accept reservations, so if you’re planning on going with a large group I would recommend calling ahead to reserve a table. In the colder months (or when Mother Nature is drunk and can’t decide if it’s spring or not) there’s a fireplace roaring in the main dining room and the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. Our group of four decided we wanted the caramelized onion fondue and the beef fondue, the latter being more like a hot pot. Our server suggested double portions would be sufficient as we were hungry but also wanted to save room for the dessert fondue. We also added fresh veggies for an additional $2.50.
A bottle of white wine was the perfect pairing for our order. The caramelized onion fondue is made with the classic base (Gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses, garlic, and white wine) plus caramelized onions. It was a good consistency and the onions imparted such a wonderful flavor. Tender roasted potatoes and bread cubes are the perfect vehicle for melted cheese. The potatoes were flavored simply and effectively. The fresh veggies consisted of raw carrots, cucumbers, and celery. The crunchy veggies were a nice change up in consistency but I would rather have had something like roasted mushrooms, broccoli, and/or zucchini.
The beef broth was exquisite. We found it was flavored with rosemary sprigs and fresh garlic. It’s served with 6oz of tenderloin. We were instructed to leave the slices of beef in the broth for about a minute and a half if we wanted it on the rarer side. Just place the meat on your skewer, drop it in and keep diving into the cheese pot while it cooks. It was a perfect system. We dropped potatoes and veggies in the broth too, quite literally. Sometimes you’ll lose a piece here and there but just keep stabbing at the bottom of the pot until you come up with something. When there’s a group of you, it’s almost like getting your fishing lines tied up, but it’s all gouda (only one cheese pun so far, you’re welcome). This fondue also came with three dipping sauces: a basil Tuscan pesto, Worcestershire, and lemon garlic. The pesto was my favorite, though I wish it was chopped a bit finer.
We were getting full but still determined to try the chocolate fondue. A single serving was plenty. Accompaniments consisted of sliced apples, strawberries, pears, and pastry. The chocolate sauce was amazing, I could have drank it straight from the mug, but the consistency was just a little too thin. It didn’t stick too well to the apples/pear. We were hoping for more of a light, flaky pastry for dipping, but rather got something a little harder and more dense. I would have been fine with a whole plate of strawberries.
Split equally between the four of us, we each only paid $28. A total steal for a decadent meal that left us feeling stuffed. I loved the bistro atmosphere and the staff was amazing. I have a feeling we’ll be making fondue night a regular occurrence.
The Bread Company
706 S Goodwin Ave
M-Th 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Photos by Bobbie Bonebrake