Café on the Ave
Café on the Ave, as its name suggests, is a café on College Ave. Located a few blocks from campus, attached to the mall-like City Center Plaza, this restaurant is probably the best breakfast spot within walking distance from Lawrence.
The restaurant has an unusually small sign, so if you’re having trouble finding it just walk to Starbucks and then look across the street — and while we’re at it, I recommend avoiding actually entering Starbucks, as there are many locally owned coffee places nearby that serve better coffee at better prices.
The interior of Café on the Ave is spiffed up with odd farm decorations, but for those who don’t mind this sort of cheesy Midwestern flare, it can be rather cozy. If you prefer your cheese edible, you’re in luck: Their omelettes aux fromages are excellent. Beware, though — the portions are huge and usually come with one or two side items, so you may want to split your meal with a friend.
The café has a wide assortment of omelets and other egg dishes like skillets that include fresh veggies. They also serve pancakes, waffles, fruit, toast, oatmeal and other standard breakfast fare. The menu is large and the prices are reasonable. The coffee is good, and the tea is pretty decent too.
While there’s nothing particularly notable about this establishment to separate it from other breakfast restaurants, there is also nothing particularly negative about it. It’s a good place in a regular Midwestern town to find a regular Midwestern breakfast.
Erbert and Gerbert’s
Erbs and Gerbs, as Lawrentians often call it, is a family-owned sandwich shop that first opened in 1988 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The company now has dozens of locations across the Midwest and one of them is a block west of our campus on College Ave.
Though one of the founders of Erbs and Gerbs is the cousin of Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of the sub shop behemoth by the same name, the sandwiches at Erbs and Gerbs are unlike their mass-produced cousins.
Bread is baked fresh daily — you can buy the day-old bread loaves for 89 cents — and the ingredients are fresh. The usually cheery sandwich craftspeople remove the “guts” — i.e. the soft middle — from the bread to create a sandwich that holds together well and has more fixin’s than your usual sub. But not to worry, they do give you the floppy bread innards with your completed sandwich.
The menu at E&G is fairly small and the sandwiches sport unusual names like “Bornk” and “Comet Morehouse,” which purportedly have their source in childhood tales spun by the founder’s father.
With only two vegetarian sandwiches — one of which, the Jacob Bluefinger, is my sandwich of choice — the menu does leave something to be desired for herbivores. However, once you try the Jacob Bluefinger it’s unlikely you’ll feel the need to eat any other sandwich, ever.
Erbert and Gerbert’s does have soups, chips, desserts and other items to order with your sandwich should you feel the need. Their prices are very low: Sandwiches are $4 to $5.
As you explore the vast metropolis that is Appleton, Wis., I highly suggest you make E&G one of your first stops. Since they’re open late, you might even try going at 1 a.m. after reading your favorite selection from Plato’s “Republic” for the seventh time.