Sink Your Teeth Into Vella Cafe

| February 13, 2009 | 0 Comments

By: Kristen Holub

Located at 1912 N. Western, right under the Western Blue Line El stop, Vella Café is a real gem. The décor is simple, but well thought out (like the menu). With 18 different pendant lamps hanging over the dining area and windows on 3 sides, this little café is well lit and airy. After you stake claim to a seat and grab one of the high chairs, head up to the counter to place your order. After a few minutes, your food will be brought to your table by one of the friendly staff, maybe even by owner Melissa Yen.

Yen and partner Sara Voden started out together serving panini at the Green City Market. From there, they grew and expanded into Vella Café, where they now serve breakfast and lunch on weekdays and a brunch on the weekends that includes crepes, pastries, coffee, and their famous panini. I have been there a few times with AJ and friends for lunch, especially on the way home from the park. They don’t have a specific “kids menu”, but AJ loves the yogurt parfait, which Melissa always offers to serve with their homemade granola on the side.

Kids will also love the Amaranth Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Cheese & Tomato or the muffin selection. My favorite for lunch is the Smoked Turkey Panino ($7.50) with melted sharp cheddar cheese and delicious lingonberry jam. This balance of sweet and sharp is perfect. And they have the panini down to a science since the bread is always perfectly crispy and never soggy or burnt. Sandwiches are served with a pickle and “smashers”, smashed chunks of potatoes with their skins, crisp and buttery and served with scallions.

This weekend I decided to try the brunch with my husband and AJ. We walked over since we live in the area, but if you live anywhere along the Blue Line, it’s within walking distance from you too! We loved how, nestled under the stop, you can hear the trains rumble in and out of the stop. You really feel like part of the “action” and our son loved looking for the train up above when he heard it coming.

On the weekends, Vella serves a modified menu, with focus on brunch items like sweet potato hash, crepes (turkey, banana and Nutella, or cinnamon, sugar and butter!), and a seasonal fruit platter with orange honey cream cheese. I decided to go with the Amaranth Pancakes ($6.75). When the three large, fluffy, pancakes arrived topped with lingonberry jam and cinnamon whipped cream, they smelled heavenly. I used all of the vanilla butter that came on the side (yum!), and ate every last bite. That is, every last bit I was able to keep for myself! I did end up sharing at least half of one pancake with AJ. Do all moms do this?

Andy ordered the Sausage Frittata Panino ($6.75) which had the perfect bread just like my Smoked Turkey does, and featured caramelized onions, local IL butterkase, and ajvar mayo. The avjar mayo is made by mixing mayo with an Indian blend of vegetables like eggplant and peppers which gave the panino an interesting depth of flavor. We both gave it the thumbs up. AJ enjoyed his yogurt as usual, and really got into the granola for the first time, maybe because he finally has enough teeth to chew it!

Hungry? Go ahead and check out Vella Café!

M-F 7am-3pm
Serving breakfast 7am-11am
Serving lunch 11am-3pm

Sat & Sun 9am-3pm
Serving brunch all day

Photo courtesy of Wes Cleaver.

This is an Original Chicagonista article.

Kristen Holub Artist and business owner turned stay-at-home-mom, Kristen  stays busy running around town with her son, and doing her best to keep the household eco-friendly and under control while jotting down and sharing great finds in Chicago.

Category: Eats & Sips, Featured

About the Author ()

Head Chicagonista, Co-host of the Chicagonista LIVE! show, Lead blogger for, and Co-Founder of Women Driving Excellence. MJ is also the annual host of SocialRevUp - Brands & Bloggers Summit (#bbsummit) attended by about 200 professional high-profile bloggers nationwide. Follow MJ on Twitter: @mjtam

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