On the restaurant scene: Interurban's hidden treasures

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Worth skulking around for
A first attempt to find Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop may leave you wondering whether you're in the right place. The address is 2008 N. Halsted, but there is no 2008 on Halsted. It's supposed to be in an alley, so, um, maybe you get to it through the back of the 7-Eleven at 2004?

Save yourself a phone call: entry to the alley in question is off Armitage, convenient to the Brown Line stop and next to Charlie Trotter's, which is just one of the places chef-owner Christine McCabe has worked over the years. Interurban, open since early this month, is for now a takeout window fronting a surprisingly expansive production area. A kiosk in the Red Line station at Grand and State is in the works for next year.

McCabe graduated from Washburne Culinary Institute in the early 90s, way ahead of the curve in terms of Chicago's culinary scene. Because of this, she says, she initially had a hard time finding work in the field—"Want a drink?" she'd be asked while making the rounds. "No, a job."

Her first gig was at Gabriel's, where she started specializing in pastry—"I have a mathematical brain," she says—and got hooked up with a short stage at Robuchon in Paris. At Trotter's, she did "everything, but mostly pastry," and in the mid-aughts she was the lead chef at Jerry Suqi's "dessert lounge" Sugar. More recently she's served as a consultant for Glazed and Infused, Francesca king Scott Harris's foray into doughnuts.

At Interurban she's offering breakfast goods—scones, muffins, croissants, sticky buns—to go with hot chocolate and Rock House coffee. There are also sweets such as cookies and cake bites, some savories like focaccia, and, now that it's cold, soup and chili. At the el stop location McCabe plans to expand, adding sandwiches to the mix.

But trust me, her croissants and house-made pumpkin Pop-Tarts alone are worth the search.

Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop, 2008 N. Halsted (enter on Armitage), 773-698-7739

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