In the kitchens of Blueberry Hill's five suburban outposts, cooks forgo lazy morning lounging to pull together homey assortments of timeless brunch fare. Pancakes infused with fruit or sweets are made from scratch, much like hand-knitted socks or hand-painted report cards. French-toast slices get stuffed with apple and cream cheese, smothered in fruit, or rolled in Cap'n Crunch. Fresh meats and veggies take cover under eggs in savory skillets, and a selection of sandwiches quells cravings in handheld form.
Shortly after the grand opening of Calla Lily Cafe, Natalie Stevens of the Oswego Patch sat down with Pedro and Dee Lopez—the husband-and-wife team behind Oswego’s newest eatery—to find out what made their business tick. The pair mused about their family’s string of restaurants and bars out in California, citing how they’ve always dreamed of doing the same. However, Calla Lily—named after the Lopez’s favorite flower—isn’t a bar; it’s a cozy and comfortable breakfast spot. Platefuls of multigrain pancakes, thick-cut french toast, and belgian waffles share menu space with hearty egg skillets, omelets, and biscuits and gravy. Customers not in the mood for breakfast can opt for lunch items such as triple-decker club sandwiches, half a dozen kinds of burgers, and fresh salads, before thinking long and hard about why they weren’t in the mood for breakfast.
Four Beans Coffeehouse's baristas sate the ping of caffeine cravings with a bevy of flavorful fresh-brewed coffees, fine teas, and baked goods. Cool overheated summer stomachs with an iced caramel macchiato ($3.90 medium; $4.30 large), or stoke the fires of creative frenzy with a hot mocha ($3.50 small; $4 medium; $4.50 large). Quick eats, such as the croissant sandwich ($2.99) with egg salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad, banish midday munchies. A cup of French press tea ($3.95) comes in over 80 varieties, served in a porcelain cup and saucer that take turns politely engaging customers in philosophical debates. For take-home orders, bean buffs can purchase blends from all corners of the actually round world, including the Ethiopian Harrar, a complex medium roast with hints of blueberry and cinnamon flavor, or the Tanzanian Peaberry, a mellow companion.
Limestone Coffee & Tea's organic, fair-trade coffees are brewed with beans from Chicago Coffee Roasters, promoting feelings of health and responsibility with each sip from the classic coffee menu. Caffeinate a morning with a double latte ($2.90) or a cup of the daily brew ($1.60/12 oz.), or enhance a standard teatime with Green Walnut tea, a smooth green tea mixed with coconut and halved walnuts ($1.75/12 oz.). To combine solid sustenance with luxury beverages, peruse the light breakfast and lunch menu for café fare such as a slice of spinach-and-feta quiche ($4.16) and an herbed bacon bagels, an everything bagel crowned with onions and bacon ($5.50).
As a child in Modena, Italy, Andrea Chiappelli watched grapes slowly transform into balsamic vinegar on his family's aceteria. Growing up steeped in this landscape of Old World agriculture, it's hardly a surprise that he fell in love with the full, organic flavors that sprang from it. Yet it is surprising how his passion manifests itself. Andrea eventually left the Italian countryside to begin a career in mechanical engineering, and it's this talent that he uses to fine tune the gelato production at O' Sole Mio.
There, the team of Italian-Americans and Italian enthusiasts hand-make creamy gelato in more than 300 traditional and modern flavors, from sweet balsamic vinegar to ricotta with pear or salted caramel. These scoops come in a cup, a cone, or even a cup of hot chocolate made with melted squares of real milk chocolate. The staff also creates plates of cannoli and pasta to preempt sweet bites or pair with an Italian martini for a meal that transports mouths to Venice without requiring them to pack their taste buds in an overnight bag.
El Xacalli cares about quality. The chefs there prepare authentic Mexican dishes, including tortas, pozole soup, street-style tacos with the classic onion, cilantro, and lime fixings, and on some days, tostada de ceviche and tamales. Plus, the health bar quenches thirst with smoothies and juices brimming with real fruits and veggies, making the cast of Veggie Tales proud, yet fearful. El Xacalli's owner, Romiro, even designed and hand-crafted the eatery's light wood furniture himself.