At J Bean Coffee Shop friendly coffee experts summon jets of steam to whip up lattes and cappuccinos, creating intricate designs in the layers of foam and froth. The independent, locally-run shop recreates the ambience of a cozy Italian café, with every drink handmade to order the way Renaissance-era baristas used to do it. Guests can munch on grilled paninis and wraps as they sip strong espresso or dark-roast coffee, or treat tastebuds to a flood of sweetness with shakes, mochas, caramel lattes, and creamy gelato.
Eli's grew from Eli Schulman's steakhouse, a Streeterville celebrity hangout that hosted Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies. Since that time, Eli's Cheesecake has intertwined itself deliciously with the city of Chicago, serving up the city's 150th birthday cake and making appearances at Chicago Bulls championships, Mayor Daley's inaugural balls, and in the bottles that float up on the shores of Lake Michigan. Eli's has been served on Air Force One and at inaugural celebrations for Presidents Obama and Clinton. And yet Eli's Dessert Café on the Northwest Side retains the charm of a neighborhood bakery. The café serves up a menu of delicious single dessert servings and lunch items in addition to selling full cheesecakes. Purchase any variety of cheesecake by the slice ($2–$4), or skip the sweets with an Asian chicken wrap, a three-cheese melt on brioche (both $6.25), or a hand-carved turkey BLT ($6.95). Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Spearheaded by a master baker trained in Belgium, Miara’s Bakery crafts a cornucopia of baked goods each morning from scratch. Configured from only the freshest ingredients including nonartificial sweeteners and nonartificial apples, the handcrafted delicacies tickle taste buds with their European style and witty wordplay. Sweet treats such as a raspberry soufflé cheesecake ($11.99) or 7" brandy-apricot torte ($24.99) make for an easily sliceable delight; Belgian-style chocolate truffles ($11.99) allow dessert devotees to forgo the fork. Moist coffee cakes ($5.99+) make a sweet start to any morning or barista birthday party. Or sample from the savory end of the spectrum with Miara's fresh-baked breads, including loaves of authentic German–style sourdough rye ($3.45).
Palermo Bakery's Sicilian-born pastry professionals quell sweet teeth with authentic confectionery masterpieces, including about 70 varieties of fresh cookies baked daily. Bite into a horseshoe-shaped pistachio sandwich, pumped with nutty cream and blanketed in chocolate ($8.59/lb.), or feast on an Old World fig cookie fashioned from pasta frolla dough and stuffed with figs, raisins, citron, orange zest, almonds, chocolate chips, and family secrets, including where the family jewels are stashed and why they consider cans of tomato soup to be jewels ($8.59/lb.). Flakey fried cannoli shells depart from nosh norms, festooning sweet, fresh ricotta with glazed fruit or nuts ($1.99 each), while other pastries, such as the Genovese, keep confections delicate and sweet ($1.99–$2.49). Savory seekers can sink their fangs into focaccia bread slathered with tomato or artichoke ($2.90), a hunk of olive or pepperoni bread ($2.89, available on Sundays) or a semi-circle of cheese pizza ($8.50). Stock up on jitter juice at the classic espresso bar, contained within a cube of sunny walls and tan tiles, like the prize inside a two-colored Rubik's cube