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Yellow Springs’ Sunrise Café serves up a surprise, or two

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Vick Burger at Yellow Springs’ Sunrise Café; photos: Paula Johnson

Ah, Yellow Springs, that progressive, funky, hippie haven that’s impossible not to fall in love with. This village has a vibe, and there’s no better way to soak it all in than strolling up and down Xenia Avenue, even in the dead of winter. But you’ll need to warm up and stop for a bite, and Yellow Springs has you covered there, too. Great noshing options abound, one of my favorites being Sunrise Café. Since it opened in 2004, this cozy little nook has served up local organic fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a distinctly Yellow Springs twist. It’s a tiny place, nearly always with a wait to get a seat (pro tip: according to their website, you can call ahead to get on the waiting list). The space is colorful, casual, and quirky, as is the Sunrise Café clientele. There’s a landscape mural covering the entirety of the dining area, highly apropos for a community noted for its artists.

Our fearless editorial team and I met to eat at a time straddling breakfast and lunch for a reason. I had been to Sunrise Café for breakfast before, specifically to try the buffalo sausage, and biscuits and gravy, and a few great mimosas, too. Later, I heard from one of the editorial crew that Sunrise does something that appeals to the gambler in me, and that’s what we came for. It’s also something that could be highly gimmicky (think bad Guy Fieri-esque food TV) on one hand, but could also turn out to be amazing. No matter what, it would be an eating experience I wanted to try. What could I possibly be talking about? The Vicki Cakes and The Vick Burger.

Feelin’ Lucky?

That might not have cleared it up for you, so stay with me for an explanation. The Vicki Cakes ($9.49) are pancakes and the Vick Burger ($12.50) is obviously a burger, but what makes them a bold dining choice is that when you order them, that’s all you know. (Both items are named for loyal regular customers.) Enter the chef. It’s like the Japanese concept of omakase, meaning to put yourself in the chef’s hands. You have no idea how the kitchen will top your burger or what they will put in your pancakes. Your order is a leap of faith that the ruler of the kitchen will be a benevolent overlord who chooses ingredients wisely, combining them with compassion, not contrariness.  What arrives on your plate could perhaps be a train wreck or a tour de force. However, it’s an ideal way to order if you are plagued with an inability to make a menu decision.

As we were a trio, it was decided that two of us would try the Vick and the Vicki, and we would choose one more standard menu item, in this case Huevos Rancheros ($10). The eggs were presented on a platform of crispy tortillas and topped with sour cream and scallions. This dish turned out to be particularly tasty with the runny eggs’ yolky goodness spilling out over the black beans and spicy salsa.

Take the Cakes

There was some apprehensive talk about undesirable add-ins, but in the end, the Vicki Cakes turned in no surprises. “A friend of mine got grapes in hers,” I was informed by one of our crew. Grapes did not sound particularly suited to pancakes, so I was glad that day’s version featured a medley of mixed berries. The pancakes themselves were fluffy, thin, and slightly crisp on the edges, and served with a small pitcher of melted butter and real maple syrup. (Of course, I would expect no less from Sunrise Café, it’s just that sadly, real maple syrup seems to be more rare than a Democratic victory in the places I’ve visited, so I had to mention it.)

Did It Cut the Mustard?

I’ve saved the burger for last because, well, you’ll see why. Picture a burger served on a grilled cheese sandwich for the bottom bun. Add a buffalo sausage patty. Top that with shavings of cabbage, carrots, and some caramelized onion. For a condiment, whole grain mustard. Then put a lid on it with another grilled cheese sandwich, this time with bacon. So how was The Vick? It’s almost irrelevant to give an accurate assessment of flavors, textures, balance, and taste since it’s doubtful this combination will ever be repeated. In truth, it needed mayonnaise. So much bread and so many meats needed more than just the mustard. The upside was that I didn’t need to eat again until the next day.

In all seriousness, Sunrise Café is worth your visit to sample what is on the rest of their menu, which is well prepared and honestly and thoughtfully sourced. While it was fun to experience The Vick and The Vicki, I will return for those Huevos Rancheros and give dinner a try.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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