Apr 1, 2015

Acting upon a Wild Hare

Until recently, I only thought of the small central Illinois town of Elkhart as yet another village clutching to its historical connections to the legendary U.S. Route 66.  And when I heard they had a really nice café there for lunch, I instantly thought of your typical small-town main street diner where a few residents and farmers go to pass the time and discuss the weather over endless cups of coffee and all-day breakfasts. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

But I should have known better, since I was first tipped off to go to Elkhart in search of art by Felicia Olin, one of the more successful current artists in the Springfield, Ill., area.  The April is a huge fan and follower of the artist’s work, so when someone told me I’d find a treasure trove of Felicia Olin paintings and prints at an art gallery connected to the café in Elkhart, I decided to take a short road trip to check it out.  I liked what I found so much that I took The April back a week later to treat her to lunch and a painting of her choice. 

The Wild Hare Café and Horsefeathers Antiques & Gift Shop occupy an old brick bank building on Elkhart’s main drag, Governor Oglesby Street.  The center of town is charmingly preserved, and it’s obvious that the Wild Hare, Horsefeathers and adjoining Dragonfly Art Studio are the main attractions.

The signs outside of the shop allude to the fact that this is not your typical diner or gift shop. 

The building’s interior has been restored right down to original grand marble floor.  The Horsefeathers portion features an eclectic mix of antiques, contemporary decorations and other curiosities, and included in the mix at seemingly every turn are many Felicia Olin painting on the walls.  A few examples …

Like this one ...

... or this one ...

... or this one ...

Whooo wants a cupcake?
But the best part of going there may be seeing how seamlessly they blend the cafe seating into the antique shop. 

The April, in the distance, studies The Wild Hare.
They truly are one in the same, and you’ll find various seating arrangements in practically every section of the shop. 

And it all gets brought together by the elaborate wall paintings that decorate every room of the cafe.    

Just feed me, and I'm happy. 
When The April and I visited, we were seated in one of the back rooms nearest the kitchen.  Although I felt a little out of place, studying the menu put a smile on my face. 

Or, maybe it was the table displaying the day’s tempting desserts, which was in clear view directly in front of our table.      

The café’s lunch fare leans toward the healthy side – specialty soups, sandwiches and salads – with an emphasis on organic and locally grown products.  And the salads are anything but ordinary, as we learned from The April ordering the salad sampler plate. 

A half-devoured salad sampler plate.
The homemade chicken salad may be the centerpiece, but you also get small portions of most other salads on the menu, from the classic Greek salad to more unusual offerings such as the black bean salsa salad and (my favorite) the Moroccan wild rice salad.  These were taste sensations I definitely did not expect to find in Elkhart. 

A half-devoured quiche and soup side.
I opted for the quiche of the day (spinach and asparagus) with a side of tomato basil soup.  The soup tasted as freshly made as could be, and the quiche was fluffy yet filling.  And no, I will not apologize for eating quiche.  It was that good. 

And of course, we could not leave before The April found the Felicia Olin print for her reading area in the living room.    

The Wild Hare Cafe and Horsefeathers turned out to be real finds after all.  They certainly give Elkhart a lot more to be proud of than just Route 66.  

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