Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bleeding Heart Bakery: DIY cupcakes

Last month I mentioned Bleeding Heart Bakery teacakes at Cafe Avanti and how ridiculously delicious they were. I still haven't had a chance to make it over to Bleeding Heart, but I did get to try one of its vegan cupcakes on Friday night when the punk minded pastry crew partnered up with GOOD Magazine for an event at Salvage One.

Housed within Salvage One's dimly lit, lofty space were plenty of local vendors selling samples of their decidedly green products. A number of them had great things to offer, like the cashew spread and caraway crackers from The Balanced Kitchen and organic juices from Crust. But none could compete with Bleeding Heart's DIY cupcake station. The bakery brought in over 200 of the things and charged guests $2 to decorate their own.

Toppings included vanilla or chocolate (both vegan safe) frosting, homemade marshmallows, carob chips, chocolate-chip cookie crumbs and sprinkles. I grabbed a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and gave it a few hearty spoonfuls of cookie crumbs and carob chips. It was easily one of the best cupcakes I've tried in a while, I even entertained the idea of giving up meat. Thankfully I came back to my senses once my plate was empty.

This article was first published on

Monday, August 25, 2008

Early bird specials in Chicago

Even though I've been out of school for a year, I still can't break the ridiculous sleeping schedule I developed during those credit-heavy semesters. The midterms and 15-page research papers that once kept me up all night have been replaced by writing projects and deadlines. What's worse is being jolted by my internal alarm clock around 5 a.m. each day. Fed up with the fact that most coffee shops don't even open until 7 or 8 a.m., I scoured a few spots where I would, at the very least, be guaranteed a hot cup of Joe and a cheap plate of food. Here's what I found.

Golden House Restaurant & Pancake House
It's the kind of place you picture Tom Waits kickin' back with a lukewarm coffee and a cigarette. But this couldn't have been the joint Waits had in mind when he penned "Nighthawks at the Diner," as Golden House closes well before the sun goes down. Had he been an early bird though, Waits probably would've ordered up the restaurant's famous Four Deuces breakfast special. The dish includes two servings of a Midwesterner's morning favorites: pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage, $4.95. Golden House also offers an early morning special for non-meat eaters with its signature potato pancakes served with your choice of applesauce or sour cream, $3.95.

Broadway Grill
This corner joint in Uptown serves breakfast all day and night, but stop in before 11 a.m. and you'll get the real deal. The specials here come in two's or three's, depending on your appetite. When you've got a bottomless pit, opt for the magic number: three eggs, three sausages, three strips of bacon and three fluffy pancakes, $5.95. For a dollar and a hunger pang less, you can get all of the above in sets of two.

Holiday Grill & Bar
It takes a true meat-and-potatoes lover to start the day with a grilled pork chop. Add eggs, toast and hashbrowns into the mix and you may find yourself curled back up in bed, sleeping off a food coma. But it's hard not to take advantage of the dish when it doesn't cost you a dime over $7. If you want to keep it a little cheaper and a little less meaty, go for the Three Deuces: pancakes, eggs and your choice of bacon or sausage. Breakfast specials run Monday through Saturday starting at 6 a.m. Additionally, Holiday Grill & Bar offers free wi-fi and a sidewalk cafe during the warmer months.

Steak 'n' Egger
This is another salute to the early morning meat-lovin' crowd. Steak 'n Egger's big breakfast special is none other than the restaurant's signature ribeye steak with three eggs, crispy hashbrowns and toast, $6.75. The restaurant is open 24 hours.

Sunshine Restaurant
My only regret with Sunshine Restaurant is not learning about it sooner. To think of how many nail-biting, foot-tapping aggravating times I've had waited for nearby breakfast joints to open their padlocked doors, when I could've already been slingin' back the black stuff and munching on French toast. Starting at 5 a.m., the local diner offers six hearty breakfast specials, all under $5. Sunshine also understands how hard life can be before that first cup of coffee; that's why the diner's itemized list of specials makes your morning hassle-free. Simply point to one of the numbers one through six and voila! Instant (well, almost) gratification. Specials include cereal, French toast, pancakes, bacon, eggs and sausage.

Golden Nugget (Lincoln Park)
This one reminds me of an all-night diner I used to frequent back home. I'd bring along a stack of books and drown myself in bottomless cups of black coffee until the caffeine completely lost its effect. The 24-hour Golden Nugget on North Clark Street offers a similar luxury, but it also has something my old hangout didn't: three cheap (and strangely named) breakfast specials. But you have to get here between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. to take full advantage of the Bonanza (two pancakes), the Champ (waffles) or the Chef (French toast). Each special is $5.99 and comes with two eggs (any style) and your choice of bacon or sausage.

This article first appeared on

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicago's best beans

Ask any local where to find Chicago’s best cup of coffee and, by default, they’ll point you toward the nearest Intelligentsia. Ask this over-caffeinated redhead and she’ll lead you straight to to the good stuff at Metropolis in Rogers Park. She’ll probably even tag along just to see the sheer joy on your face as you sip the roaster’s freshly roasted and brewed Mocha Java. Unlike Intelligentsia, Metropolis doesn’t have a string of its own shops throughout the city, but it does ship to and stock a number of north side spots. Check out these quirky cafes where the baristas are brewin’ it right.

Dollop Coffee Co. in Buena Park
Pair your cup o’ Joe with a carrot cupcake at this study hot-spot.

Flourish Bakery Cafe in Historic Bryn Mawr
This 1950’s diner is too cute for its own good– and the pastries here are too tempting for your own good.

M. Henry in Edgewater
Brioche French toast. Need I say more?

Sweet Collective in Lincoln Square
Three powerful pastry ladies run this north side shop.

This article first appeared on The Whole 9.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beer floats at Sheffield's

This one is for all my beer people. Be honest, how many times have you waved away a restaurant's dessert menu just to splurge, instead, on another round? I've been guilty of this a few times-- but, I usually end up pairing my beer with a chocolaty treat.

Turns out I'm not the only one slinging back brews with sugar-shackled confections. Sheffield's beer dudes, Brian and Phil, like to put ice cream in theirs. They're so excited about these flavor combinations that the guys are hosting a beer float tasting this Wednesday in the bar's back room. For $15 you'll get a flight of four craft brews, each complete with a different flavored ice cream. The event starts at 7 p.m.

This article first appeared on