Fraiche Bakery & Café has built up a loyal following since opening three years ago, attracting customers with its casual atmosphere and excellent, eclectic menu.
Located just a block from Evanston’s Noyes Purple Line stop, the counter service spot at 815 Noyes St. is tiny, featuring two black metal tables outside and seating for about two-dozen people inside. The menu changes regularly, so it’s displayed on chalkboards rather than in any more permanent form. Their beautiful selection of baked treats is displayed up front, with novel choices like horchata cupcakes ($3.50) and pumpkin bread pudding ($3).
The place was packed when I was there around 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Northwestern students chatted animatedly and quietly while working on their tablets and laptops in the corners dominated by the crowd. Every table was filled when I came in, but one cleared almost immediately. Long lines formed at the counter while I waited for my food and ate, but there never seemed to be anyone waiting around for a table. Food comes out quickly, making for swift turnover.
The server at the counter was busy but polite. When I inquired about the scones ($2.75), he told me they only had cheddar and blueberry left. Fraiche makes six to seven varieties every day, but if you want a good selection you need to get their very early. After trying the blueberry scone, I understood why. They’re massive and delicious, perfectly cooked to be crisp on the outside while the insides are flaky without any dryness.
For breakfast I got the almond butter French toast ($8), a decadent treat with two pieces of brioche topped with powdered sugar and plenty of slices of toasted almonds. The bread is separated by so much of the creamy, lightly sweet nut spread that it oozes out when you cut into it. The brioche is delicious, a little crunchy on top and fluffy beneath. The dish is served with a bland fruit salad best ignored to save more room since the French toast is so rich it’s hard to finish.
My fiancé got The Continental ($8), a hearty dish featuring ground sausage, a sunny-side up egg, a large pumpkin-oatmeal muffin and a salad of mixed greens topped with a creamy cranberry vinaigrette. The sausage had plenty of flavors, but the highlights were the fresh salad and the muffin, which blends pumpkin spice with a bit of crunchy texture from the oats.
You won’t find any pancakes or skillets at Fraiche, but if you’re up for trying a different take on breakfast fare the restaurant’s menu won’t disappoint.