By: Brian Kendall
The interior carries on the vintage charm of this little strip at the corner of University and Park Hill. Time-worn tables and chairs hearken back to the ice cream parlors of another era. The walls are painted a sunny yellow, and the wooden bakery case and back service bar warm the space.
When Mark Ketchum and his wife Judi originally opened, they were focused on selling primarily coffees and teas. Here you will find one of the largest selections of loose tea and coffee beans in the area, and many that are decaffeinated.
Over the years, there has been a natural progression – offering lunch, then limited dinner service on Fridays, and Sunday brunch, where lines often form down the sidewalk. The brunch has become so popular, in fact, that they have recently added Saturday brunch.
During brunch, you will find the Park Hill Benedict with its signature spicy Hollandaise sauce, as well as a rich French Toast Casserole made with buttery croissants soaked in a maple-infused mixture of egg and fresh cream. They are sent over the top with a pecan praline crust.
At lunchtime, when I visited last, there is always a steady flow. They have sandwiches, salads, wraps and homemade soups. You can’t go wrong ordering the Salad Sampler with a selection of Chicken, Tuna, Pasta or House Salad (choice of 2 - $6.39, choice of 3 - $6.79, or all four - $7.39). Two large scoops of Tuna and Chicken Salad come with a simple green salad and the tangy house balsamic dressing. The Tuna Salad is creamy and mild tasting with pecan chips and finely chopped celery. Likewise, the Chicken Salad is smooth and meaty, not too creamy or weighed down with mayo. The House Salad is dusted liberally with Parmesan cheese and slices of Roma tomatoes, and strips of red onion are added. The plate comes with a nice side of potato chips, fresh fruit and a biscuit.
We also tried a Turkey, Bacon and Havarti sandwich (whole - $6.89 or half - $5.29).
It comes on your choice of bread, and is loaded with smoked turkey, Havarti cheese, crispy bacon, roasted red peppers, lettuce and a spicy mustard.
On Friday nights, the Ketchums’ daughter and co-owner Jennie Mae takes over in the kitchen. The most popular menu item is the Chili Tortilla Crusted Trout, and she has two specials that change each weekend and typically sell out quickly.
Mother Judi bakes all the homemade cakes from scratch. They had a chocolate cake draped in fudge icing, a classic carrot cake with cream cheese icing and a fluffy coconut cake to choose from on the day I visited. I went with the coconut and found it to be moist, with pudding in between layers, and a perfect white frosting with tons of coconut. All cakes by the slice run $4.50.
It used to be a neighborhood haunt and a well-kept secret. But, I’m afraid the word is out! With painted windowpanes serving as wall art, a vintage vibe, and freshly prepared recipes awaiting diners, it is no wonder Park Hill Cafe is on the radar for more than just its surrounding residents.
By: Brian Kendall