Saturday, August 14, 2010

A lovely new café in Chicago

I get a weekly e-mail from Daily Candy that gives the weekend special activities in several major US cities. Since we were headed to Chicago, I looked up their recommendation for this weekend. One of the suggestions was a new café opened by the Omni Hotel. Café 676 has only been open a little over a week, but you wouldn't have known that from the service, or execution of the food. The alfresco new-comer uses ingredients from its hotel rooftop garden to use in salads, snacks, and sandwiches

The one page menu is widely enough varied to have something for everyone, yet each dish shows a nice touch of creativity. There are "Snacks," each priced at $4.00, a few bites of a perfectly aged cheese with a lovely accompaniment. Then a list of soups and salads, and a few amusing more substantial dishes.

Tom ordered the "Great Lakes Niçoise Salad." A riff on the classical French version, the fish was a perfectly grilled filet of walleye. I wasn't familiar with this fish but is was delicious. The salad wasn't the composed version typical of the South of France. Besides the usual haricots verts (skinny green beans), hard cooked egg and tomato, there were chunks of blue potato that did nothing for the visual appeal of the salad, and the dressing, a white wine vinaigrette was a little sharp for both our tastes. A little more olive oil would have softened it nicely.

I ordered the "Sweet Corn Soup." Smooth and creamy with a bit of spice that I wasn't quite able to identify, it was laced with tasty bits of crisp-tender veggies. I loved it.

After that, I had two "Snacks." Both were cheese. The first was the "Julianna," perfectly aged goat cheese from Capriole Farmstead in Indiana, accompanied by a sweet-tart Meyer lemon compote. The other was robiola, a rich and mildly pungent cheese from the Lombardy area of Italy, with a not-too-sweet strawberry jam. Each made a perfect match.  All were accompanied by crisps made from thin slices of sourdough bread.  The bread is house-made with, they claim, a 105-year old sourdough started.

Although the beer and wine was a little on the pricey side, on the whole we felt pleasant dinner, enhanced by the people-watching opportunities offered by being right on the corner of Michigan Avenue on a warm Saturday evening.  We both agreed that if we lived here, this would probably be a perfect place to stop after an evening out for a glass of wine and one of the snacks, or a nice afternoon stop after shopping for a cup of tea and of of their delicious sounding sweets.  But we probably wouldn't make it a meal destination in a town where there are so many!
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Scott said...

Alyce, this is Scott Mock. I used to work for you at Mantia's How are you? I was looking for your contact info because I've recently moved to Chicago, and I'm applying at a store called Artisanal, which is similar to your old store. I was hoping you might allow me to use you as a reference! Are you still in Chicago? If you are, I would love to take you to Lula cafe, which is an amazing local cafe in my neighborhood. BTW, your blog looks great! If you don't mind, would you please contact me at (901) 277-6006 or at I've looked for your number on the internet, and I can find nothing. Anyway, I hope you're doing great and are getting plenty of time to spend with your grandchildren!
Much love,
Scott Mock

Luanne said...

The salad looks wonderful. Ralph and I traveled through Italy and France after we were married and stopped at a little French restaurant for lunch one day. The nicoise salad was so good that we eat them for dinner often now. I'll have to try grilled fish next time after seeing your pictures.