Understandably, there are a lot of New York City foods that don’t translate up here to Western New York. But one of the most maddening, and puzzling, is the fact that we have many bodegas slinging cheap breakfast sandwiches. Roll + egg + meat + cheese isn’t a hard or expensive equation, and it’s one that is universally loved.
Owl Eyes Cafe in Allentown is here to remedy our affordable breakfast sandwich situation, at least on one corner. Located in the old Grindhaus Cafe (RIP), Owl Eyes Cafe is more of a takeout-friendly spot than its predecessor. Rather than peddling chill cafe vibes and premium coffee, the new cafe is more focused on everyday food and drink, with a killer breakfast sandwich being the crown jewel.
Seven dollars and fifty cents gets you a fried egg, bacon or sausage, arugula, tomato, onion jam and American cheese on a hard roll, bagel, gluten-free or wheat roll. If downstate authenticity matters to you, then you should know that barista Kat Conwell is often overseeing the operation.
“I’m from Staten Island, and there, any time of day or night, you can walk into a place and say, ‘I want bacon, egg and cheese on a roll—salt, pepper,ketchup,’” Kat says. “It’s like all one word.”
Owl Eyes Cafe is the sister restaurant to Cafe 59, which has become a go-to restaurant in Allentown for moderately-priced, well-made New American food. With the closing of Grindhaus, the Cafe 59 owners saw an opportunity to reopen the space with a much-needed concept in this part of Allentown.
“In this neighborhood, it seems like you can either get fast food or you can spend a lot of money on something nice,” Kat says. “As far as having something that’s convenient, good and homemade, there isn’t much in the middle price point. We are filling that need.”
With one of the cooks and a baker from Cafe 59, Owl Eyes Cafe has a menu that goes beyond the breakfast sandwich but stays within the guardrails of what you’d expect from a corner cafe: a yogurt-and-granola bowl, a daily soup, five kinds of salads and seven kinds of lunch sandwiches. The fried bologna we recently tried was massive, hit all the right notes, and well worth the $8.25 price tag. There are fresh baked goods available daily, and we were fortunate enough to grab the last handmade pumpkin pop-tart, which tasted as good as it sounds. For those with dietary considerations, the cafe offers a number of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. There’s also coffee, a full espresso bar and fruit juices available.
Open for just a few weeks, the cafe came roaring out of the blocks to gain a fast following in the neighborhood. Kat says the recent addition of oat milk to the coffee and espresso bar options was a result of making those neighborhood connections and listening to feedback.
“We don’t have to have 500 different options for everything,” she says. “We just have basic options and swap in or out a few options based on what we hear. That seems to be working.”
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Daily 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
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