Chef K., owner of MyGi's Bakery Cafe, shapes cakes into giant Ramen packets, plates tapas, and serves gourmet lunches and dinners. Glittering candy buffets coat tables with sweetness and sparkle, and her specialty cakes personalize birthdays. Chef K. sometimes infuses her food with Caribbean influences, but her skill set spans the globe: students can choose to craft sushi, for instance, or cook their food in a Scandanavian hot spring. Chicago native and Ladha Catering owner Chef Tammy joins Chef K. in spreading the joys of international cooking and entertaining in pallet-expanding classes. Whether teaching a novice to perfectly grill a steak or serving brunch to some hungry weekend patrons, the chefs' passion for food and sense of artistry guide their endeavors.
At PJ's Popcorn, wall-to-wall shelves of popcorn tubs complement wooden racks filled with general-store candy and crates and barrels filled with gumballs, gift boxes, and confections. Visitors sniff the delicious scents of freshly popped corn, dusted in peanut butter, chocolate, caramel, and sprinkles. The popcorn flavors run the gamut from savory to sweet, with varieties as diverse as loaded potato, salt and vinegar, Oreo, and watermelon. A diverse selection of pro-football and collegiate popcorn tins allow snackers to show off their team pride without the need for eating with cumbersome foam #1 fingers.
The resident chocolatiers at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory massage creamy loafs of chocolate on sturdy marble slabs daily, building a menu from rich ingredients such as whole cream and real butter. For additional culinary theatrics, cheer on the expert orchard orderlies as they dip Granny Smiths into thick, bubbling caramel from a traditional copper kettle. Caramel apples range from classically simple to loaded with toppings ($3.95–$7.95), accommodating different degrees of decadence more tastefully than a pair of convertible mink pants. Easily transport poppable sweets such as chocolate-dipped strawberries ($11.95/half-pound) or a tongue-melting litany of freshly fangled fudges ($6.95/half-pound). While today's Groupon is not valid toward sugar-free chocolate, which is not made in-store, the confection wizards can also brew batches of treats that provide the taste of chocolate without the frantic dance routines of an uncontrollable sugar rush.
The talented chefs at The Churro Factory imbue crispy pastries with seven different sweet fillings to fashion a scrumptious, Spanish-styled snack, often introduced by an opening act of fresh deli sandwiches and milkshakes. Handmade in small batches to ensure freshness, traditional churros are dusted with sugar and cinnamon ($1.95 each, $9.95 for six), tickling tongues better than a feather-boa toothbrush. Palate-popular pastries include the filled churros with flavorful cores of vanilla, chocolate-hazelnut, cajeta, strawberry, or honey ($2.25 each). Appetites of larger proportions can match hunger against the oven-warmed Pamplones sandwiches ($4+ each), featuring the Chasturias with turkey and avocado and the Chadiz steak fajita with bell peppers and oaxaca cheese. Five enrapturing milkshake flavors mingle into the dining party, including oreo, strawberry, and chocolate ($3.29 each), tantalizing guests with their smooth sips and proactive straw postures.
At Ace's Gourmet Paninis, culinary-school grad Chef Van presides over an unlikely marriage between the Italian-born panini and the flavors of Southern comfort fare. He presses only quality ingredients into his sandwiches, including three signature paninis loaded with chicken, beef brisket, or pulled pork slathered in house barbecue sauce. His menu also flaunts a separate breakfast section that highlights paninis and burritos stuffed with more eggs and meats than a vending machine for bodybuilders. His renditions of childhood favorites, such as peanut butter and jelly, even please pintsize palates. Patrons can settle in to surf free WiFi in the eatery or grab a takeout container to feast at home.: