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.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company’s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and artesian flatbreads that pack only about 320–420 calories each.
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 is a family affair, and has been since 1938. Though it’s switched hands from the Bennison clan to Guy Downer and eventually his son Jory, little has changed about the old-fashioned Evanston destination. Jory, along with his associate Efrain Tirado, have both obtained their certifications as Master Bakers—the highest level of certification a baker can receive. Thus, the two hold themselves and their confections to the same quality standards that Larry Bennison did back in the day, using the best cream, whole milk, butter, and fresh-cracked eggs to craft European-style pastries, traditional macarons, and custom cakes. They offer the sweets in-store or at various markets around the Chicagoland area. Their website contains a wealth of behind-the-scenes information on baking these treats, from dessert histories to a live, onsite webcam that shows the staff making the dough and dueling with French baguettes when the boss isn't looking.