Cleverly named after the highway that runs directly in front of it, Cafe 26 is a wonderful addition to the Janesville area’s long list of local eateries.
Easy to find on the corner of highways 26 and 59, the building—which housed a Burger King during a past life—is quickly recognizable, but its interior now bears no resemblance to its former self. The drive-thru, however, does come in handy for curbside and takeout service.
Completely transformed, Cafe 26 has an upbeat, modern feel and is decorated in the popular farmhouse style. The color scheme is primarily creamy grays and whites with a touch of yellow, and whitewashed faux brick and white subway tiles further enhance the farmhouse look.
Ten tufted booths and 10 tables provide more than enough seating. There is also counter service with six industrial metal stools popular for those dining alone.
For anyone not wanting to eat inside, Cafe 26 also offers several outdoor tables as an alternative. Clear glass pendant lighting along with three walls of windows provide more than enough light for diners.
The restaurant is owned by the same couple who operate Fanatico in Whitewater, which is one of our all-time favorite dining spots. At Cafe 26, the pair bring some unique items to a typical breakfast/lunch menu that made it hard for me to make up my mind. I just had to try two dishes: one for breakfast and one for lunch.
I’m a crepe fan, and the Cali crepes ($10) were the perfect breakfast starter. Two crepes were served with a wonderful mix of veggies, including spinach, mushrooms and onions, along with eggs, cheese and Hollandaise sauce. For lunch, I ordered the Galloway panini ($8) with fries ($1). The fries, which I dug into on my way home, were heavy—not greasy or thick but solid and creamy, rather than light and crisp. The panini was a fun take on a Reuben, with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
Helene and her daughter ordered online through Eatstreet and went inside to pick up their orders. They noted the staff was extremely helpful and friendly.
Helene ordered the gyro ($9). The soft pita was lightly toasted, which gave it a delicious, slightly crunchy edge. Sliced meat and pickles with diced tomatoes and onions, chunks of feta cheese and Kalamata olives filled the pita, and depending on how you held it, it made for a messy but enjoyable meal. Helene said the “cucumber sauce,” as it was termed on the menu, was served on the side, was flavorful and helped add zing to the sandwich.
Helene’s daughter ordered the BLT ($6), which she enjoyed, noting there was just the right amount of bacon and that everything tasted fresh.
Nikki ordered takeout by calling the restaurant directly, and she visited midday to try out the lunch options.
First on the list was the taco salad ($10), which came in a deep-fried tortilla shell. It is not something Nikki normally orders at a restaurant, but it was a nice treat from the simple version she makes at home.
The meat was seasoned with just the right amount of heat, and it was served with chopped tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese. On the side were small cups of salsa and sour cream. The lettuce was not the typical shredded iceberg but a bright green mix of what looked like romaine or green leaf.
Nikki’s lunch companion ordered the patty melt ($7), one of Cafe 26’s signature sandwiches, and added a side of fries ($1). The burger was cooked perfectly and came smothered in melted cheese and onions that were nicely caramelized. The toasted sandwich held up surprisingly well after the 25-minute drive home, and the battered fries maintained their warmth.
Jennifer was particularly hungry the day she ordered takeout at Cafe 26. She was interested in trying breakfast, but she had quite the time deciding what to order because everything sounded fabulous.
In the end, she chose the golden skillet ($9). Two eggs lay atop a bed of seasoned, skin-on American fries, cubed sausage and freshly chopped tomatoes with gooey, rich, melted Swiss cheese. The skillet also included bacon, but Jennifer omitted it—thinking the sausage was an ample amount of meat.
For toast, she opted for the Texas toast, which was served golden brown with plenty of sweet, creamy butter. It was a delicious, rib-sticking breakfast that, as an added bonus, was big enough to provide leftovers Jennifer said were just as tasty the next morning.