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.
Today, Colonial Cafe & Ice Cream may have seven full-service family-friendly restaurants, but when it started in 1901, it was only a single small ice cream and dairy store. Now guests can settle into breakfast, lunch, and dinner at each of the eateries –and still enjoy the ice cream that put them on the map. They have garnered particular attention for their signature dish, the Kitchen Sink Sundae, which features two whole bananas, six scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), whipped cream, chocolate, and chopped almonds with a cherry topper. It’s served in a large dish shaped like a kitchen sink with a S-pipe as the handle. And when diners finish it, they receive a bumper sticker that reads, “I Ate a Colonial Kitchen Sink.”
While ice cream reigns supreme, their breakfasts have also earned praise. They were voted “Best Breakfast” by the Elgin Courier News, Aurora Beacon News, and Naperville Sun. Favorites among the regulars include the stuffed very berry French toast and cinnamon roll French toast. Come dinnertime, they continue serving comfort foods including fresh baked meatloaf and a mac and cheese bacon melt, as well as sandwiches such as the pot roast French dip. The restaurant has also earned plaudits for its popularity with its littlest diners, grabbing the "Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant" designation in the Kane County Chronicle Reader's Choice awards.
Ovens blaze at La Chicanita Bakery, delivering flaky handfuls of fresh authentic bread, golden rolls, and specialty cakes. Stock up on golden french rolls ($0.35 each) or authentic mexican bread ($0.60–$0.99) covered in butter glazes, sugar coats, and fruit fillings, or celebrate a recent cake-eating-contest victory with a 12-inch round yellow or chocolate and yellow commercial cake with a sweet strawberry filling ($25). A decadent 12-inch round three-milk cake's creaminess satiates cake cravings ($25)—or adds a fruit-packed core to satisfy strawberry-filling cravings ($30)—and the 10-inch Oreo cake with Oreo-crumb filling ($15) proves that cookies and cake work best together.
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.
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.
Moo LaLa twirls icy peaks of 95% fat-free, soft-serve ice cream to form elaborate sundaes, parfaits, and sky-high cones. The Rocky Top ($3.58) piles strata upon substrata of spanish peanuts, hot fudge, and glacial sweetness to create an accurate cross-section model of a mountaintop sugar mine. Dessert designers bake fresh triple-chocolate brownies for the rich brownie-a-la-moo'd sundae ($3.58) and whip up spiced waffle-cone shells for a taco impersonator stuffed with pecans, caramel, and ice cream ($2.68). Moo LaLa's soft serve, flavored with either chocolate or real vanilla extract, gleams with cold symmetry in swirls (small $3.35, regular $3.86, big $4.51) that, in a pinch, can be used to propose to a loved one. Meanwhile, mix-ins ranging from cookie dough and Oreos to strawberry and pineapple stud creamy expanses with treasure troves of flavor.
When Carrie Staub was laid off from her 20-year career as a corporate travel agent, she tried her hand at baking as a way to stay productive while staying at home with her kids. Her first attempts at truffles weren't fancy, but as friends and family steadily devoured her creations, she gradually refined their look and taste until they were ready to go public.
Today, she hand-rolls, hand-dips, and hand-details cake pops for a growing fan base. "You'll never find any two that are exactly the same," she says, turning out a steady stream of intricate specialty designs and an assortment of classic flavors.
Carrie says the pops are especially popular as favors, and she's gotten orders for birthday parties, holidays, baby showers, and even a wedding. She carries a sketchbook to jot down ideas, though inspiration can strike with each individual order—such as her beer mug and cheeseburger pops, which are available at The Garage Bar & Sandwiches on Chicago's North Side.
The busier Cake Pop Charm gets, the more passionate Carrie is about her business. And her freedom from the traditional workday brings another benefit: She gets to see a lot more of her 4-year-old twins.
"I feel like I can have my cake pop and eat it, too," she says.