August 16, 2017

From the first bite to the last, Hopscotch is a welcome site in the neighborhood

I was heading downtown to spend the morning writing questionnaires for two projects I have in the works at a coffee shop when I remembered a new bakery at opened near my house in Champaign. Craving a cinnamon roll or fruit croissant for breakfast, I turned the car around and headed to the new Hopscotch Bakery and Market on 802 W. John Street.

It was close to 10a by the time I got parked and the place was still packed, mostly young mothers with a child in tow and a small group of women in the center of the space deep in discussion. The cozy setting seats about 30. There are only four parking spaces and one handicap spot next to the store but plenty of space nearby on the street to accommodate customers.

The two signs behind the counter list the standard cafe offerings on one and fancy drinks on the other for those who shy away from caffeine like Spiced Ginger Cold Brew, Blackberry Basil Lemonade and Coconut Vanilla Bean Fizz. In a nearby cooler there was bottled water and a various craft sodas available.

However it was the stacks of pastries and baked goods that caught my eye. One thing to note is the store uses local ingredients to create their delights made up of bagels, cookies and cupcakes, but what caught my eye was the Blackberry Pear Lavender cake. The scones looked okay and large, nearly inch fruity crumb bars were tempting, but I wanted cake and to eat it there, too.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of customers came in empty handed left clutching an item in each. The conversations of the more than 20 patrons, including that of Leslie Barr and her friend Karen McCarthy sitting at a round table next to the large plate glass windows that allows the casual passerby peer inside, bounced off the white walls. It was Barr's fourth trip to Hopscotch, McCarthy's first.

"I love that it's not just a coffee shop that has pastries," Barr said. "It has lots local artists wares to look at. It's a great place to meet friends and hang out."

Speaking of art, the cupcake and cakes were decorated with a creative, colorful flair making them hard to overlook. It was the pastel tone (and the generous amount of frosting) on the Blueberry Pear Lavender cake that I had to try.

From the first bite to the last, no two were the same thanks to the marriage of pear and blackberry bits baked into the bottom of a yellow batter. The cake itself was course and dry, just the way I like it. On my next trip I'll have an Espresso and skip the black cherry soda to savor the more subtle flavors.

Don't expect Wal-Mart prices at Hopscotch, which opens at 7:30 every morning. This is a gourmet bakery with prices appropriate for an upscale neighborhood boutique. There was a two-layer, 10-inch cake in the cooler I so wanted to take home for $60. A medium size scone will run you around $2.95 and the variety of crumb cakes behind the counter are about a dollar more.

Champaign-Urbana needs more small neighborhood corner businesses, a place you can stop in on a morning walk or enjoy a warm beverage and good conversation, like this all over town. Here's hoping that this is a hop, skip and jump for more places like Hopscotch to grow in the community.

By Clark Brooks, Editor

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