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Sentry Hilldale Cafe

In a word: Don't shop hungry.

The specs: #0592  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; official web site

JM ate the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cookie with a vanilla milk.
Nichole ate the cherry turnover with a decaf.
The bill was $5.55 plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Sentry Hilldale Cafe a C+ (see our grading rubric).

When we called the Sentry grocery store at Hilldale Mall and asked for the Cafe's Labor Day weekend hours, they weren't sure at first whether we meant the deli or what. We managed to get there when they were open - the cafe operates across the aisle from the checkouts, making it a hassle-free place to eat at the end of the mall - but their oven was broken so there was not much food. On another day, soups, quiches, and hot sandwiches might be available. The only one we specifically remember from the chalkboard menu is a Monte Cristo with pesto, but that doesn't count.

The apologetic, almost nervous, staffer behind the counter invited us to get something from the deli and bring it to the cafe's dining area to eat, but we felt it would be more true to the list to get a snack of bakery and beverages at the cafe itself.

Sentry Hilldale Cafe

We ordered and sat in the bright space, where ceiling-high windows overlook a patio and inside there's seating for about 40 on 2- and 4-seat tables. The color scheme is red and yellow which made us think of McDonald's, as did the disposable tableware, but the similarities ended there.

The bakery was fine, though the selection was too "pastry," not "donut" enough for our tastes. We could have gotten a muffin or a scone, but we snagged the last PB cookie and the last cherry turnover. The turnover was fresh and flaky but the filling was just red gel, and the cookie had that vending-machine additive texture that suggests some sort of preservative, though whether that was native to the peanut butter cup mushed into it or the cookie itself remained unclear.

Alterra coffee rarely disappoints, and this was fresh and hot. The Horizon vanilla milk was good. At $5.55 for both of us, it was a good deal.

JM called this a "boring ol' coffee shop," and really there are better places to eat at and 'round Hilldale. But we imagine there's a contingent of retirees who gather here each day and shoot the breeze, complain about politics and enjoy a coffee, and for that the cafe is a good spot.


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