Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Let’s talk about brunch. There is nothing better than Sunday brunch. It means you made it through the week, are not working the weekend (or at least not Sunday) and have every excuse to hang out with your brunch companions for an extended period of time. There is a reason no one does business brunch. No one rushes you out of brunch. But my real favorite part of brunch is that the sweet-savory debacle is easily solved by table pancakes. This place has awesome options for table pancakes.

The Place: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate  The Neighborhood: Wicker Park

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Sugar Puffs and Hot Chocolate

I usually start with the food, but given the name this is the place to start with the drinks. The hot chocolate is why you come here. It is basically creamy chocolate soup and totally acceptable to eat it with a spoon. Although, full disclosure, I might be saying that because that is what I do before my hot chocolate is cool enough to drink like a grown up. There are hot chocolate options for everyone: white, milk, dark, caffeinated and boozy. But no matter your choice, they are all topped with a homemade marshmallow or two. My favorite is the half and half which is half dark chocolate and half espresso. It is all kinds of delicious!

Onto the food. With a rotating menu there is no such thing as ‘I’ll try something new, because I have already had that before.’ It’s all new and all SO good. Lucky for me, my brunch companions today were all about the lets get stuff and share mentality. For the savory dishes, we had duck hash with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts and a veggie omelet. This was one of my friend’s first time having brussels sprouts and she loved them! The omelet came with roasted potatoes that were so on point they could have been their own thing. Both dishes came with grilled bread, a small touch that is not to be underestimated. All bread is good with hot chocolate.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we had the french toast of the day with chocolate cream and macerated figs. It was one of those foods where you put in your mouth and just float off to a magical place. My brunch companions and I are usually very chatty when we hang out, but once our food arrived we basically ate in the silence of brunch bliss. We also had the sugar puffs. These are soft, fluffy doughnuts and today came with raspberry preserves.

All in all, this Wicker Park staple was perfect for a rainy Chicago October Sunday.

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Half and Half
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Little Goat

Just a stone throw away from Girl & the Goat, this is not your average diner. Here your comfort food goes a little crazy. This place can stand alone -out of the shadow of its mothership- despite its proximity.

The Place: Little Goat; 820 W Randolph Chicago, IL

Sloppy Goat with Rosemary Slaw
Sloppy Goat with Rosemary Slaw

Don’t be fooled by the interior of this place. Little Goat Diner is not your average diner. You won’t find sloppy joe, ice cream sundaes or apple pie on the menu…well at least not the kinds you are use to. Little Goat is Girl & the Goat’s more accessible child with typical diner hours. 7:00AM until 2:00AM. Literally across the street from Dragonfly (Chinese restaurant turned club at night), I wonder what the crowd looks like in the wee weekend hours. Don’t confuse Little Goat with your late night Wrigley taco joint that is oh-so-satisfying only when you are in an altered state. Little Goat earned the honor of being one of Bon Appetite’s Top 5 Hottest Restaurant Openings in 2012.

Little Goat sticks to diner tradition and serves breakfast all day. Nothing is off limits here they serve Breakfast Spaghetti and Clams which includes eggs, parmesan, guanciale and bok choy. Before you turn up your nose to the idea, try it. Stephanie, the mastermind behind it all, seems to get everything right -even when it sounds wrong. For the less adventurous, the menu includes dark chocolate chip pancakes and pork belly benedict.  But really, this is not the place to be a chicken.

Wing Burger with Kilgus Goat Patty
Wing Burger with Kilgus Goat Patty

The food is all fantastic. The sloppy joe is made with goat and has a rosemary slaw on top. You can get burgers many different ways including wing style (which I highly recommend), Korean or Loco Moco. After you choose your style of burger, you can choose your patty. Your options include a regular beef patty, goat (obviously) and veggie. The goat is really good, especially on the wing burger.

Save room for dessert and if you don’t, your stomach will make room. Trust me; it’s science. Next time, I will be trying the apple pie! The Choco Toco sundae was really good. It had some kind of chocolate truffle ice cream and sour cream ice cream. Again, don’t freak out. It is like vanilla ice cream but cooler. Just trust Steph!

