Enjoy holiday dining, food shopping in local community
December 4, 2010

By Marie Balice Ward

Local restaurants, bar, and food stores offer the finest in holiday dining and cheer. Take a break from the hectic holiday season and enjoy a bite to eat or some holiday cheer right in the community.

BAKED GOODS

Ferrara Bakery, 2210 W. Taylor St., (312) 666-2200, www.ferrarabakery.com. Ferrara’s signature cannoli cake, along with a wide variety of party cakes and cookies, as well as its candies, biscotti, and pastries, have been a family tradition for more than 100 years. Wedding cakes and sweet tables are among Ferrara’s many specialties. On weekdays, Ferrara serves a full menu, dining in or to go. Among its wide variety of selections are a variety of pasta dishes such as shells with vegetables and rigatoni in béchamel sauce. Chicken marsala is a favorite. Ferrara also serves soups, pizza, and salads as well as hot and cold sandwiches. Ferrara features an espresso bar daily. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more than 100 years the bakers at Ferrara Bakery have created the treats that help make the holidays more memorable. (Photo by Angela Giannoni)
Italian Superior Bakery, 933 S. Western Ave., (312) 733-5092, www.italiansuperiorbakery.com.
Specializing in breads and pizzas for many years, Italian Superior Bakery recently added selections of Italian cookies, pastries, and cakes including cannoli, chocolate, fruit fillings, as well as cassata (a Sicilian specialty) and tiramisu. Special occasion cakes are also available at Italian Superior Bakery. Hours: Tues. through Fri. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

BARS, LOUNGES, AND CLUBS

Little Joe’s Circle Lounge, 1041 W. Taylor St., (312) 829-5888, fax (312) 829-0261. Established in 1946, Little Joe’s is operated by the third generation of the Assenato family. The atmosphere—an eclectic blend of rustic, contemporary, and Victorian details–is comfortable and inviting. Among the interior features at Little Joe’s Circle Lounge is track lighting with Italian–imported shades in green, two plasma televisions behind the bar, and a Touchtone jukebox. The fare is simple, well prepared, abundant, and competitively priced. Kitchen hours: Mon. through Fri. 5 to 11 p.m. Bar hours: Mon. through Sat., 5 p.m. to curfew. Closed on Sun.

M Lounge, 1520 S. Wabash Ave., (312) 447-0201, fax (312) 922-7120, info@mloungechicago.com, www.mloungechicago.com. M Lounge is an intimate martini lounge featuring jazz music, an array of specialty martinis, and fine spirits. Live jazz performances are held every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 to 10 p.m.; there is no cover charge, and 25% off bottles of wine. Every Thursday, patrons enjoy $5 call cocktails all evening long. M Lounge also can host holiday parties of from six to 30 people with reserved seating. Inquire about hosting a larger private event. Book a holiday party through the end of the year and receive a complimentary bottle of champagne. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Fri. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sat. 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. M Lounge is closed on Sundays and Mondays for private events.

PLACES TO EAT

Bruna’s Ristorante, 2424 S. Oakley Ave. (773) 254-5550. Since 1933, Bruna’s has served fine Italian cuisine including a variety of pasta dishes, meat, and fish entrees. Some of the most popular dishes are veal scaloppini, mussels marinara, and penne a la puttanesca. Specials are offered daily. Bruna’s also has an extensive wine list and imports a personally-selected chianti and vino nobile di montepulciano. The most popular dessert is Bruna’s own tiramisu. Other popular dessert specials include chocolate mousse cake and wild berry tart. Gelato also is available, with pistachio being a favorite. Reservations are accepted. Carryout is available. Valet parking is offered every day except Mon. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sun. 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

A variety of Indian and Nepali dishes are available at Chicago Curry House.
Burger Baron, 1381 W. Grand Ave., (312) 733-3285, www.burgerbaron.net. Thirty years ago, Burger Baron opened with the desire to bring home-style breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to the community at affordable prices within a warm, family atmosphere. Burger Baron still is fulfilling its dream. Egg selections, omelets, French toast and rolls are only some of the breakfast choices. At lunch, Burger Baron offers sandwiches of all types including Burger Baron’s “Great Burger,” as well as many other American, Italian, and Greek selections—gyros, hot dogs, Italian beef, and low-carb wraps which are also available for dinner. Burger Baron also offers a wide selection of other dinner entrees including Greek specialties and barbecue. Entrees come complete with salad or coleslaw and a choice of fries, Greek style potatoes, or rice. Online ordering now is available for takeout. Parking is free. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sun.

