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but ah, desire still cries, give me some food.

May 3, 2010

I'm sitting at my desk looking out the window at North Quad - it's kind of quiet today even in the beautiful weather, but there is a frisbee game going and some people sitting under the trees...the grass they're on is so bright, it's like someone covered the ground in melted crayola. This is that good, mellow part of the day before everyone goes into wild night-mode. It's 5:50pm, but I must confess that so far today the only substantial things I've done have been brunch at the Feve with my friend Sam, a quick run, and a shower. Finishing up at the Feve this morning (2 pm is morning still, right?), I began thinking about how much a crucial part of the weekend brunch is. It is seriously the perfect meal - leisurely, comfortable, social, flexible...and if your weekend runs anything like mine, arguably the heart of the day. So it is very important that your brunch choice be fulfilling (hahahahhahahaha!). I therefore present this in-depth and comprehensive look at Oberlin's brunch options, because the decision of where to go for your eggs and toast is a very serious one indeed.

1. Black River Cafe: This place makes my week happen. While the lines may be long sometimes, they move mostly fast, and you can check out people eating while you wait and get really hungry and psyched. You're almost bound to run into someone you know, and it's refreshing to be around regular Oberlin townspeople along with college folk. Standout things here include the focus on local foods, pancakes, many omelette possibilities, the fact that breakfast is served til 3:00pm, numerous vegan options (including pancakes), nice a la carte menu, sandwiches, pancakes. Get them with apples or chocolate chips. The menu here is pretty much standards done well, which may come to be a problem for people who get bored easily as it doesn't have a whole lot of variation. The wait can be a pain too sometimes, but what can you really do? It's cheap, it's tasty, it is my Sunday love.

2. The Feve: There was a wait here too, but rather than stand in line, Sam and I got to go upstairs and have coffee and chill while waiting for a table - a definite point for the Feve. The exposed brick walls and bar make it seem a little more funky and urban than Black River, and the Feve seems to be taking its relatively-new brunch menu in that same direction. It changes weekly, and this week featured orange pancakes with cashews and chicken (?) and lots of lunch-y stuff. Sam got beautiful looking pancakes with yogurt, granola, and fruit on top - which he said were thinner and smaller than Black River's. It seems important to point out that the menu variations are not always as odd as this week's - a menu from the end of March featured apple crumb and walnut fig pancakes. Menu variety is definitely a pro for the Feve, also the ambiance, and just general sense of classiness. However, I think Black River may be a better value as it is cheaper and gives you a lot - also, the Feve doesn't have many vegan options. Bottom line: try them both, mix it up. After all, you have four years to be brunching in Oberlin.

3. The Oberlin Market: If lines and waiters feel like too much, there are also many low-key options around. The Oberlin Market features homemade granola, wonderful fresh baked bread and baked goods, like vegan muffins and scones in cool flavors like apricot-almond-green tea or cardamom and current. They also make nice bagels and smoothies, though they don't seem to make some of the coffee house standards, like decaf espresso drinks or hot chocolate (it's only on the menu seasonally). The atmosphere is really pleasant, and they have an extensive DIY tea bar - the whole place just feels relaxed and easy. So if it's just coffee and a muffin that you're after, and you're okay with not having much selection (they just make one kind of muffin and scone each day), the Oberlin Market is a nice place to chill and read the paper and just let the afternoon roll on through.

4. Beethoven's Bagels: Unfortunately, my first (and so far only) foray into Beethoven's was wildly disappointing, as they had run out of bagels. I was very confused, because places that call themselves so-and-so's bagels should never run out, ever. A better name would have been Beethoven's Deviled Eggs, as they had those, or maybe Beethoven's Selection of Deli Meats, also very much in-stock. All bitterness aside, however, they do have pretty good bagels (sometimes) and a huge assortment of kinds of cream cheese, and also serve bagel sandwiches and, for some reason, frozen custard. It is a bit of a trek, though, for Oberlin standards at least, and you might want to do the laughably unthinkable and call beforehand to see if they actually have any bagels. Clearly I'm still bitter, and this unbiased review is failing to be unbiased. Perhaps it's best to move on.

5. Java Zone: If you too were denied a bagel at Beethoven's, you can always go back up to Main St. to Java Zone, which serves some pastries and bagel sandwich things, but only on plain bagels. It does have a full espresso bar, and lots of seating, and is nice for just getting away from things. I'm not a huge fan of the atmosphere, though, and so am very psyched about the new cafe that is said to be opening next year, along with another little breakfast-y place called the Fresh Start Diner, that seems to be lacking in vegetarian/vegan options but emphasizes real, local ingredients. There's also going to be a new Indian restaurant, though that might not have much to do with brunch. But it's still cool.

6. Stevie: Okay, here's the thing - my devotion to co-ops being so true and well, devoted, I have actually never been to Stevie (campus pet-name for Stevenson dining hall) for brunch, which it serves on weekends into the mid-afternoon. So you might not want to even read this review. That said, word is it has a buffet with breakfast-y things, an ample omelette bar that will keep you full till midnight, cereal stuff, and, of course, pizza. Because pizza is always a good choice for all meals. In fact, you could easily go through an entire semester eating nothing but pizza - but that too is irrelevant.

7. Co-ops: If you are in a co-op, you will see that in the beginning of each semester, head cooks are elected for each meal. Pay special attention to Saturday lunch cook, as this will be the person responsible for at least half of your brunching (Sunday lunch is a special meal in many co-ops, meaning that somebody new cooks it every week). Unfortunately you don't know if the head cook is thinking more along the lines of breakfast or lunch, so you may end up with things going in a direction a little more savory than what you might have wished for. However, there's always fresh granola, and a kitchen full of ingredients to make whatever it is you like! There are also, of course, other co-ops too. So really it's like having five free restaurants. Plus dish-washing...

8. Dorm Kitchens: Speaking of dish-washing, you may be asking, why should I have anyone cook food for me if I can do it myself right down the hall? Never fear! Your dorm probably has a lovely kitchen just several feet from your bedroom! Last semester in Dascomb, I woke every Sunday to the smell of sizzling bacon from across the hall, and it was fantastic until the smoke alarm went off, and then it was still fantastic. Cooking for/with people on your hall is a great way to bond, because there is no faster way to someone's heart than breakfast. If you have a hall-cest disaster, egg scrambling is a known cure for awkwardness, and what love has not bloomed over toast?

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