The art of pastry baking is a careful ordeal. Each morning, long before the sun starts to shine on Lake Michigan, the team at Libanais Sweets is up making sure their specialties are crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They specialize in baked goods from around the world, including Eastern pastries such as baklava and European pastries ranging from éclairs to mille-feuille and tiramisu. In addition, the Libanais staff crafts specialties like chocolate lollipops, which are ideal for special events but can’t be used to bribe the rare bird that would prefer a broccoli pop.
Knives flick quickly through pieces of carefully selected fruit, dicing sweet produce into bite-sized pieces at Chill Bubble Tea. Organic frozen yogurt cradles just-sliced toppings such as mango, berries, and bananas, flaunting fat-free and kosher status and the ability to inspire brain-freeze research. Springy pearls cruise through cool, customizable cups of bubble tea in flavors including watermelon, coconut, and cotton candy. Timi loose-leaf tea leaves, picked by hand as carefully as a king's birthday crown, steep in steaming cups beneath modish crimson lights and release delicate dispatches to nostrils.
Baking is a family affair at Sweety Pies Bakery, which is run by Arden and Bruce Kruger and their daughter and son, Dana and Chad. They told the Skokie Review that their passion started as a hobby; before opening the bakery, the family constantly made pies from recipes passed down from Dana and Chad's grandmother. In 2007, they opened Sweety Pies, and their housemade cupcakes, scones, and cookies have been gobbled up by visitors to downtown Skokie ever since. Everything's made from scratch in small batches using ingredients such as real sweet-cream butter and freshly cracked eggs. Their dedication has earned them such accolades as a first-place finish in the Skokie Patch's readers’ choice awards for their cakes—but it's their pies that truly set the bakery apart.
"Everything here is really good, especially the pies," Ted Brunson raved on an episode of Chicago's Best after sampling Sweety Pies’ rum-laced Crocodile pecan pie, dense chocolate cashmere pie, and raspberry supreme pie, which has a sour-cream topping that lends a cheesecake-like flavor to each bite. The Krugers never add preservatives to anything, so visitors should immediately teleport home with their turtle brownies or handmade scones, or consume the treats onsite in the cozy dining room along with cups of Intelligentsia coffee. The menu also includes quiches, soups, and granola by the pound.
After roasting coffee beans with his family in Pakistan, Arshad "Sony" Javid—founder of Café Descartes—indulged his love for the caffeinated drink by making pilgrimages to coffee houses in Asia, Europe, and South and Central America. In 1991, after a stint as a Starbucks barista, Sony opened his first shop, an espresso cart on the UIC campus, where he poured his decadent drinks to quench the thirst of students, professors, and dry textbooks. Today, the aficionado’s dream has expanded across six Chicago cafés, where warm, earth-toned walls, cushy armchairs, and the smell of fresh-roasted beans beckon customers to stick around for a latte, mexican mocha, or sweet pastry.