191226HAVANA

Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this avocado BLT during a recent visit to Havana Coffee in Janesville. She chose sourdough bread instead of multigrain, and the sandwich also featured seasoned mayonnaise and came with chips on the side.

JANESVILLE

Though conveniently located on Milton Avenue, Havana Coffee is a bit of a hidden gem worth checking out.

The restaurant serves breakfast all day, a light menu of soup and sandwiches and house-baked pastries and goodies. And everything we tried was delicious.

Havana’s decor is anything but fussy. A wall of windows provides tons of natural light, and creamy beige walls create a warm, cozy and soothing environment. Several wood tables and chairs give it a bit of a vintage vibe.

We were particularly drawn to the wall of live ferns and cute birds. It is unique and adds brightness to a dreary day. There was a quiet reader in one corner, and in another corner someone was attending a web meeting. Guests were chatting and relaxing at a few other tables. The place is roomy enough for all, and the staff is friendly and welcoming.

We placed our orders at the counter and found a lovely spot to sit. Knowing everything is made to order, we weren’t expecting fast food, and our meals were called out as they were ready. This gave us plenty of time to sip and chat.

Offered a variety of Colectivo coffees and Letterbox teas (both produced in Milwaukee, by the way), I enjoyed a medium cup of blue heeler coffee ($2.30). It was complex with a hint of sweetness.

My friend wanted a dark roast and tried a small cup of Sumatra ($2), and she remembered to ask for it in a mug (Because everything tastes better in a mug).

Helene ordered her usual small latte ($3.50) which was warm and wonderful. Jennifer’s beverage of choice was the Letterbox tea, Gala ($2.55), a caffeine-free, infused herbal tea made from organic hibiscus. Tasting somewhat like cranberries, it had a tart, citrus flavor with a hint of sweetness, and its crimson color was oh-so-festive.

Nikki was happy to find her favorite on the menu—a large masala chai tea ($4.55, plus 75 cents for soy milk).

When our meals were called, we went back to the counter to pick them up. My scrambler sandwich ($5.95) was above the norm. Besides the cheesy eggs and soft roll, it was lightened by fresh tomato and lettuce. The cranberry scone also was a hit and is highly recommended. Scones can be dry and boring, but this one was fresh and moist.

Jennifer was particularly hungry during our visit, so she chose the chicken salad sandwich ($5.95) on toasted multigrain bread and a cup of mushroom brie soup ($2.25). The sandwich, which was moist and delicious, came full of white-meat chicken, celery, grapes, sliced almonds, crisp, green leaf lettuce and a combination of mayo and ranch dressing.

Jennifer can detect excess mayonnaise a mile away, but that wasn’t the case with this sandwich. The flavor was nutty and somewhat sweet, and she loved the crunchiness of the celery and a little tang from possibly lemon juice.

The mushroom brie soup was to die for. Thick, savory broth combined with creamy brie, shallots, heavy cream and an abundance of delicately textured mushrooms. The earthy, woodsy taste provided a level of comfort that resembled a warm hug from a loved one.

Ordering the avocado BLT ($6.95), Helene found out you can actually make a BLT taste better by adding this one simple ingredient. The avocado lent a wonderful creaminess to the sandwich.

Some people consider the avocado a meat substitute for the sandwich and order it bacon-free, but Helene was not inspired to do so. She chose the sourdough over the multigrain bread, and it came lightly toasted to add a bit of a crunch. Despite initially tasting like mustard, the mayonnaise provided a subtle tanginess that resembled lemon juice and really livened up the sandwich. Chips were served on the side and helped make for a filling meal.

Nikki ordered the ultimate roast beef and Swiss ($6.95) served on a toasted ciabatta bun with a bag of Miss Vickie’s sea salt potato chips on the side. The hot sandwich featured Havana’s tangy mayo along with caramelized onions and pickled peppers, which gave it the perfect kick. Very tasty.

With many tantalizing baked goods, it was hard to leave without indulging in something sweet. We tried the mini beignet trio ($5.50), and the little chocolate-filled pastries hit the spot. For a less decadent yet delicious treat, a small home-baked cookie (75 cents) is just the right price and size to complete a meal and leave you (almost) guilt-free.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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