The menu on Eastgate Café's website led me to believe it served little beyond what I could make at home. Few of the entrées seemed very imaginative and prices were on the high side. Almost seven dollars for a tuna or a ham-on-Swiss sandwich? I dunno. If you’re going to charge almost four dollars for a peanut butter sandwich, you’d better romance me with some menu copy about the goobers being hand-harvested from Thomas Jefferson’s garden or some such exotic locale.
Once I got to the restaurant, I found that daily specials menu were more intriguing selections. Hungarian sausages ($10.99), mounted on a lush flatbread with potatoes au gratin on the side, offered an offal funk that surprised and pleased; the vegetarian lasagna (also $10.99) gave up some dimension (provided, in part, by five cheeses), felt homemade, and packed an aggressive oregano and garlic punch.
There’s a gift shop filled with gimcracks and curios, and the overall feel of the place is mellow edging into quaint. Still, in addition to doopers, Eastgate Cafe seems to attract hipsters with laptops, as well as younger couples and families.
The comparisons with nearby Buzz Café (905 S. Lombard) are inevitable. Like the Buzz, Eastgate Café is a neighborhood place in a village of neighborhoods. I don’t think it’s going to draw a lot of traffic from distant lands (like, say, Chicago or Maywood), but for denizens of the People’s Republic of Oak Park, especially those in the Harrison area, it’s a good option to swankier Breijo (211 Harrison) and the pioneering though fading La Majada (226 Harrison).