If you want to get your fix of gourmet mini donuts from Beavers Coffee & Donuts, you normally look to their website or Twitter to find the food truck’s location and hours. But once Beavers opens its first storefront restaurant in the Chicago French Market in early January, you’ll know where and when to get your hot breakfast on demand.
Since the Beavers truck opened in December of last year, requests for its catering service—and for donuts after the truck’s weekday morning-through-lunch hours—grew so rapidly that co-owners Gabriel Wiesen and Jim Nuccio started planning an expansion this summer. “Logistically, it makes sense to have a storefront in conjunction with a food truck,” Wiesen says. “Being able to facilitate those requests was really hard without a store.”
Operating a food truck makes starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant a much easier task. For starters, the idea has already been tested: Food-truck owners know what sells, know who their customers are and, when scouting for locations, know where their customer-base lives. They already are making money, and they’ve built a brand that can attract investors. Read the rest of this entry »
If a global bacon shortage strikes in 2013 and your favorite pig product goes scarce, now you know where to find your emergency fix: the annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest.
The competition, which celebrated its eighth year on a recent Sunday, is the largest apple-pie contest in the country. Put on as a fundraiser by the Friends of Holstein Park neighborhood organization, it’s also home to pies with plenty of creative license. Bacon showed up in multiple entries, and past ingredients have included bourbon, basil, pine nuts, maple syrup, cheddar cheese and even a crust with a henna ink drawing topping off the flakes. The contest rules weren’t always so open-minded—bacon was originally outlawed—but now the only limitations are a top and bottom crust, no uncooked eggs, and no other fruit. Read the rest of this entry »
Boasting a company small enough to “roast on demand,” Bow Truss Coffee Roasters call themselves a “collective of veteran coffee professionals.” The crew at Bow Truss seeks to simplify the coffee experience. They roast in-house, allowing customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a raw bean turns into a pour-over masterpiece that quells even the most discerning of coffee drinkers. Read the rest of this entry »
Leah Wilcox thought pancakes were boring, so she decided to make them more interesting. Pancakes with red wine, salted caramel, strawberry margarita, birthday cake, white-chocolate macadamia… Wilcox realized the floppy, flat breakfast food had potential, and launched Babycakes, a pancake food truck.
Every morning, Wilcox rises and goes to the Kitchen Chicago shared commercial kitchen on the West Side. She maps out her menu ideas the day before, choosing about six varieties from dozens of options that rotate daily. Since she began a food-truck business with her pancakes in March, she has come up with nearly eighty recipes.
Wilcox never had a particular fascination with flapjacks; in fact, her idea sprang from how boring she found them. ”I don’t really like regular old-fashioned pancakes that much, which is part of the reason I started playing around with the recipe to make it something new and different. I am excited about doing something with pancakes that has never been done before. Plain buttermilk pancakes to me are just a little bit boring and way too filling. Since my pancakes are relatively small, about three inches in diameter, and a stack of three in each, you can get the delicious flavor without going into carb overload, and you can try a couple of them without feeling too stuffed,” she says. Read the rest of this entry »
A longtime staple in image-conscious Los Angeles, Chicago has jumped on the juice trend, with new spots like Peeled, just south of Lincoln Park close to the river, popping up around town. A streamlined space with organic, locally sourced produce ripe for consumption, Peeled offers a cold-beverage option that isn’t a tall iced latte or a pint. And it moves away from Jamba Juice’s sugar-loaded “smoothies.” Given the Midwest’s penchant for food that aims to clog arteries (here’s looking at you, ridiculous poutine trend), Peeled also offers a refreshing option that actually incorporates vegetables.
“This business would be a fairy-tale story if I said that I grew up on a Nicaraguan coffee farm and I always had this deep passion for it, but it just wouldn’t be true. We just don’t have that dream story, where I was a surfer and discovered a delicious new fruit that I could bottle. I kind of wish that was my lifestyle, but at the same time, it has been a really fantastic journey. It might not be as romantic, but certainly the integrity is there, you know?” Ben Heins, cofounder of Bean & Body, told me over the phone as he drove to Wisconsin.
By Elena Rodina
The stretch of Devon Avenue in the Rogers Park area is mostly known for its Indian stores, and my friends head there if they want to buy ingredients for tandoori chicken, a bright sari or some golden bangle bracelets. However, in the late eighties and throughout the nineties, the area was densely populated by immigrants from the Soviet Union. By now, most of them have left the neighborhood, having moved to the greener suburbs. But there are still a couple of places that are full of hidden Slavophile treasures.
One such place is a Russian supermarket named Three Sisters, after the famous Chekhov play. When I walked in there for the first time, I immediately felt at home. Not just because the place was stuffed with nesting dolls, dark bread, sour cabbage and other things that are dear to my heart, but also because the sales clerks there project a traditional Russian attitude toward clients: grimness and neglect. It’s the perfect place for misanthropes tired of the broad smiles and unavoidable enthusiasm of American customer service. At Three Sisters, you will be greeted by silence and suspicious looks, at least at first. It’s a matter of style, though; the clerks are nice and helpful once you start talking to them. Read the rest of this entry »
Kris Swanberg began making ice cream immediately after getting laid off as a CPS teacher, calling her product Nice Cream. Her all-local organic model became popular in stores, gaining the attention of Whole Foods and eventually the Illinois Department of Public Health, who recently shut Swanberg down for not having a dairy license and not following the regulations. Swanberg’s business, however, is still at a point where the regulations are cost prohibitive to keep Nice Cream local and organic. Instead of rolling over, this time she’s drawing her line in the sand and sticking up for her beloved ice cream and that of other Illinois artisan creamers.
What originally intrigued you about making ice cream besides the ice cream maker you received for your wedding?
That’s it really! (Laughs.) I just started doing it at home and I couldn’t stop thinking about different flavors and different ideas. Read the rest of this entry »
Under the shade of a crisscrossing concrete canopy, a sliver of 26th Street runs from South Canal Street to I-94 beneath the intersecting Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressway overpasses. Here, in the far reaches of the Bridgeport, Chinatown and Armour Square neighborhoods, the Ricobene family has carved out their flavorful nerve center.
The Ricobene family has maintained a presence on the 200 block of West 26th since 1946, when Rosario and Antonia opened a walk-up vegetable stand that quickly grew into the big-eats Italian food destination that it is today. Read the rest of this entry »