On the coldest day of the year, a lot of businesses and schools and even restaurants closed.
On the day after the coldest day, it was still really cold. And schools were still closed.
But most restaurants weren't. People were stir crazy from being shut inside, and by people I mean me, and we headed out to eat.
On this day, my fellow diner ate gluten free, so we decided to head to lunch at Benedict's La Strata in Crystal Lake. We had gone one time a few years back and had good memories of the meal, so we wanted to make sure we were remembering correctly.
We were, for sure.
My fellow diner ordered off the kid's menu and got the gluten-free silver dollar pancakes.
I debated a lot of things that looked good, from a crab and avocado omelet to a Louisiana skillet, but kept coming back to the benedict portion of the menu.
It must be the restaurant's name, because I settled on the crab cakes benedict ($11.99) for my meal.
But first, I had to fuel up with a glass of water from the carafe on the table and coffee ($2.65), lots and lots of coffee.
After I downed a cup and a half, and my fellow diner sipped on a pink lemonade while we played tic-tac-toe on the kid's menu, out came the syrup and butter, which that diner commented looked a little bit like ice cream.
"Just don't eat it with a spoon," I said quickly.
Then came the meal, which was quite quick considering the place was bustling. They also serve fresh beignets from 7 to 11 a.m. every day but Sunday ($3.50 for classic, $4.25 for apple) but we had missed that cutoff.
They have everything from oatmeal to breakfast tacos, burritos and wraps to frittatas, omelets, stratas, quiche, 12 different benedicts, seven skillets (or you can make your own), several scrambles, assorted pancakes, waffles, french toast and crepes and that's just part of the breakfast.
There's also lunch sandwiches, burgers and wraps.
The pancakes were a hit. That diner tries the gluten-free versions all over and these were definite a top-notch version.
As for the benedict, I couldn't have asked for better. There were excellent Maryland crab cakes for starters. I've had some good ones, and plenty that weren't great at other spots, but these were the high quality ones for sure.
I ordered it with breakfast potatoes, but could have chosen fresh fruit instead, and the english muffin came on the side as well with the crab cakes serving as a bed for the poached eggs and an absolutely terrific red pepper chipotle sauce.
Next time I'm trying the Memphis Benny (with pulled pork, hollandaise and a drip of BBQ), but this time I couldn't have been more pleased.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Benedict's La Strata
WHERE: 40 N Williams St
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily
INFORMATION: Call 815-459-6500 or benedictseggs.com/