Restaurant review: Crystal Lake's Triple Berry Cafe tempts with breakfast treats
Most of us will try a new local breakfast cafe at least once because a platter of hot waffles or torpedo-sized omelets -- especially when someone else gets up to make them -- are definite treats.
But for return visits, the food needs to impress. And Crystal Lake's Triple Berry Cafe has witnessed first-timers turning into regulars at a steady clip because the food is fresh, substantial and satisfying.
Open since Aug. 19, the cozy spot offers breakfast and lunch seven days a week with enough variety to please locals and visitors to the busy Randall Road corridor. Owner and chef Argtim Shabani wanted to dive into a breakfast/lunch cafe after four years of running his dad's restaurant, the 18-year-old Eagle Inn Family Restaurant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Triple Berry's breakfast-and-lunch-only hours mean he can spend some time with his family, too.
Why Triple Berry?
"My wife and I loved to go out for breakfast and my favorite things always included fresh berries," the 24-year-old restaurateur said. He pledges to offer items with fresh berries even in winter despite the cost of the delicate fruits.
We visited on a chilly Sunday and the restaurant was packed at 10:30 a.m. Tables turn over fairly quickly in the 62-seat cafe. The aroma of hot coffee and sight of heaping steamy dishes exiting the kitchen soothed the short wait for a table. Walls in the warm space are punctuated with colorful photos of breakfast dishes, too.
A waitress was pouring our coffee in a matter of moments once we were seated, and this java snob deemed the pour sturdy and satisfying, unlike most diner coffee. My dining companion opted for the pumpkin spice joe and she loved it. Shabani aims to offer a different flavored coffee each season in addition to regular and decaf.
The double-sided menu highlights a long list of breakfast and lunch selections. I went for Argi's Famous Chicken Tostada, featuring two fried, flat, corn tortillas covered in flavorful seasoned chicken carnitas, pico de gallo, sliced avocado and a drizzle of sour cream. It came with a side of hash browns that were crisp on the outside and fluffy within.
When my friend ordered the Cape Cod Benedict, I made sure she asked if the seafood was real, as in not imitation. I have to say I was envious of the generous nuggets of crab and lobster lolling under the hollandaise and poached eggs atop English muffins.
We appreciated that neither dish was overly salty. Shabani says he likes to err on the side of less salt since many people shake salt and pepper on their plates before taking a first bite.
On my next visit, I'll try Shabani's crepes. "It's my mother's recipe and they're the best crepes ever," he explained. "They're homemade and taste like back home in Macedonia."
The Triple Berry version is proving popular, as well as the Strawberry Shortcake version stuffed with strawberries and Mascarpone cream cheese.
Other popular choices on the breakfast menu are Carnitas Skillet (with all of the ingredients of my breakfast but with two eggs over hash browns and a choice of toast or pancakes); Country Fried Steak and Eggs; and Californication, a $9.49 dish of cinnamon bread French toast, two eggs and two slices of bacon or sausage links.
Four-egg omelets are nuclear-sized and customers are loving the Espanyol rendition filled with chorizo, pico de gallo, bell peppers, avocado and cheddar Jack cheese. If you opt for biscuits and gravy, know that both are made in-house and you can order a full or half size. In addition to waffles, French toast, pancakes and various Benedicts, there are some lighter choices such as avocado toast, oatmeal and a yogurt parfait.
On the lunch side of the menu, sandwiches, wraps and burgers are accompanied by fries or soup. Current favorites include the Rueben and the CBR Melt, featuring grilled chicken, smoky bacon, Ranch dressing and tomato on grilled sourdough. Salad lovers, meanwhile, might be tempted by the Triple Berry Salad, which checks off all the food groups by offering fresh berries, mixed greens, sugar-glazed walnuts and Feta cheese drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette.
Naturally, weekends are the busiest. But with tasty goods at reasonable prices, Triple Berry is worth the wait.
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Triple Berry Cafe
435 Angela Lane, Crystal Lake, (815) 893-4343, tripleberrycafe.com/
Cuisine: Breakfast and lunch
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Prices: Breakfast items: $3.99-$16.99; sandwiches, wraps and burgers: $7.99-$10.99; salads: $8.99-$10.99; kids' menu: $4.99-$6.99
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.