Rifle through the pages of the menu at Nirvana Cafe, and you'll see dishes inspired by cuisines from across the globe—there's tender gyros and kebabs from the Mediterranean, plump perogi from Eastern Europe, and tangy Korean-style carrot salad. But there's also a variety of American favorites, such as chicken salad wraps and creamy new york cheesecake. As chefs bring these dishes to life in the kitchen, diners lounge on banquettes amid the bold red walls of the bright dining room, sipping freshly squeezed juices and imported Russian beers.
Three Layer’s Café in historic Springfield is a coffeehouse and bakery that offers gourmet coffee and the delicious cakes from which it gets its name. There’s a lunch menu too, of course, full of paninis and pasta salads, with a create-your-own salad bar to boot. You can find beer and wine tucked into a separate section of the shop known as the Cellar, but what you’re really here for are the desserts. Triple-layered red velvet and carrot cakes are always in high demand, as are their miniaturized cake ball counterparts – served in threes, of course. There’s a relaxing garden spot for dining out back and the simple red brick, dark wood trim, wood tables and chairs and lots of window lighting make the café a cozy spot. Three Layers also features local folk musicians regularly.
Named for gangsters and criminals such as John Gotti, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, Wise Guys Pizza Cafe's slate of deli-style sandwiches arrest hunger with fillings such as roast beef and cheddar, tuna salad, turkey, and meatballs. Chefs also hand-toss New York-style pizza crusts, topping pies with such ingredients as bacon, black olives, and pepperoni. Burgers, wings, and stromboli round out the menu, and calzones hide ingredients inside gooey pockets of ricotta cheese, where they are eventually uncovered by forks that have become FBI informants.
After testing out his recipes at a few local and state fairs, French Fry Heaven’s founder, Scott Nelowet, decided to give the people what they wanted: delicious fried russet and sweet potatoes customizable with gourmet toppings. Classic fries, known as Angels, come in set combos such as Dutch Angels with mayo, or Baked Tater Angels with cheese, bacon, and chives. Sweet-potato fries, known as Saints, come in combos such as Breakfast Saint with maple syrup or Kenberry Saint with blueberry and vanilla.
Secret Garden Café made its national debut in 2011 on the Food Network channel when it appeared on Restaurant: Impossible, where Robert Irvine and his team overhauled the menu and gave the restaurant a spruce-up. Since then, patrons have embraced the eclectic breakfast and lunch offerings by this Southside café. Early morning options include the Hot Mess (three eggs scrambled with bacon, sausage and ham on a bed of café potatoes, with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes) and lunches like the fried bologna sandwich or black bean burger. Inside, simple tile floors, wood tables, chairs and benches provide ample seating, and colorful sea foam green walls, pottery and garden art give off the note of a tucked away orchard. Warm sconce lighting gives Secret Garden Café a warmhearted vibe.