Chicago Curry House, 899 S. Plymouth Ct., (312) 362-9999, fax (312) 362-0799, www.curryhouseonline.com. Zagat-rated Chicago Curry House offers Indian and Nepalese selections, from various regions of those countries. Chicago Curry House’s recipes are simple, natural, low fat, and authentic. Selections include chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetables. Delectable tandoori dishes are very low in cholesterol. The tandoori is a barrel-shaped clay oven that is used for baking bread (naan) and vegetables and roasting lamb, chicken, and seafood with charcoal at about 600 degrees. Among appetizers are momo, a vegetable platter, tandoori peskush (a platter of samplings of tandoori specialties), and samosa (cone-shaped pastry stuffed with meat). Special dinners under $18 are a great value and include chicken tikka masala, tandoori lamb, and tandoori prawns. Chicago Curry House also offers a variety of breads including cheese naan. Popular desserts include gullab jammune (fried milk pastry dumplings in saffron syrup served hot), and rassmalai (flat round cottage cheese poached in milk and garnished with pistachios). The atmosphere is romantic, complemented with soft music and attentive service. Chicago Curry House offers a private party room, a full bar, carry out and delivery service as well as catering. Hours: Open every day including holidays. Luncheon buffet 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner from 3 to 10 p.m.

Ciao Amore Ristorante, 1134 W. 18th St., at May St. (312) 432-9090 www.ciaoamoreristorante.com, Facebook—Ciao Amore Ristorante. Italian cuisine reigns at Ciao Amore. The restaurant is BYOB and there is no corkage fee. The menu offers fresh green bean salad, fried calamari, and more as appetizers. Entrees include such items as fresh seafood, homemade pastas, tiramisu chicken, and veal Vesuvio. Desserts include homemade tiramisu, spumoni, lemon granite, and specials. Private room available. In addition, the entire restaurant can be made available for a special occasion. Limited catering and carryout are available;delivery service and valet parking will be offered soon. Street parking available. Through Mon., Dec. 13, Ciao Amore is participating in the Toys for Tots Drive. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. noon to 10 p.m., Fri. noon to 11 p.m., Sat. 4 to 11 p.m. and Sun. 3 to 9 p.m.

Enjoy the holidays with an Italian flaire at Ciao Amore Ristorante in East Pilsen.
Connie’s Pizza, 2373 S. Archer Ave., (312) CONNIES, fax (312) 842-5274, www.conniespizza.com. Follow Connie’s on Facebook and Twitter for coupons, specials, events, and more proving that “Pizza is just the beginning!” as the staff at Connie’s Pizza says. Since 1963, Connie’s Pizza has served the entire Chicagoland area with a wide selection of pizzas, entrees, salads, and sandwiches, specializing in Italian cuisine. Connie’s also specializes in catering for social gatherings including weddings, as well as corporate luncheons or dinners of any size, provided by its off-site full staff of catering experts. Connie’s Pizza is a sponsor of the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Fire, Brookfield Zoo, University of Illinois at Chicago Flames, the Allstate Arena, and the Sears Center. Pickup, delivery, and dine-in accommodations are available with private dining area. Free parking available, and Connie’s offers shuttle service to sporting events and conventions. Hours: Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to midnight, Sun. and Mon. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Damenzo’s Pizza, 2324 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-1142. Pizzas of all shapes and sizes–thin, thick, and stuffed, starting with single servings to oversized pies for families and parties, are available with an extensive selection of toppings. Damenzo’s also serves Italian entrees such as pasta choices including manicotti, linguini with clam sauce, as well as sandwiches including vegetarian selections. Damenzo’s also serves ciabatta bread sandwiches, daily specials such as all-you-can-eat pizza, and a variety of side dishes. Catering and carryout are available. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to midnight, Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

DeColores Restaurant, 1626 S. Halsted St. (312) 226-9886, fax (312) 226-9778, www.decolor.us, info@decolor.us, DeColores features traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine in a unique atmosphere that blends a candle-lit restaurant with an extensive art gallery. DeColores just won the Michelin Guide 2011 Bib Gourmand“ Best Eats Under $40 recognition” and was named one of the best new restaurants by Chicago magazine and Time Out Chicago. DeColores also won a first place People’s Choice Award for “best mole sauce.” DeColores is a BYON restaurant that offers carry out as well as catering.Reservations are requested for parties of 6 people or more. Hours:Mon. through Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Eppel’s Restaurant, 554 W. Roosevelt Rd., (312) 922-2206, fax (312) 596-1202. This 45-year-old breakfast and lunch eatery now is under new management. Eppel’s offers its warm hospitality for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant seats 100 people and is located between Jefferson and Clinton Streets, in the strip mall across from Best Buy in the heart of the revitalized Roosevelt Road shopping district. Eppel’s is well known for its down-home atmosphere and hearty breakfast specials with choices of eggs; meats, including ham off the bone; pancakes; grits; waffles and wings; and homemade biscuits with gravy. Lunch specials include braised short ribs, oxtails, hearty meatloaf, homemade fried chicken, and fried catfish. Eppel’s also offers a large selection of sandwiches including panini. All sandwiches are served with French fries and homemade soup. Full service carryout is available. Hours: Daily from 4:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., except major holidays.

