Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, The Gold Coast

Chicago Raw

Chicago Raw
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: The Gold Coast
Address: 51 W. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 664-2729
Website

Price Range: $7-13
Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5

the all-in-one superfood smoothie

the all-in-one superfood smoothie

the signature sampler platter

the signature sampler platter

raw-some

raw-some

but maybe not the best place to take your guy friends...

but maybe not the best place to take your guy friends…

What We Tried: The All in One Superfood Smoothie, the Spirulina Grapefruit, and the Signature Sampler Platter

Our Take: Yes, we have had our fair share of brunch and burger posts on this blog, but the truth is, the majority of the time, we eat very healthy. We use our spiralizer almost daily, and we’re big fans of decorative gourd season—aesthetically pleasing and full of Vitamin A! Everything in moderation, amIrite?

So, here’s a post about a place that’s pretty much the opposite of Green Street Smoked Meats, but just as good.

Chicago Raw serves fully uncooked, 100% plant-based products, using unprocessed and organic ingredients. They make their smoothies in-house, and offer a variety of fresh, pre-packaged meals to go. My initial impression was that you won’t always know what you’re eating, but it’s going to be good for you.

I have now tried two smoothies on Chicago Raw’s menu: The All in One Superfood (hemp seeds, vegan protein, goji berries, banana, and strawberries), and the best-selling Spirulina Grapefruit (organic grapefruit juice, banana, spirulina, goji, and hemp seeds). Both were delicious, satisfying, and kept me feeling energized until lunchtime.

I also ordered the Signature Sampler Platter, which comes with generous portions of three of Chicago Raw’s signature entrees: Spaghetti with Meatball (zucchini noodles and a seed-based meatball), Ravioli (delicate turnip rounds enveloping fresh gems of cashew cheese, served with marinara and parsley relish), and the Garden Burger (oil-free, nut-free, seed and veggie-based patty, served with red pepper ketchup, dijon mustard, and parsley relish). Of the three, the Garden Burger was my favorite—a nice texture, and very flavorful. I would consider buying an entire bottle of the red pepper ketchup, which is more like a chutney, and gets an extra kick from coconut vinegar.

I probably wouldn’t take my boyfriend here, but it’s a good place to go when you’ve been reading too many articles on goop.com, you recently saw a picture of Jennifer Lopez’s abs, or you just need a little extra clarity for the day. It’s not cheap—12-oz smoothie will leave you out $6-8—but they do give out lots of free samples and hey, I woke up the next day feeling a lot better than I did after eating a ton of barbecue.

-Carolyn

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Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Wicker Park

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Breakfast, Coffee

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1560 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 360-7386
Website

Price Range: $3-5
Our Rating: 4.3 out of 5

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the bustling counter at Stan’s Donuts…know what you want before you get to the register.

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but good luck choosing.

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food in the air

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more food in the air

What We Tried: Nutella Banana Pocket, Pistachio Old Fashioned

Our Take: You’ve heard of donuts after church, but post-brunch donuts may be a little less common. Well, it’s a thing. And brunch, for me, is a near-holy (hole-y?!) experience, so I really don’t see much of a difference, anyways.

Following a heavenly meal at Hot Chocolate, we decided that, while we were in the area, we should check out Stan’s Donuts down the street. We joined a line going out the door, so it looked like a lot of people had the same idea.

Stan’s Donuts started in L.A. in 1963, and came to the Windy City when Richard Labriola, President of the Labriola Baking Company, saw Stan on a TV travel show and proposed a partnership to bring the California-style donuts to Chicago. Now, Stan’s Wicker Park location serves up dozens of whimsical donuts everyday, along with gourmet coffee and gelato.

Since people come to Portland for Voodoo Doughnuts (but stay for Blue Star), I have high standards when it comes to gourmet doughnuts. (Inside joke). I tried the Nutella-Banana Pocket, an obvious choice for anyone who studied abroad with me, and Meredith opted for the Pistachio Old-Fashioned. My donut came with real, fresh bananas baked inside, and a light chocolate glaze. Meredith described her donut as “like a really good donut version of the pistachio muffins at South Dining Hall.” That’s high praise.

Insert celebration hands emoji here.

-Carolyn

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Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1747 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Phone Number: (773) 489-1747
Website

Price Range: $10-20
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate

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Def coming back for a cocktail

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The Veggie Scramble: Caramelized Leeks, Foraged Mushrooms, Gruyere, Breakfast Potatoes, Housemade Challah AKA everything we love

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Pumpkin Hot Chocolate: 1/3 Belgian White Chocolate, 1/3 French Milk Chocolate, 1/3 Pumpkin Spice AND a homemade marshmallow

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Our girl Mindy won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry so safe to say these are probably pretty dece

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Brioche French Toast: Bananas Foster, Vanilla Bean Cream, Housemade Sausage Links

What We Tried: Pumpkin Hot Chocolate, Brioche French Toast, Veggie Scramble

Our Take: Last Saturday was the Perfect Saturday. Coffee at Little Goat, followed by a stroll through the Meatpacking District location of the Green City Market, brunch at Hot Chocolate, all followed by donuts at Stan’s (because why not). To top it off, it was a gorgeous autumn day, and there was zero wait at brunch (probably because it was 10 am so technically breakfast).

