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Artopolis Bakery & Cafe

306 S. Halsted | 312-559-9000

$

GREEK, MEDITERRANEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 1, OTHER NIGHTS TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This Greektown establishment combines a bakery, cafe, bar, and retail store under one roof. A heated display case shows off their signature "artopitas"—flaky, calzonelike puff pastries stuffed with combinations like spinach and feta or chicken and mozzarella. There's an extensive selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches on hearth-baked bread, plus wood-fired pizzas. A few traditional dishes like eggplant moussaka, stuffed peppers, and roasted leg of lamb with oregano, rosemary, and mint aioli are also available. Everything's reasonably priced, and it's self-service at lunch after two, when the place is usually packed. A subterranean bakery turns out fantastic breads and pastries, which are sold retail along with colorful gift baskets and a variety of chocolates, olive oils, and vinegars. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Blue Sky Bakery & Cafe

3720 N. Lincoln | 773-880-9910

$

BAKERY, AMERICAN, COFFEE SHOP | TUESDAY-saturDAY 7 AM-7 PM, SUNDAY 8 AM-3 PM | CLOSED MONDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

As part of the Blue Sky Inn, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged Chicago youth gain work experience, Blue Sky Bakery puts teenagers that may be homeless or at-risk through a 12-week job program, helping them acquire skills such as cash handling and bread baking. The new storefront location on Lincoln (moved from Albany Avenue) is quirkily decorated, with a pale blue vintage bike hanging from one wall and kitschy chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. Among the baked goods are awesome savory white-cheddar-and-chive scones; sweet, sugary peanut butter and oatmeal cookies; and a dense, doughy tomato-and-cheese quiche. Sandwiches include thick crimson coins of beets with soft goat cheese and red onion served on hot, fresh ciabatta and a less-impressive ham and cheese on a pretzel roll. —Izidora Angel

Charmers Cafe/Dagel and Beli

1500 W. Jarvis | 773-743-2233

$

KOSHER/JEWISH/DELI, COFFEE SHOP | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Ram on High ("numperpickel bagel, hoked money sham, swiss, tour yoice of choppings"). Fart Smella ("barlic gagel, boast reef, comato, tapers, and lomaine rettuce"). Spoonerisms are all very well in their way, I suppose, but this little deli and cafe goes so nuts with the verbal scramblings that deciphering the offerings just might drive you nuts. Thankfully the place does offer a "translation menu" in plain English. The other gimmick here is that the more than 25 specialty bagel sandwiches all come steamed, which has an upside (who doesn't like melted cheese?) but also a slight downside—since the process takes about ten minutes, you'll wait a little while for your food. The bagels themselves are from New York Bagel & Bialy, and they come with a wide range of accompaniments, from spicy mayo to olive cream cheese. Whereas Dagel and Beli used to adjoin Charmers Cafe, it's now been merged with it, so Charmers' pastries from Bennison's, Homer's ice cream, teas, and superior Metropolis coffee are also available. —Kate Schmidt

Crepe & Coffee Palace

2433 N. Clark | 773-404-1300

$

French, african | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: seven days | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 11

Can a hidden treasure be in plain sight? On a busy stretch of Clark just north of Fullerton, you'll find this delightful Algerian-style eatery. The walls are festooned with rugs and other North African gewgaws, and Arabic pop plays on a small boom box. A sign on the window says hot crepes day and night, and indeed you can pretty much get any kind of crepe you can imagine. Dinner starts off with homemade soup, either roast chicken or vegetable, gently spiced and wonderfully porridgelike. My crepe was a heavenly spongy wedge bursting with fresh ingredients: mixed greens, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella, and merguez sausage. It was thoroughly satisfying by itself, but skipping dessert at a crepe place is like getting decaf at Intelligentsia. I went for one with raspberry jam and Belgian dark chocolate. It arrived drizzled with chocolate sauce and decked with a miniature drink umbrella atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream. —Rob Christopher

Crepe Crave

1752 W. North | 773-698-8783

$

EUROPEAN | monday-thursday 10 Am-8 pm, friday 10 am-9 pm, saturday 8 am-9 pm, sunday 8 am-8 pm | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Crepe Crave bills itself as a "crepe and gelato cafe," and that's exactly what it serves—no more, no less. The coffee's from Illy, the 18 flavors of gelato (some seasonal) from the Michigan company Palazzolo's. The crepes are classified as sweet, savory, or "breakfast," which spans both, and if you don't like the combinations offered you can build your own for a base price of $3.50. The smoked salmon on the Norwegian, served with cream cheese, was perfectly balanced by capers and red onions; an egg crepe with feta, spinach, and fresh tomatoes was equally good. Sweet cheese was our favorite of the sweet crepes—a cheesecakelike confection made in-house that we had with strawberries. —Julia Thiel