Choco Toco Sundae
Choco Toco Sundae

Some things to consider: Little Goat can get busy! So if you go during peak hours, be prepared to wait. It is totally worth the wait though. I went on a random weeknight and didn’t have to wait, but it was still pretty busy. They have a separate brunch menu, which I am so excited to go back for! Don’t bring your picky-eater-friends. They will be hungry and you will be annoyed. Take your cool-foodie-friends or friends that live in New York and think nothing comes close to eating in NYC. Also, next to the diner is Little Goat Bread which is Steph’s spin on a coffee shop. Stay tuned for that post.

For more information: http://littlegoatchicago.com/ Even the website is really cool, so check it out.

Enjoy your diner food out of the box!

Yolk

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Everyone knows that, but we rush through it anyway. Or worse, we skip it all together. And no, a cup of coffee is not the same as breakfast. This place is so good that it can make breakfast a priority again.

The Place: Yolk, 355 East Ohio Chicago, IL (multiple locations)

Yolk can add  sunshine to your morning even as rainy Chicago autumn threatens to dampen your spirits. The inside is casual, non-threatening and inspired by an egg, I’m assuming. Everything is yellow and white. There is a huge breakfast bar looking into the kitchen, which seems to be favored by those eating alone or just grabbing a quick muffin and coffee (still not really breakfast, but better than nothing). The Yolk staff is super friendly and welcoming. Despite how busy it can get, it never feels like you are being rushed out the door. The overall experience leaves you feeling happy, relaxed and satisfied.

The food is so good! I know I say that about pretty much every place. However, I also only write about places I enjoy. I want Not Just Dinner and a Movie to be a positive place! But the food really is good. The menu is pretty big for a breakfast place and includes some lunch items as well. The menu items are not too complicated, but have a touch of creativity and a dash of indulgence. The Santa Fe fritatta has avocado, jalepenos, green onions, cheese and potatoes baked right in with sour cream and salsa on top. It is a must try if you like to get a little spicy in the morning. Get it with pancakes! The Irish Benny is also really good. It is a benedict on top of corned beef hash and sauteed tomatoes. It comes with potatoes and really fresh fruit. If you are feeling indulgent or need a cure for your sweet tooth, they have red velvet french toast and cinnamon roll french toast. Yolk has such a great menu, so check it out!

The coffee is pretty good and I would stop in here for a cup of joe to go even though Starbucks is just down the street. Although I guess Starbucks is always just down the street in Chicago. Either way, this place has better coffee and some seasonal coffee creations if you are into that kind of thing.

Some things to consider: This place gets CROWDED. The wait for four on a Sunday around 10:30 can be around 40 minutes. It is totally worth the wait. Now that it is getting colder less people may be willing to wait outside. I am hoping this will mean the wait time will decrease, but am not going to hold my breath. During the week or later on Saturdays and Sundays the crowds are more manageable.

For more information and other locations: http://eatyolk.com/ I think they have such a cute website!

Enjoy some breakfast sunshine year round!

Molly’s Cupcakes Chicago

Childhood seems to get everything right. It has nap time, summer vacation, ice cream sandwiches, playgrounds, Candyland and cupcakes. These days cupcakes have taken a turn for the trendy and been transplanted right out of childhood and onto trucks and fancy boutique-like shops. And while transportable sweets are cute and convenient, these places tend to take the childhood right out of the cupcake. However, there is one Chicago cupcake shop that meshes the two seamlessly and includes only the good stuff!

The Place: Molly’s Cupcakes, 2536 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake
Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake

It is a coffee shop sized place a 15 minute walk from the Fullerton Red Line. The inside is cute and slightly understated. In place of barstools there are swings. They have wifi and board games. I went there once and enjoyed a game of Guess Who with my cupcake while the person at the table next to us sipped a latte and typed furiously on his computer.

I don’t care what anyone says or how many cupcake shops make it onto the Food Network. I have a lot of experience eating cupcakes and these ones are the best! They are filled so you don’t have to plan your bites to incorporate the frosting. You will get filling, frosting, or both, in every bite. They probably have unfilled “normal” cupcakes too, but I’m not sure why you would get that. If you are going to have a cupcake, you might as well have a cupcake! I went with a friend last week who got a box because she planned to only eat half of her cupcake. It didn’t happen; she ate the whole thing. They are just too good to stop and it is kinda hard to save half of a filled cupcake. I have never been disappointed by any of the flavors, but if I had to pick a favorite I would go with the Kahlua (chocolate cake, coffee frosting and Kahlua filling). The Boston Cream Pie is a close second and I have always wanted to try the Strawberry Shortcake. However, chocolate has a very firm grasp on my heart and the cupcakes with chocolate steal me away every time.

