To find many of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that underscore their Mediterranean menu, Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits' chefs only need to walk a few steps away from the kitchen?to the restaurant's own greenhouse. Although it's hard to get more local than that, many other ingredients are sourced from Cakeridge Farms in the Ohio River Valley, owned by head chefs Dan Pancake and Beth Partridge. Both worked under James Beard Award winner Tony Mantuano in Chicago before perfecting their Mediterranean cooking and wine-bottle-juggling on Spain's Costa Brava.
At Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits, Dan and Beth whip up fresh pasta, flatbreads made to order, and small plates inspired by French, Spanish, and Moroccan cuisine. A lengthy wine and spirits menu makes it easy to pair each dish with an apropos beverage, including small-batch and organic options. Diners can enjoy their meal on the restaurant's three-season patio or inside at tables crafted from fallen ash trees harvested from Cakeridge Farms.
As a military cook, Marcel Townsel spent three years preparing hot meals and coffee in the field. He had to feed troops quickly and efficiently, and leave them fueled up enough to tackle the day's tasks. In establishing Bungalow Joe's Coffee right where the Metra stops each day, Marcel draws upon the experience of serving in a high-pressure environment, swiftly turning out cups for fast-advancing hoards of a similarly demanding ilk:commuters. Having learned long ago that good food needs a fresh foundation, Marcel starts every cup of coffee with filtered water, and he pairs every pastry with a napkin freshly plucked from the napkin tree. Whether it's a cup of classic, French roast, hazelnut, or espresso, Marcel concocts it with his signature blend of epicureanism and hard-won pragmatism?and has it in the customer's hands long before the train pulls into the station.
The menu at The Lucky Dog is pure Chicago: Vienna Beef franks with all the fixings, grilled italian beef and sausage sandwiches (red sauce optional), gyros, even catfish and pit-smoked barbecue ribs and chicken. It's a lot to master, but the Houpy family has been tinkering with its recipes since 1984?which they can do because they make so many staples of the menu in-house. Here you can find gyro and Italian beef slices sizzling on the grill beside the made-to-order burgers, as well as soups and chilis that are whipped up from scratch. Of course, this kind of hearty food seems extra comforting late at night, and accordingly, all four locations stay open until the wee hours of the morning.
Vito Brancato is a man of many trades: indie filmmaker, pro wrestler, and?at his neighborhood cafe in Berwyn?a purveyor of rich, earthy coffees and espressos and mouthwatering Italian cuisine. One of his online films series, At the Coffee Shop, even stars Caffe Palermo as the front for a Chicago gang's illicit activities. The tagline is "An espresso shot can be deadly," but have no fear upon entering; in real life the cafe is welcoming place to grab a bite?and not a bite out of crime.
Here, guests celebrate afternoons with paninis featuring Pecorino romano cheese on foccacia, and adds touches of decadence to patrons' morning commutes with their caffe mocha spiked with swirls of Nutella. As the anti-chain-store signs in the window proudly declare, each item on the menu is handmade by locals with care, from the Sicilian-style cannolis and lemon knots to the beans used to create every cup of espresso.