Having worked in Lancaster for the better part of the past eight years, I’ve tried my fair share of locally owned eateries. It is especially pleasing to find a great meal in an establishment where it is obvious that the operation is run on pure passion – and to not send hard-earned money to a corporate office hundreds of miles away.
Mimi’s Central Perk Café has offered this atmosphere for the past year and a half. Upon entering, my fiancé, Patrick, and I were greeted by the owner, Sherri Sikora, who along with hosting was working the register and preparing food. Once she learned it was our first visit, she gave us a tour of the coffee and homemade soup stations and offered free samples of chili and chicken noodle and chicken wing soups so we could decide which we would prefer.
The dining area was tight but cozy. Guests can place their orders at the counter and then find a seat either near the cookie-filled glass cases or near the windows facing Central Avenue. The yellow walls brightened up the dreary spring day while the artwork served as odes to coffee. My favorite: “Life is too short for bad coffee.”
Patrick and I opted for a table near the cookies, which included hand-sized chocolate chip, peanut butter and other homemade treats for $1. The table over, we couldn’t help but hear a teacher offering a group of five elementary-aged girls lessons in character building, while a little boy no older than 3 at another table repeatedly screeched, “Delicious!”
Eating our lunch, I was tempted to join the boy in his exclamations. While a soup and half-sandwich option was available ($4.99), I was hungry enough for the full chicken salad on a croissant with romaine lettuce and dried cranberries ($3.50) with a bowl of the chicken wing soup ($4.50). The croissant was flaky but not overly buttery, making it feel light and airy, and the tart cranberries mixed perfectly with the chicken. The soup was spicy, but not so much that I couldn’t handle the heat. Patrick chose the bowl of steak and bacon chili ($4.50). While he boasts making a chili so spicy it could burn through a pot, he enjoyed the sweetness of Mimi’s sauce and, as he will always attest, bacon makes everything better. He also couldn’t resist the sweet allure of the chocolate chip cookie, which was baked just to his liking – soft and gooey.
The main reason for choosing Mimi’s was the coffee ($1.25 regular, $1.40 large with free refills). If you’re putting “Perk” in your restaurant name, the coffee better be great – and it was. The house blend was smooth and the aroma was inviting, while the dark offered a richer flavor and a wake-me-up kick. Mimi’s also offers espresso ($2 single, $3 double), teas ($1.50 to $3.50), lattes ($3 hot, $3.50 iced) and smoothies ($3).
Breakfasts range from muffins ($1.75) to omelets or wraps ($3). Now that April’s here, dessert will include gelato ($3.50 small, $5.50 large) in an assortment of flavors, from chocolate to peanut butter to sea salt caramel.
Mimi’s Central Perk Café is a great addition to Central Avenue, whether you are looking for a quick bite on the way to work, lunch with friends on the weekend or a snack while shopping in the village.
Where: 24 Central Ave., Lancaster (683-0104)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Wheelchair accessible: Yes to enter and eat, but no wheelchair accessible restroom.
Extras: Dine in or takeout, soup and coffee perks punch cards for a free soup or coffee after the purchase of nine at regular price.