Pretzel Cupcake
Pretzel Cupcake

I am a firm believer that the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach (at least that is true for me). Molly’s cupcakes are a foolproof way to go! Everyone relaxes a little when they are reminded of their childhood. It was generally a simpler time where the games we played had clear rules to determine a winner and a cupcake could calm even the sorest loser’s tears. So, ignore the two day texting rule and take someone to Molly’s for cupcakes and some friendly childhood competition!

Some things to consider: Right after school can get a little full of young children wound up from their days and excited for some cupcake release. If kids annoy you or you are trying to pick up a large order, this might not be the best time to go. Molly’s is also a great place to get cupcakes for an event! However, they use a delivery service. This means if you want your cupcakes at a very specific time and not within a time range you have to pick them up yourself.

For more information: http://www.mollyscupcakes.com/chicago/home.php

Happy Playing!

Unicorn Cafe

You know how when you are in love and the sight and smell of the other person can make you feel calmer and a little happier? Now imagine a coffee shop that has that same effect. This is how I feel about this Evanston coffee shop. I would go on a date (friend or otherwise) with anyone here. Not that I really need anyone to go with because I take myself multiple times a week. Just walking in the door makes me feel cooler.

The Place: Unicorn Cafe; 1723 Sherman Avenue,  Evanston, IL

The atmosphere is unique. It tends to be a interesting mix of Northwestern undergraduates, graduate students, professors, local artists and Evanston families.  The crowd fluctuates dramatically with the time of day with more families and “townies” earlier in the morning and students in the afternoon. The walls feature rotating work by local artists that is available for purchase. The staff is a little eclectic too. You have everything from overly bubbly, but in a completely genuine way, to awkward and nervous. And then there are the few that are way cooler than everyone else and know it. Still, something about all of them is endearing. There is a box of board games and books in the corner, which is an incredibly underused feature. How cute would it be to get a nerdy scrabble competition on? Especially when it is face to face and you aren’t just staring at your virtual “friends” on your phone screen while actually doing something else. And then there is the love letter book where various Unicorn patrons have poured out their hearts. There are the few pages of LOVE SUCKS scrawled in by angsty teenagers  no doubt, but there are some really beautiful things written in there. Sit down with someone and read them to each other, maybe you will be inspired to leave your mark in the book!

Okay onto the coffee. Like the atmosphere, it is amazing and strong. They make their iced coffee with espresso so beware in the warm weather months. It is the stuff that makes your heart race. Take someone here and maybe you can trick him or her into thinking that it is actually you making their heart race. I tend to stick to coffee, but their specialty drinks are also good. For fewer heart palpitations I would suggest the chai latte. By some kind of unicorn magic, it is spicy and light at the same time. They have an extensive tea selection for those non-coffee drinkers out there.

The pastries are baked fresh in the morning and they buy locally. The downside is that when they are out of something they are out for the day. Usually a few kinds of cookies make it to the end, but around noon there are some slim pickings for scones and bagels. If they have cinnamon scones while you are there get one. They are always perfect, soft on the inside, but firm and slightly crisp on the outside. They also have various sandwiches that always come with melon. They have a good amount of vegetarian options for a relatively small menu. This is a good place for a light lunch!

Some things to consider: Unicorn is CASH ONLY. Cash Only! Cash Only! Don’t be that person that orders everything on the menu and asks a lot of questions and then goes “oh you only take cash” despite the sign staring you in the face. All of the Unicorn regulars in line behind you will roll their eyes and sigh loudly. Unicorn has quite a following, as it should because it is so good!  There are certain times during the day and during the year that it can be hard to find a table such as the middle of the day on Saturday, especially during the winter where there is no outdoor seating. However, noon is usually when the shift from Evanston residents to Northwestern students takes place during the week so it is a good time to snag a table if you are not an early riser. Unicorn is my favorite place to get work done (and be in general)!

For more information: http://www.unicorncafe.com/

Happy Loving!