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Top 20 restaurant of the week: Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe in Carterville
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Top 20 restaurant of the week: Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe in Carterville

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Crystal Lukens, owner of Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe, knows a thing or two about feeding large groups of people and devising tantalizing menus.

With more than 10 years of experience catering corporate and family events, Lukens is also the successful chef, baker and operator of the popular eatery in downtown Carterville. The building that Rise Above It calls home is owned by Lukens’ sister, Jennifer Spence, a local property developer and enthusiastic supporter of local historical buildings.

The sibling duo say the name Rise Above It serves a dual purpose of being a pun on the way Lukens’ handmade pastries and breads truly rise above, and also the ability the sisters have had to rise above challenges in life to realize their dreams. The success of Rise Above It is a testament to the hard work and determination of Lukens and Spence.

The restaurant has a loyal following of hungry diners that keep coming back for breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes full of distinctive flavor combinations. Rise Above It serves up options that Lukens is proud to offer as something more wholesome and unique than a simple sandwich at a drive-thru.

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Avocado toast served on wheat berry bread is a popular option, along with the fried green tomato BLT with house-made pimento cheese. Biscuits and gravy come with the option of Lukens’ fluffy special recipe biscuits or Sister Schubert rolls, both smothered in country gravy. The chicken salad is made fresh by Lukens and features chopped pecans, mayo, grapes and celery. Another favorite, the Reuben sandwich, is topped with delicious, creamy homemade Thousand Island dressing and locally made sauerkraut.

Besides some well-known customary recipes, Rise Above It offers unique dishes, such as the "ponut," which is a potato doughnut baked in a Bundt pan, topped with cheddar cheese, peppers, and onions, and fried just enough to crisp up the concoction. Crystal’s Original Salad is a favorite of patrons as well, with lettuce, onions, peppers, candied pecans and cheese tossed in the restaurant’s famous Crystal’s Original Salad Dressing, a special recipe devised by Lukens.

Crystal's Catering now selling Crystal's famous dressing

The bakery portion of Rise Above It offers sweet, comforting treats that all pair well with coffee and good company. White chocolate raspberry scones, blueberry, banana nut, and chocolate chip cappuccino muffins, donuts from an old family recipe, cinnamon rolls, and flaky cream horns filled with fluffy cream are some of the pastries available at Rise Above It, and are each made with love and care for customers.

With Spence managing the beautiful building, which is conveniently situated in the heart of Southern Illinois, and Lukens working hard to provide modern, comforting fare, Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe offers the perfect casual atmosphere and upscale service to complement the outstanding comestibles.

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