Crepes a Latte the Cafe

1840 W. Irving Park | 773-549-4444

$

COFFEE SHOP, EUROPEAN | Monday-Thursday 7 AM-7 PM, Friday-Saturday 7 AM-8 PM, Sunday 7 AM-6 PM | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Born of a catering operation specializing in trade shows, this airy Parisian-style cafe with a perpetual soundtrack of bland jazz has a slick corporate feel showcasing a lineup of breakfast, sweet and savory crepes, hot and cold caffeinated uppers, and a smattering of house-made sweets and pastries. From the modish design to the plastic utensils and patio furniture, you could easily imagine this as the first link in a long and middling chain. —Mike Sula

Delicious Cafe

3827 N. Lincoln | 773-477-9840

$

COFFEE SHOP, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; dinner: monday-saturday | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Husband-and-wife team Chelsea Waldrop and Kevin Porter worked together as baristas for a year before opening this North Center coffee shop with the help of family and friends. There's an extensive menu of specialty coffee drinks and an all-vegan lineup of pastries and sandwiches like grilled cheese (made with cashew cheese), grilled peanut butter and banana, and tofu eggless salad. They're also offering Sunday specials like chocolate chip-pecan waffles. —Kate Schmidt

First Slice Pie Cafe

4401 N. Ravenswood | 773-506-7380

$

AMERICAN, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, BAKERY | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Mary Ellen Diaz put in time as head chef at Printer's Row, as chef-owner of her own place, and as a corporate chef for the Lettuce Entertain You empire. But her dream had always been to work in a restaurant modeled on Jane Addams's community kitchens. In 2002 she launched First Slice, a nonprofit that makes hand-cooked meals for the homeless. To fund it Diaz originally used money from her subscription meal service; in 2005 she opened this First Slice Pie Cafe in the Lillstreet Art Center to further increase the amount. In the tiny space—there are just a few tables—she offers slices of several truly scrumptious pies, from basic apple to red wine and poached pear, plus cakes, cookies, bars, and fair-trade coffee served in mugs made at the center. Savory offerings include simple, hearty dishes such as creamy tomato soup, turkey chili, black bean tamales with pepita salsa, a shredded duck sandwich on sourdough, and a grilled number with goat cheese, roasted vegetables, and poached pear. There are additional locations at 163 E. Pearson and 4664 N. Manor. —Anne Ford

Floriole Cafe & Bakery

1220 W. Webster | 773-883-1313

$

BAKERY, COFFEE SHOP | breakfast, lunch: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY; dinner: tuesday-saturday | CLOSED MONDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The bright, spacious brick-and-mortar HQ of this Green City Market veteran is yet more evidence that the city needs to get behind small-business incubators such as Kitchen Chicago, where proprietress Sandra Holl got her start. Here a big open window gives a full view of the doings in the kitchen while you snack on Holl's magnificent seasonal pastries made with primo local ingredients, from ephemeral offerings such as this spring's rhubarb galette to more permanent fixtures such as the sticky canelé de Bordeaux. A sandwich of the day (augmented by a salad du jour) can feel overbreaded and underfilled, but since it's all about the bread anyway, there's little to complain about. Note: currently closed for the holidays, Floriole will reopen on January 14. —Mike Sula

Flourish Bakery Cafe

1138 W. Bryn Mawr | 773-271-2253

$

bakery, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

With a daily rotation of artisanal breads and homemade soups, Edgewater's Flourish Bakery Cafe calls to mind Corner Bakery—one with a vintage Mixmaster display, Easter-egg-colored walls, and pop-art posters of a woman looking very excited about cake. Oh, and a better menu. Sandwiches and panini include the Pilgrim turkey wrap (roasted turkey, sausage-walnut stuffing, cranberry-apricot chutney, and sweet potato puree folded in a tortilla) and a Monte Cristo with apricot-mustard chutney. Retro-inspired hot entrees such as potpie and tuna casserole change daily, and Metropolis supplies the coffee and honey-plum iced tea. As a fan of the chichi cupcake craze, I really wanted to like the chocolate ones here even though there were no sprinkles in sight. But the cake tasted dry, and it looked like I'd frosted it myself—who wants that? An oatmeal scotchie, on the other hand, was right on the mark. After 5 PM breakfast pastries such as cherry-coconut Danish go for half-price; the list of daily breads, which include chocolate-cherry and rosemary-olive, is available at flourishbakerycafe.com. Flourish has recently added a weekly bread delivery service. —Anne Ford

