Perks Cafe started percolating in the former Coffee Culture at Elmwood and Bryant with a soft open starting Feb. 1, after shuttering its downtown Main Street and Oak Street locations.
Closing those smaller downtown storefronts allowed manager Julie Leone to focus on the new spot, which serves breakfast and lunch, highlighted by fresh, homemade food and beverages.
[See Sharon Cantillon's photo gallery from Perks Cafe]
We stopped in for brunch on a recent Saturday morning and the line was out the door, winding past Pepto Bismol pink walls, cheerful blackboard wall art and a full case of fresh cookies, brownies, scones and croissants.
Perks brews Clarence-based Goodrich Coffee & Tea in several drip strengths as well as specialty coffees, lattes, chai and teas. Bottled soft drinks are also available and the sweets case boasts a variety of vegan options, as well.
A caramel butter rum latte tickled my taste buds, with a salty-sweet balance of sugar and spiced rum flavor. It was a warming alternative to the traditional caramel macchiato and not as saccharine as the standard. The accompanying blueberry scone we summoned from behind the class was as dry and crumbly as scones should be. Buttery, lightly sweet and chock full of plump berries, it would have been a great dunker in a cuppa.
When we read the grilled PB&J croissant ($5) sustained the staff during the move, we had to harken back to childhood and try one. The slightly warm croissant had met the flattop, but it was a brief encounter, and did not toast the bread as much as we’d have liked. That said, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic PB&J, and I briefly wished I had my Buffalo architecture adult coloring book to really complete the experience.
Now, a word on breakfast sandwiches. We’ve all had that bagel sandwich that’s too tall to bite or too-toasty rolls that cut the top of the mouth like dry Cap’n Crunch. Not at Perks.
An everything bagel breakfast sandwich with turkey sausage, two fried eggs and American cheese ($4; $1 extra for sausage) came on a bagel soft and small enough to chow down, and the filling all stayed inside instead of squishing out the sides. The flavors were comfortingly classic, even if the fried eggs were a little overcooked.
The Bryant St. Special sandwich ($6) came on toasted ciabatta with scrambled eggs, goat cheese, sliced apples and caramelized onion. While our order was missing the sliced apples, sweet onion nicely balanced the salty cheese and the roll was gently warmed, not burnt to a crisp like they tend to be at a Canadian chain we won’t name.
I’d love to try this one with the apples included, because the marriage of flavors was on its way from excellent to awesome already.
Perks Cafe is a cozy spot, with the comfy leather chairs and warming fireplace customers may remember from Coffee Culture, brightened up with cheery pink walls and friendly, helpful faces behind the bar.
The opening week crowds prove the neighborhood needed a coffee spot, and if the empty plates flying back to the kitchen were any indication, downtown’s loss is the Elmwood Village’s gain.
Info: Perks Cafe; 448 Elmwood Ave.; 856-0709
Lizz Schumer is the content manager at Resurgence Brewing Company and the author of “Buffalo Steel.” She covers food and whimsy for a variety of publications and can be found online at lizzschumer.com, facebook.com/authorlizzschumer and @eschumer.