First of all, it should be noted that any place that labels itself as a “dessert bar” will have fantastic brunch. That’s something that you should probably just trust me on.

We sat next to a lovely couple from Kansas City and commiserated over the nearly impossible decision of what to order. The husband (not mine) and I both had heard that the Buttermilk Pancake is out of this world (one cake, with butters and toppings that change seasonally), but the Brioche French Toast also sounded heavenly. The couple on the other side of us (I’m really okay) ordered both and ultimately solidified my decision to go with the French Toast. This was a very good decision. It was delicious. Plus, it was the perfect size, meaning that I didn’t have to roll myself out of the restaurant and could, in fact, walk home.

Carolyn got the Veggie Scramble (my third choice) and was gracious enough to let me try a bite. The caramelized leeks, mushrooms, and gruyere created a flavor profile from the heavens. Sharp and flavorful yet still so smooth. I’m not really sure if any of that made sense, but it was great. The homemade jam for the challah has to be ordered separately, but is definitely worth it.

We couldn’t dine at Hot Chocolate without trying a cup ourselves, so Carolyn ordered the Pumpkin Hot Chocolate. She said that, while it was delicious, it was definitely pretty rich, and most people probably wouldn’t be able to finish a whole mug. The homemade marshmallow was great, though!

Overall, our first time at Hot Chocolate was great, and I’ll definitely be back to try the pancake. And the warm donuts. And the pastries. And probably for dessert sometime too. And then maybe I’ll eat a salad.

– Meredith

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Dinner, Meatpacking District

De Cero

De Cero, A Modern Day Taqueria
Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Address: 814 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Phone Number: (312) 455-8114
Website

Price Range: $10-15 (without drinks)
Our Rating: 4.3 out of 5

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Fresh Chips and Guac

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Clockwise from the top: Al Pastor (pork shoulder, guajillo, morita and arbol chiles, pineapple, onion, cilantro); Portobello Mushroom (portobello mushroom, chipotle, lime, lettuce, queso fresco, pepitas, cilantro); Berries and Brie (marinated skirt steak, brie, arugula, berries, dijon, and red wine balsamic)

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A+ for presentation!

What We Tried: Chips and Guac, Berries and Brie Taco, Carnitas de Arbol Taco, Portabello Mushroom Taco, Sautéed Shrimp Taco, Al Pastor Taco

Our Take: Now, just to preface, this dining experience was slightly different from our last a la carte taco experience at Big Star, as I was with my childhood friend and her mom, but it was just as delicious!

From the folks that brought you Grange Hall Burger Bar, De Cero is loosely translated to “from scratch,” and boy did these guys deliver on their promise! Literally everything is straight from scratch: crema, tortillas, lime juice, tortilla chips… you name it. We were amazed by how intricate and unique each of their 15(!) different kinds of tacos was – not to mention the starters, 6 different homemade salsas crafted daily, entrees, tamales, and 6 different kinds of rice and beans. Whew!

The chips and guac combo was fabulous. You could tell the chips were fresh out of the fryer, but they were still insanely crisp and not chewy like when they shove too many chips in the fryer at once (I’m just imagining that’s what happens).

We each tried one of the Berries and Brie tacos (one of the specials – because it wasn’t hard enough choosing between the existing 15 different tacos) and liked them pretty well. Be forewarned, though, definitely not a date taco. Unless date finds you trying to hold together a mountain of skirt steak, arugula, brie, and berries while shoving it in your mouth to be very attractive. Then by all means… Anyway, they were nice but would have greatly benefitted from less dijon.

Though neither the Portobello nor the Al Pastor were quite as good as Big Star‘s, in my opinion, I certainly left more than satisfied.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to indulge in one of their ridiculously fresh and inventive margaritas (the true test against Big Star), but you can sure we’ll be back for something like a Lime Ginger Margarita (made with freshly pureed fruits and house made lime sour).

This place has a great vibe and would work best for a happy hour or dinner out with the ladies, whereas Big Star best serves hipster clientele (and wannabees) looking for a bite before hitting the town and maybe a few (read: lot) of drinks to get them started.

Note: Tuesday-Friday from 11:30 am – 3 pm De Cero becomes ¡Hello Tacos!, a weekday lunch fiesta (“Same location, different attitude,” they say. Oooookay). This is generally confusing and pointless, but don’t let it stop you from going. They are the same, and they are delicious (though the tacos are $.25 cheaper at ¡Hello Tacos! SCORE)!

-Meredith

p.s. We promise to maybe leave the Meatpacking District some day. Maybe.

