I almost missed it. Even when I was looking for it across 75th Street from Petco, I had to make a sharp turn with no signal when I saw the small yellow and blue sign pointing to Cozy’s Cafe.
Parking in one of the eight total spots in front of the building, I got out of the car and for a second wondered if it was open. If the look of the outside had matched the taste of the food, though, I would’ve been walking into a cafe nestled between cobblestoned European side streets.
After being told to choose any of the empty tables along the blind-covered windows, I sat down and felt rapid-fire hunger stabs each time something on the menu sounded delicious. Cozy’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day, so I had to fight to keep my eyes trained to the breakfast side of the menu.
For every run-of-the-mill option, there were two items on the menu that betrayed the restaurant’s European roots. A French bread sandwich stacked with havarti cheese, prosciutto and eggs followed the biscuits and gravy and preceded the oatmeal. Omelettes varied from ham and cheddar to spinach, feta cheese and roasted pepper. Stacks of pancakes sat alongside Nutella crepes, and a caramelized apple pancake followed the breakfast burrito.
Kozeta Kreka owns the restaurant and her nickname gives it its namesake. An Albanian immigrant, she told me her restaurant is a re-imagined European bistro cafe. She works six days a week, off of a menu based on farm-to-table ingredients which change seasonally. And, yes, I could taste the difference between my happy-looking orange eggs and IHOP’s dull yellow ones.
I’m a firm believer that the way a restaurant makes an eggs benedict speaks volumes about their overall quality, from the runniness of the eggs to the thickness of the hollandaise sauce. So I ordered it with a coffee. The juxtapositions continued from the menu to the decor. Rich paintings of Venetian canals and what I imagine pre-Soviet Eastern Europe looked like hung on plain brick walls. A diner-style counter continued from a display of house-made baklava. Vases of fresh flowers adorned bare wooden tables.
My eggs benedict arrived, and I’m completely serious when I say I moaned. I ate with my eyes first, drinking in all of the bright colors that made up this first impression. My fruit cup had small-cut strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cantaloupe, none of which had the watered-down, oversized look characteristic of mass-produced Costco produce. They were vivid.
And I could tell Cozy’s meant business with their eggs benedict. There was no weak drizzling of hollandaise, or the the spiced egg-yolk-and-butter sauce of the gods, on my plate. My egg-and-prosciutto-topped English muffins were drenched.
Hence my auditory reaction. The colors on my plate intensified when I cut into the first one and a cooked-to-
perfection poached egg bled yolk in an eye-watering shade of orange.
When I stopped gawking and started shoveling, I knew I was inhaling the best eggs benedict of my career as an eggs benedict eater. Salty prosciutto mixed with cayenne pepper-flavored and buttery hollandaise, and added to a hearty English muffin and eggs, whose taste I can only describe as intensely eggy. Tiny blueberries exploded with flavor, and the strawberries had enough juice to offset their bitterness. It was, in short, super good.
More fresh coffee sealed a delicious but short-lived meal. That is, until Kozeta brought us a crème brûlée. She saw my East sweatshirt and said it was on the house, telling us her kids graduated years ago and went on to college at K-State. So we unceremoniously stabbed through the seared sugar coating and dug up the refreshing chilled custard.
A gulp of hot coffee got me ready to face the snow, and I signed over my allowance knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time. I walked out the door, vowing to make Cozy’s Cafe known to East kids who don’t know about the jewel tucked between power lines and a jewelry shop