Since 1993, Casteel Coffee’s baristas have caffeinated locals with steaming cups of artisanal roasted beans. The shop’s staffers follow in the footsteps of roast master Lee Casteel, who set the café’s course by roasting beans in small batches to ensure high quality. A new generation of roasters sources arabica coffees from around the world, procuring fair-trade varieties and naturally processed decaf beans whenever possible. To fulfill their motto, “fresh from our roaster to your cup,” coffeemakers pour drip coffees or press potent espresso shots from freshly ground beans.
Herbal, scented, and green and black teas also flow from the metaphorical tap, and the shop even purveys the occasional piece of high-tech brewing equipment, such as an electric coffee grinder or a mug that has WiFi. The success of the café’s knowledgeable staff and liquid pick-me-ups fueled the company’s expansion from a single café in Evanston to a second location in Chicago’s Loop. Casteel Coffee animates a dedication to its community by not supplanting the water in local fire hydrants with coffee and by supporting nonprofit organizations, such as the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Jacky's on Prairie sources its fresh, seasonal ingredients from local family farms to ensure customers are never faced with a plate of summer squash with frostbite or snow peas with suntans. The restaurant's brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature flavor infusions from around the world, harmoniously accompanied with the nuanced notes of fine wine. This spring's savory starters include ginger beef potstickers served with an orange-shoyu reduction ($10), vanilla-braised pork belly with black vinegar sauce and a citrus micro-green salad ($10), and champagne-soaked oysters with leek fondue, pancetta, and an elegant house-selected wine pairing ($18). For dinner, anchor your mouth bones into a plate of wild Alaskan salmon served with gnocchi and spring vegetables, topped with a chervil-watercress sauce ($26), or get a meatless mouthful of Moroccan vegetable tajine, mixing fresh, seasonal vegetables and almond couscous ($19). For a healthy punch of protein, opt for the grilled organic pork, decadently drizzled with pasilla-orange sauce and aptly attended with pickled red onion, potato terrine, and baby arugula ($26).
When Terry and Marcia Hartigan bought and re-branded the ice cream shop where they met as teens, they wanted to make sure they were scooping only the best ice cream for their customers. So, they did something a little out of the ordinary: they sat down their families, friends, and employees for a blind taste-test of several ice-cream brands. The winning ice cream came from CedarCrest, a family-owned dairy business in Wisconsin that makes their ice cream daily without any flavor enhancements. Today, the staff serves more than 50 flavors of the creamy stuff from glass cases that sit amid blue-and-white-striped wallpaper and checkerboard floors. They also use it whip up milkshakes, old-fashioned malts, and sundaes, and to crown homemade waffle cones that are dipped in white or milk chocolate. Also tantalizing taste buds from behind the counter are baked goods, including cinnamon rolls, chocolate-dipped pretzels, and Cubs and Sox themed cookies, which respectfully occupy opposite corners of the display case.
Bennison’s Bakery opened in 1938, and the staff’s allegiance to high-quality ingredients—cream, real butter, fresh buttermilk, and eggs—hasn’t changed since then. Two master bakers oversee the large-scale production of cupcakes and pupcakes, which feature puffs of chocolate buttercream and fudge shaped into the face of a smiley pooch.