Though not open long, Garden Berry Cafe is already a valuable asset to the brunch scene in Vernon Hills. Garden Berry took over the space of former restaurant Charms, and now offers breakfast and brunch staples including pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, omelets, skillets, sandwiches, wraps and burgers. The menu is as extensive as it sounds, so give yourself some extra time to browse before ordering.
Inside, the restaurant is bigger than it seems from the outside, arranged into a couple of dining rooms, an outdoor patio space, and a coffee bar area with stool seating. The decor is similar to an upscale coffee shop -- not stuffy, but definitely comfortable with a refined vibe. As a side note: The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol.
For our breakfast, we ordered the single-egg combo with bacon, hash browns and French toast, plus a Create-A-Skillet with onions, mushrooms, green peppers, cheddar, and a side of potato pancakes. Our food was good, but I will say I was envious of the other tables who ordered the sweeter foods, like waffles or pancakes topped with towers of fresh fruit, powdered sugar and whipped cream.
My skillet initially came as an omelet accidentally, but the waitstaff was completely on top of it and immediately remade my food, with an extra egg for the trouble. The vegetables all seemed really fresh (the green pepper had a fantastic crispness to it that added some great texture) and were cut in large pieces. I would have enjoyed more, though. The skillet had a heaping mound of potatoes as well, all nicely browned and crispy. My eggs were cooked perfectly, which can sometimes be hard to do when ordering over-medium. I was impressed.
The potato pancakes on the side were cooked equally well. They had a good ratio of potatoes to onions in the batter, and I loved that you could identify the different ingredients rather than dealing with an indistinguishable fried mush. There was, though, an odd taste that I couldn't quite place -- a spice I didn't care for that wasn't the best combination with the potato pancakes themselves. A bit more seasoning precooking would really put these at top-level as well.
With the single-egg combo, the egg was nicely scrambled and not overcooked. It came with three strips of bacon that we adored: thick and crispy slices, exactly how I would have made it at home. Diners get an ample amount of hash browns with this combo, so don't worry that you won't fill up on only one egg. And eat them first; they come nicely browned but got a bit too soft too fast. By the time we got to them, they weren't crisp. For the French toast, it was pretty standard -- but I'd recommend getting it as a meal with some extra toppings. Those plates going out to other tables looked phenomenal.
The only real concern we had was that our table was never cleared and we didn't receive our check. We had to go up to the counter to pay and then wait for our waiter to deliver the bill to the cashier. Not too much of an inconvenience overall except that we were on a tight schedule.
I'll definitely go back. And now that I've had some of the breakfast staples, I think I'll go for something sweeter. Maybe the Apple Bread French toast, topped with a vanilla bean glaze and pecans. I can only imagine it's as good as it sounds, if not better.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Garden Berry Cafe
906 U.S. Hwy. 45, Vernon Hills, (224) 475-0326, facebook.com/gardenberrycafe/
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily