Endiro Coffee (Aurora, IL)

After a nice evening in Aurora, IL, followed by a slightly restless night interrupted by tornado sirens and having to figure out where to shelter in the hotel as we watched extreme winds and rain, we ended up really needing some coffee and sustenance before heading north to Minneapolis. We decided to check out Endiro Coffee in nearby downtown Aurora, IL. It’s worth noting that Endiro has several locations. In addition to the cafe in Aurora, and the nearby roastery, Endiro has ten locations spread across Uganda. Yes, it’s a true partnership between Cody Lorance in Illinois, and Gloria Katusiime in Ugunda, bringing coffee shops to Uganda and bringing Ugandan coffee to Illinois. So it’s not often you run into joint Ugandan-American operations, so I had to check this out.

Walking in, Endiro’s vibe is pure “small town coffee shop”, with a rather nice, airy location right along the river in Aurora (during nicer days, they’ve got some good outdoor terrace seating along with their two indoor seating areas). There’s also a small grill and food prep area behind the counter, and they offer up a menu of grilled breakfasts and lunch sandwiches.

Carol ordered the “African Coffee”, the house coffee served “African Style”, with a light masala spice and lots of milk. This was quite pleasant: while the primary flavor remained “coffee”, the combination of the dairy and spicing was also highly reminiscent of a chai tea, and we both agreed it was quite pleasant. Interestingly, the flavors of the spicing here reminded me enough of Indian food that I ended up doing a lot of reading of the interesting history of Indians in Uganda, and, like many places, this sort of immigration led to all sorts of great culinary fusion. I’m intrigued, and wish there were more Ugandan places around to explore the cuisine a bit more.

Myself, especially at breakfast, I prefer either a cold brew (alas, they were out that morning), or simple black coffee, so I ended up ordering their house Mt Elgon coffee brewed up with a Hario woodneck brewer. Since the whole goal of Endiro is partnering with Uganda farmers, I had high expectations of the coffee, and this delivered. A rich, bold coffee brew, this was nice medium-roasted coffee a bit more on the fruity end of the coffee spectrum, with light stone fruit notes and a bit of a floral finish; definitely on the fruit end of the spectrum and not the “nutty” end. Bright, smooth, and a nice start to our morning.

Looking over the food menu, we found a lot of interesting items. I ended up with the skirt steak and eggs: a nicely marinated and very well seared (it looks over-cooked here, but it wasn’t, it was crispy but tender) slice of skirt, some lightly-spiced scrambled eggs, and a hearty slice of wheat toast served with coffee-and-bacon jam. Everything was working well here: the steak had a nice marinade, and serving it up with some spiced grilled onions and peppers made for a light but satisfying breakfast. And one of the best features: the price. For $7.95, this was quite a good deal.

Carol went in a different direction, selecting a Ugandan item from the menu: the rolex. This was our first introduction to a “rolex”, a classic Uganda street food (the name comes from “Rolled Eggs”), but it’s basically a good example of the fusion of Ugandan and Indian cuisine: a omelette made with rough cut tomatoes and onions, rolled up, and then served in a chapati, it’s basically a variation of the breakfast burrito (with Ugandan spices and an Indian wrap). Pleasant, flavorful, and different, we both agreed this was a nice breakfast worth trying.

We really enjoyed Endiro. The coffee was good. The flavors were bold, and I got introduced to two new food items (the African coffee, and the rolex), and piqued my interest in Ugandan food. And my skirt steak and eggs? One of the best, affordable breakfasts I’ve had in a while. I’ll happily come back, and would love to look up one of their Uganda locations if I’m ever traveling down that way.

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