Icosium Kafe

5200 N. Clark | 773-271-5233

$

EUROPEAN | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | BYO

Icosium Kafe, an Algerian creperie from Belkacem Elmetennani (owner of Crepe & Coffee Palace and Mamacita's), is the latest inhabitant of the apparently cursed northwest corner of Clark and Foster, and the ghost of the former occupant, the Corner Grille, lingers on in the form of aluminum cafe tables and orange vinyl banquettes. Still, it's a lot cozier than before, with brass, beaded lamp shades, mirrors, and tapestries just about everywhere. Savory crepes come in eight varieties, from the "Cheka Chouka"—stuffed tight with roasted peppers, caramelized onions, goat cheese, baby spinach, tomatoes, roasted garlic, and arugula—to the simple, classic combo of Brie and apples. There's also a make-your-own option, and meat, from chicken to halal merguez sausage to snails, can be added to any crepe for $2.99. Dessert crepes include gold standards like Nutella and strawberries and exotica like the Crepe Icosium, filled with pistachio ice cream and a compote of raisins, pears, and rose water. Elmetennani also offers a range of organic coffees, juices, and teas. While the menu combinations are fairly predictable, everything's well-constructed and filling, and the staff couldn't be sweeter. —Martha Bayne

Little Branch Cafe

1251 S. Prairie | 312-360-0101

$

COFFEE SHOP | BREAKFAST: MONDAY-FRIDAY; LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; DINNER: WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH

Tucked into the ground floor of a gleaming South Loop high-rise, this casually modern spot run by fashion designer Soo Choi and her sister Sang is notable for both its good looks and its utter lack of street parking—the cafe seems primarily to serve the culinary needs of neighborhood condo dwellers and the occasional museum campus refugee. Nice aesthetic touches, courtesy of designer/contractor Kevin Heisner, include silky-smooth polished limestone tabletops, chalkboard-painted walls, counters faced with unfinished lumber, and stools made from painted tree trunks. The food is as well designed as the space: a turkey Reuben from the short panini menu was surprisingly tidy, bird, kraut, and cheese smooshed cleanly between slices of marble rye. Also on offer: smoky espresso drinks with Metropolis coffee, Palazollo's artisanal gelato and sorbetto, and smoothies. There's now a full bar, and the cafe is open till 10 PM Wednesday-Saturday. —Martha Bayne

Pannenkoeken Cafe

4757 N. Western | 773-769-8800

$

EUROPEAN | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: seven days | BYO | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Linda Ellis, owner of this tiny Lincoln Square cafe, fell in love with Holland on her first trip in 2001—the bikes, the easy pace, the friendly people. And she got hooked on pannenkoeken, the large, thin, crispy-edged Dutch pancakes—so much so that she apprenticed herself to a gruff elderly master of the art. The initial result was a tightly compressed menu: a few egg dishes, regular buttermilk pancakes, and three pannenkoeken (apple, chocolate-banana, and bacon and Havarti). "I wanted to start small," Ellis says. "I wanted to be able to control what we do qualitywise." These days, with the help of her daughters, she's expanded her pannenkoeken repertoire, offering combos such as raisin and ginger marmalade, apple and ginger, ham and cheese, and bacon, cheese, and mushroom. —Mike Sula

Swim Cafe

1357 W. Chicago | 312-492-8600

$

COFFEE SHOP, BREAKFAST, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; DINNER: TUESDAY-FRIDAY | BYO

Former caterer Karen Gerod serves fresh, organic foods from local and socially conscious vendors—Ineeka Tea, Naked juices and smoothies, and java from Just Coffee—and uses them in her sandwiches, salads, and sweets at this cafe awash in mild, bright shades of aqua and sea foam green. I can think of no more perfect treat for kids who've worked up an appetite across the street in the Eckhart Park pool than a PB&J on Red Hen's scrumptious chocolate bread. A tuna sandwich on pumpernickel gets a kick from capers, avocado, cucumber, and lemon, and a ham-and-Swiss panini was satisfying. By no means miss Gerod's cupcakes. She also bakes her own muffins, cookies, and scones, which she keeps diminutive by design—"small but rich" is her motto. Swim Cafe is now open for dinner from Tuesday through Friday and is BYOB after 6 PM. —Susannah J. Felts

Yolk

1120 S. Michigan | 312-789-9655

$

coffee shop | Breakfast, Lunch: seven days

Perhaps self-evidently, the specialty at this sunny South Loop breakfast-and-lunch spot is eggs, offered in several different Benedict styles (for example, there's an Irish Benny topped with corned beef hash) as well as in omelets and frittatas or served just plain old sunny-side up. I opted for a "West Coast" crepe filled with scrambled eggs, avocado, mushrooms, and cheese, and though it said "sweet crepe" right there on the menu, I still found it odd with all the other savory flavors. As for the eggs Benedict (we went for the classic version), despite the fact that it was crowded on the plate by huge chunks of fresh fruit ("Who wants fruit covered in hollandaise?" my companion asked), it was very good. In addition to egg dishes, Yolk's menu features a variety of pancakes, waffles, and French toast, as well as sandwiches and salads for the lunch crowd. The custom-roasted coffee was significantly better than typical diner swill and refilled often, and on a weekday service was friendly and prompt. There are also locations at 747 N. Wells and 355 E. Ohio. —Kathie Bergquist

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