Using fresh ingredients and a heaping helping of baking know-how, the pastry chefs at The Cupcake Gallery expertly whip up small batches of joy-inducing cupcakes. Choose from flavor favorites including double chocolate, caramel crème, red velvet, and German chocolate, or wade into new frosting-filled waters with maple bacon, rum cake, and cream soda ($3 each, or $30 per dozen). The Cupcake Gallery also offers specialty cupcakes, such as Twinkies ($2), and center-filled cupcakes, such as the choco-tella, a chocolate cake filled with Nutella and chocolate ganache and crowned with chocolate-and-Nutella frosting with toasted hazelnut powder ($3.95 each, or $42 per dozen). The Cupcake Gallery can make every cupcake gluten-free, vegan, or sugar-free if you call to pre-order, and all cupcakes can be un-shrunk and made into 6” cakes ($25) or 9” cakes ($38).
If chef Raul Arreola could nominate an eighth wonder of the world, his choice would likely be Mexican food. He has a particular affinity for cuisine from Oaxaca, which has largely been sheltered from the outside influences that might otherwise have corrupted its distinctive flavors. Arreola left his job at Frontera Grill to open Mixteco Grill, where he pays tribute to the cuisine of Oaxaca—and nowhere else—with a menu of rich moles. Dishes such as pollo relleno and wood-grilled pork chop in mole verde have earned the restaurant a spot on the Michelin Guide's 2012 Bib Gourmand list, which catalogs exceptional food available at reasonable prices. The brightly colored restaurant has a BYOB policy, which gives guests the chance to break out the bathtub gin that came with their apartment's bathtub.
In an article for the Sun Times¬ baker Stephanie Samuels recalled how, as a nine-year-old, she would dream of whipping up desserts in her friend's Easy-Bake Oven. But as much as she loved the toy oven, she never had one of her own. That is, until she opened Angel Food Bakery and decided to buy as many of the ovens as she could find to help decorate her space. They kitschy contraptions mesh perfectly with her menu, which takes inspiration from the retro treats she loved as a kid. The Airstream, for example, is an oblong cylinder of golden white cake piped with marshmallow buttercream that looks an awful lot like a Twinkie. She also whips up homemade whoopee pies, thin mints, s’mores, and marshmallow igloos, which feature a devil’s-food base that's so decadent no one would ever guess they were made from snow. Samuels’ repertoire also extends into current trends. She constructs custom cakes that, in the past, have resembled everything from a silver 1950s camper to a giant ear of corn-on-the-cob, and her kitchen churns out a full slate of cupcakes, brownies, carrot cakes, and cherry macaroons to help fuel everyday special occasions.
For 25 years this bakery has been serving up sweet and savory confections. Bakers at both Chinatown and Uptown locations stuff steamed buns with tender cuts of BBQ pork and curry beef, providing a savory complement to custard buns and sweet mooncakes.
More than 60 years ago, a woman named Ann Sather pooled all of the money she'd saved over 21 years spent working in a meat-packing plant in order to buy a Lakeview restaurant whose owners were closing shop. She stepped into the kitchen and for the next 30 years, diners enjoyed made-from-scratch Swedish cooking. In 1981, Ann sold the restaurant to 24-year-old Tim Tunney, a Cornell University graduate with French culinary training, but not before he'd apprenticed with her for a year to learn her recipes.
Ann passed away in 1996, but the scent of Scandinavian cuisine still wafts through the restaurant, now open in four locations. In the mornings, chefs bake hot cinnamon rolls and pour Hollandaise sauce over eggs benedict with Norwegian salmon and fresh dill. Later in the day, diners can slice into sumptous entrees such as Swedish meatballs or shepherd's pie with cheddar cheese.
Though its display case is stocked with artisan cheeses, housemade pastrami, and chicken salad, City Provisions is more than a deli. Cleetus Friedman, the friendly face behind the counter, oversees City Provisions's day-to-day operations, which include butchering meats in-house, assembling sandwiches, stocking shelves with groceries, and serving seasonal brunch and dinner. Local vendors supply the 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant with sustainably sourced ingredients that pour into its house-roasted meats and housemade dressings, mayos, and charcuterie. Aside from its storefront offerings, City Provisions is known for its catering services and farm dinner experiences, the latter of which snagged a "Best Of" award from CBS Chicago in 2011. Each prix fixe dinner journeys to a local farm, and often a local brewery, where patrons tour the facilities and enjoy cocktails, transportation, and a multi-course meal sourced directly from farm-to-table.