Fall is unquestionably a roller coaster this year. It’s shuffling from warm days to cool days, sunny days to rainy days.

Regardless, fall is my favorite season of all. Mother Nature never disappoints. I enjoy the cooler temperatures, falling leaves and shorter days. I’m happy those pesky mosquitoes have disappeared. I only wish they would have taken the weeds from my garden that continue to grow.

I’ve already started some wonderful fall recipes like soups, stews, roasted meats and any dessert that contains apple or pumpkin. I always look forward to restaurants that serve those delicious and creative fall entrées.

A day in Utica

Dave and I have had some hectic schedules lately. We were excited to have a day to ourselves, so we took the back roads to Utica, a charming, historic village not far from Starved Rock State Park.

We went to August Hill Winery, where we enjoyed wine and cheese on a hill near where they grow the grapes. Then it was off to the village to August Hill’s tasting room. We were able to choose some beautiful red wines for the upcoming holidays.

Since the beginning of COVID, businesses in downtown Utica have blocked off a street and set up dining tables for local restaurants.

We discovered a new restaurant — Bruce & Ollie’s, a café serving coffee, beer, ice cream and deli. The café is located inside the Bickerman Building on Mill Street.

I met the owners, Matt and Jen Cetwinski, who have transformed this old building into a relaxing space. The building was once Bickerman’s Hardware until Frances Bickerman retired in 1993.

It remained in the family until 2020 when Matt and Jen Cetwinski purchased it. The Cetwinskis have a successful residential construction company. There are old beams, a stone wall, an oversized wood fireplace in the lounging area and plenty of room with various nooks to relax and enjoy food and beverage.

How did they come up with the name Bruce & Ollie? Well, they happen to be their two adorable dogs!

Food & drink

Start the day off with a breakfast casserole, a breakfast sandwich or a muffin. Lunch includes a variety of salads — including the Flower Pot, with turkey, mixed fruit and poppyseed dressing; or the Southwest with taco meat, cheese, black olives, salsa, corn and Fritos. For the cooler days, try one of the homemade soups.

For those coming in for a lighter lunch, the Charcuterie Board is incredible; it includes fruits, cheese, nuts, meats, veggies and crackers. There are also various veggies and dips to choose from, or the Bruce-Cetta dip with bruschetta, cream cheese and crackers.

Do they have sandwiches? Absolutely! Try the roasted veggie sandwich filled with grilled veggies on sweet potato flatbread with provolone cheese. They also have homemade chicken salad and subs.

For something different, try the cucumber sandwich with cucumbers on sprouted grain bread with cream cheese, tomatoes, red onions and lettuce.

Dave and I wish we would have found this first because they have a picnic pack selection. Choose from a variety of sandwiches with sides and a selection of breads.

Their coffees were delicious. I’m a seasonal pumpkin gal, myself, so I ordered a pumpkin latte for the road. Dave is strictly a mocha guy. Their mocha lattes are made with Ghirardelli chocolate.

An extended stay

I also wish we knew about the upstairs. The Cetwinskis have converted the upstairs into an Airbnb. We would have spent the night there because the space is gorgeous.

These are historic lofted condos located above the café in the heart of downtown. The windows have been restored to their original height, giving guests a great view of downtown. They come complete with a full kitchen, a fireplace and a king-size bed.

Bruce & Ollie’s is very dog-friendly. They even make dog treats from scratch. Sit outside with your pooch and enjoy a beautiful day.

Dave and I really were impressed with the building, the café and especially the owners. We even got to snuggle with a Labrador outside.

The trip to Utica is a great getaway trip. We highly recommend it!

Tinker Parker is an adjunct communication professor at Kankakee Community College and Governors State University. She can be contacted through The Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or directly at bestbites@daily-journal.com; TinkerP91@yahoo.com; or Best Bites Hotline 815-802-5101.