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Meatpacking District

Little Goat Bakery

Little Goat Bakery
Coffee Shop, Lunch, Bar

Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Address: 820 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Phone Number: (312) 888-3455
Website

Price Range: $3-10
Our Rating: 5 out of 5

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an autumnal delight

What We Tried: Skim Latte, Gluten-Free Apricot Muffin

Our Take: Little Goat Bakery opened a mere three weeks after Girl & the Goat, to serve as a dedicated baking kitchen for the larger parent restaurant. Since bread at Girl & the Goat is a part of the meal, rather than an appetizer or side, they wanted a place where their bakers could let their flour fly all day long, without worrying about getting in the way of braising goat legs.

Little Goat Bakery is attached to the Little Goat Diner, and contains a pretty swanky bar, too, but I’m going to concentrate on the coffee shop component of the operation. You order your coffee at the back of the bakery, where you can watch the bakers at work through a large glass window. It’s sort of like the world’s greatest cooking show.

When I finally pulled away from watching the bakers fold dough into pie tins (and picked my jaw up off the floor), I walked back to the front of the shop to pick up my coffee and muffin from the espresso station. All of the coffee is Stumptown (say hey!), and all of the breads and pastries are baked that day.

I was a little nervous about my muffin choice, since I’m new to the whole gluten-free thing, but it was soft and perfect and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. My latte was one of the best I have had in a long time, and arrived with an intricate fleur-de-lis swirled on top.

Start off your next Saturday with a cappuccino from Little Goat, or pick up a fresh Italian loaf for dinner…I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

-Carolyn

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Coffee, Wicker Park

Ugly Mug Café

Ugly Mug Café
Coffee Shop, Lunch

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1458 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60642
Phone Number: (312) 666-7707
Website

Price Range: $3-10
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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my kind of place

What We Tried: Thai Almond Iced Latte, Movin’ to Cali Sandwich, Black Iced Tea, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

Our Take: I received the recommendation for The Ugly Mug Café from one of my co-workers, a group of people who usually know what they’re talking about. So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon—which, if I may digress for a moment, is the absolute best day of the week when you aren’t in school—we strolled down the road for a little post-vinyasa pick-me-up.

Ugly Mug is the decade-long dream of owner Mikky Wright, who lamented the lack of neighborhood coffee shops after moving from Seattle to Wicker Park in 1997. In alignment with the independent spirit of West Town, Wright created a coffee shop from the ground (grounds? heh heh) up, using local vendors and hiring a quirky, friendly staff. And the inspiration for the name? No coffee cup is the same, and they all look like the weird mugs you find at the back of your grandma’s cupboard.

My dining companion tried the Movin’ to Cali Sandwich, featuring our mutually favorite combination of turkey, bacon and avocado, while I sampled the Thai Almond Iced Latte, a creamy blend of almond milk, chai-like spices, and a shot of espresso. Other items on the menu included a sandwich called “Lived in Portland,” and another one called “The Bob Loblaw.” It’s like they knew me.

As previously mentioned, the staff was awesome. They clearly enjoyed hanging out with each other, and when they weren’t making latte art, they were dancing and singing to the restaurant’s incredible “hits of the ‘90s” playlist. Overall, it was a v. fun place, and I intend to return.

-Carolyn

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Bars, Dinner, Meatpacking District

Grange Hall Burger Bar

Grange Hall Burger Bar
Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Address: 844 West Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Phone Number: (312) 491-0844
Website

Price Range: $10-17
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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PBR so you know he’s chill and casual and **hip~~

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Mac and Cheese is a favorite of my dinner date, but I wasn’t disappointed, either.

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The Michigan Berries and Brie Burger

What We Tried: PBR, Pumpkin Old Fashioned, Mac N’ Cheese appetizer, The Ultimate, and the Michigan Berries and Brie Burger

Our Take: We happened upon Grange Hall Burger Bar on a serendipitous Indian summer evening, in search of good drinks and a better bite to eat; something casual, but cultured. Bingo! Grange Hall is down the street from one of Chicago’s most famous burgers, Au Cheval, but doesn’t deserve a comparison. We tried the cheeseburgers at Au Cheval before a Josh Ritter concert last year, and don’t get me wrong, the burgers earned a solid two thumbs up, but if you can’t get in at Au Cheval—and you probably won’t—keep walking. Grange Hall is just as good.

I ordered the pumpkin-flavored seasonal drink of the day, which was so good that it should be a permanent item on the menu. Since pumpkin spice is the Girl Scout cookie of flavorings, though, I made sure to order one more drink…before it goes away again, you know? Our Mac and Cheese appetizer, which came with potato chips crumbled on top, was lighter than expected and perfect for what it was mean to be—a starter. Because we had to save room for the burgers, in my case, a medium-rare blackberry and brie sensation, and in Alex’s case, a caramelized-onion bacon triumph that he ordered for the arugula.

I should also mention that Grange Hall is Chicago’s only Farm to Table Burger Bar dedicated to grass-fed beef and local fruits and vegetables. Oh, and it was voted one of Chicago Magazine‘s best new restaurants. Plus, the waitstaff is hilarious.

-Carolyn

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