Vittles for little: Vella Cafe

Vella Cafe
1912 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-7777

When deciding on a Sunday brunch location, a variety of factors often come into play. For example, you want to impress your beau’s parents so maybe they will stop asking about his ex-girlfriend, and thus need something more inspiring than another IHOP disappointment. Or maybe you were recently laid off from a company you provided with 20 long years of loyal service, so you need a place to walk in and out of safely, knowing that your favorite waitress no longer judges you for the failure you’ve finally become. And then sometimes there are places that fall somewhere in between, like Vella Cafe, a quick-‘n’-easy casual eatery with no-nonsense walk-up ordering, sunny ambiance, and eclectic dishes for a reasonable price.

The cafe post-commuter rush hour.

The cafe post-commuter rush hour.

Still in its relative infancy, the Bucktown restaurant has managed to hold strong despite keeping its doors open until 3 p.m. The busy breakfast-lunch-“blunch” (Whatever. We’ll go with it) locale has a crepe and panini focus that caters to both the busy weekday commuter looking for a morning perk and the average hung-over Wicker Park hipster enjoying a brain dead brunch. Co-owner Melissa Yen is a regular face manning the counter, greeting customers with the type of early morning enthusiasm you can only expect from someone who actually gives a shit about their job (her business counterpart, Sara Voden, usually pops up at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market). However, her charm is genuine and warm, unlike the questionably happy workers at chains like Coldstone and Potbelly’s — undoubtedly a reflection of a proud business owner.

Vella's house panini.

Vella's house panini.

Considering its location smack dab under the Western Blue Line stop, outside noise is fairly muffled — then again, this coming from a city resident immersed in noise pollution on a daily basis, so take that as you will. Offering an array of espresso drinks and free wi-fi, it has a bit of a pseudo-coffee shop appeal for the deprived Bucktown ‘hood. Still, with only one power outlet and shaky internet connection, it’s not really recommended for leisurely writing your master thesis (Try a library). Though there is no definitive yea or nay on “family” atmosphere, stollers are a rare appearance, most likely accompanying a mom popping in for carry-out.

Owner Melissa Yen (right).

Owner Melissa Yen (right).

And even if you are sort of a low-budget sista, it’s okay to maintain semi-discriminating tastes. House specials are a winning combination of delicious and cheap, ranging between $6.50-$8.50 for savories such as the sausage frittata panino ($6.75) with caramelized onions, ajvar mayo, butterkase, and side of house “smashers,” or sweets like amaranth pancakes ($6.75), and banana nutella crepes ($5.50).

— Carly Fisher


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