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.
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.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery uses twin spatulas to blend custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spatulas to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
Designated the Forest Park/Oak Park area’s best local coffee shop by Chicago magazine in 2007, Blue Max Coffee treats farmers and taste buds with equal consideration, serving a menu of fair-trade joe and café eats. The shop’s baristas freshly roast and taste test brews, allowing only the most esteemed coffees to kiss locals' lips. The primo potables are complemented by homemade fare such as the breakfast panini with applewood-smoked bacon, spinach, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese ($8.50). Organic steel-cut oats, granola, blueberries, bananas, vanilla soy protein powder, and steamed milk conspire to create just-right bowls of breakfast porridge ($6.75) ideal for taunting bears of all sizes.
Frozen treats, milkshakes, and smoothies provide bursts of chilled refreshment to mouths visiting YoGo Station’s self-serve frozen-yogurt bar. A rotating daily lineup of eight sweet flavors appears on YoGo Station’s menu, and self-serve frozen-yogurt machines let customers pour their own cups, customizing their portions to suit diet plans, or match the precisely measured volume of their mouths. While tons of toppings clamor for a spot atop frozen-yogurt mountains, smoothies and milkshakes also jockey for attention. Much like the facial expressions carved onto Mount Rushmore, YoGo’s inspired menu changes weekly.