It’s worth repeating that while I have great respect for new and innovative, I have even more respect for tradition and consistency. And when I find places that are new, I look for the elements that I think will sustain them and turn them into the ones with a long life. Those are the ones I write about.
Going to restaurants that have become part of the fabric of Chicago, such as two that I have included here, makes me happy and a bit relieved. And the third spot, the relative newcomer at 3 years old, Hewn bakery in Evanston, has the potential to join them. I know what goes into the years of work and dedication to survive and thrive. I admire them, applaud the effort and hope you’ll support them.
While exploring my new neighborhood when I moved to Chicago in 1977, I found Frances’. It reminded me of the old New York delis with the tile floor, faded Coke signs and eye-level coolers built into the wall with wooden frames, glass fronts and big latches. I was spoiled by the Carnegie Deli a few blocks from where I lived in New York and homesick, so Frances’ was as close to home as I could get.
And then I forgot about it. For decades! Passing it a few weeks ago, I vowed to go back. I took Doug Sohn (Mr. Hot Doug’s) with me, so I could hear him talk and talk and talk about the Cubs. Besides a great conversationalist, he’s a terrific share-buddy.
He, too, liked the look and feel of the place, with all the elements I remembered from my first visit still in place, and we ordered our personal comfort foods. We shared fried matzo with salami, cheese blintzes that came with sour cream and apple sauce, and an omelet with Swiss and mushrooms with really good diced potatoes.
We kept nodding in recognition of flavors we remembered and were enjoying again.
Of note: Full service. Order online for delivery. On weekends, put your name on the list, and they will text you when your table is ready. Alcohol is available.
Find it: 2552 N. Clark St., 773-248-4580, www.francesdeli.com
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Bakeries make me happy. I could stop right there, and you’d all know what I mean, and most would agree. So much love and care go into the actual making of bread and pastries that you can feel it and surely taste it.
I passed the charming outdoor-seating construction at Hewn on my way in and decided that it would be a perfect place to stop and eat on that late summer day.
Because Ellen King and Julie Matthei have figured out how to maximize their space, they bake different breads on different days, and when they run out, you lose out — unless you’ve called and reserved one of your favorites to pick up.
I was enchanted by the wall of breads and the counter full of savory and sweet offerings. The brioche with potato, rosemary and Gruyere was my favorite, followed closely by the savory croissant with sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan and basil. On to the sweets, with a brioche with blueberries, and then a delicious almond croissant.
I took it all, along with my latte, to the outdoor seating and marveled at the happiness the food and setting brought me.
Oh, and I took a braided challah home.
Of note: No tables inside, just benches. Street parking. Order now online for the holidays. Bread-making classes.
Find it: 810 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-869 4396, www.hewnbread.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The 3rd Coast Cafe
“Breakfast anytime” are my favorite words when looking for a place to write about. My friend, restaurateur Dan Rosenthal, with whom I worked to make Chicago restaurants smoke-free, joined me. He said he loves this neighborhood spot — which proudly says it’s the oldest cafe in the Gold Coast — for dinner too.
On entering the cafe, which is a few steps down from street level, giving it a cozy feel, I was drawn to the counter with its freshly baked scones — a signature item. We ordered some, of course, and also shared a Chicago-style smoked Polish sausage, cut and grilled. It was a nice change from other sausages and came with eggs, toast, some spicy mustard and hash browns.
The Texas French toast can be either thick-cut sourdough or cinnamon raisin sprinkled with powdered sugar. I chose the latter. A great option was the Old Smokehouse bacon, which is ordered by the “stick.” “I’ll have three please.” And the scones? 3rd Coast deserves to be very proud of them.
No wonder it’s been around so long.
Of note: Full service. Street parking. Three-hour $14 valet parking available at 1250 N. Dearborn. Full bar.
Find it: 1260 N. Dearborn St., 312-649-0730, www.3rdcoastcafe.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight daily
Ina Pinkney, the former owner of breakfast spot Ina’s, writes the monthly “Breakfast With Ina” column for the Tribune. Find more of her columns here.
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