Gio’s Café & Deli, 2724 S. Lowe Ave., (312) 225-6368, www.gioscafe.com. Gio’s was created in April 2001 by Giovanni Liuzzo (Gio), Ignacio Bautista (Nacho), and Víctor Quezada, who have worked together since 1992. The partnership has given a Gio’s Café a unique touch. Gio’s features homemade Italian foods with a Sicilian touch. An informal place, Gio’s creates an atmosphere of being transported to Grandma’s kitchen. Every dish is made to order and customers can add any ingredient, creating a dish to their own taste. Gio’s Café & Deli’s goal is to use quality ingredients, even with the simplest dish. The team’s vast experience, acquired by being part of other successful Italian restaurants, contributes greatly to Gio’s Café & Deli’s success. Gio’s Café & Deli also offers a variety of unique Italian products such as imported cheeses, oils, meats, fresh pasta, fresh sausage, and sauces. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun., open only for private parties and catering.

Enjoy an assortment of savory sweets from baker/owner Christina Chavarria of Kristoffer’s Cafe & Bakery.
Holiday Neighborhood Grill & Bar, 740 W. Randolph St., (312) 207-0924, web site with downloadable menu and featured daily specials – www.holidaygrillandbar.com. Holiday Neighborhood Grill & Bar has been a neighborhood eatery for more than 30 years. Near the United Center for convenient dining before/after events, Holiday Grill is known for its great portions at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at affordable prices. They also have a full stocked bar, TVs for Bulls and Blackhawks games, a jukebox, and free wi-fi. Carryout is available. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kristoffer’s Café, 1733 S. Halsted St. (312) 829-4150 fax (312) 829-4172, kristofferscafe@ kristofferscafe.com, www.kristofferscafe.com. Assorted savory and sweet delights can be enjoyed at Kristoffer’s Café. Tres leches cakes can be ordered whole for special events such as birthdays, communions, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, and Quienceanera. Cakes also are available by the slice and they come in a wide variety of flavors such as vanilla, eggnog, chocolate, caramel, Kahlua, coconut, and pina colada. Flan with cheese also is another favorite at Kristoffer’s Café. Among the savory selections are breakfast sandwiches including Kristoffer’s special, American and Spanish classics, omelettes, burritos, bagels, and muffins. For lunch there are sandwiches including turkey, roast beef, veggie, and ham served on a wide variety of breads. There are also a number of different salads with an extensive choice of dressings. Hot drinks and espresso specialty drinks are served using organic, free-trade coffee. There also are art exhibits, music events, and chess matches at Kristoffer’s Café. Hours: Mon. 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tues. through Fri. 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Maxwell’s on Ogden, 2600 W. Ogden Ave., will open in early to mid-January. A first venture for Tony and Margie Ritacco, Maxwell’s on Ogden is not only family-owned, but also will be family-operated. A culinary nostalgic trip to the Maxwell St. fare of yesterday, Maxwell’s on Ogden will serve breakfast, Polish sausage, and pork chop chicken sandwiches as well as burgers and hot dogs for carry-out and free delivery. Fries will be included at no additional cost, said Tony Ritacco. Soft drinks and bottled water also will be available. Hours: always open.

Palace Grill, 1408 W. Madison St., (312) 226-9529, fax (312) 226-0633. Palace Grill has served famous Chicagoans of all walks of life including the Chicago Blackhawks, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and reporters. “You just don’t know who will walk in,” said George Lemperis, owner. A West Loop fixture since 1938, Palace Grill has been named “best breakfast restaurant in Chicago” by restaurant critic Pat Bruno. Palace Grill is open for breakfast starting at 5 a.m. every day except Sun., when breakfast starts at 7 a.m. Like his father before him, Lemperis serves fresh, homemade selections–everything from bacon and eggs to pancakes, omelets, and hash browns for breakfast. At lunch, Palace Grill offers hearty, homemade soups such as split pea, minestrone, and Boston clam chowder. Lunch fare includes fresh spring mix salads, or Cobb or Greek salads. Sandwich selections include the popular skirt steak sandwich, the Palace Grill burger–a half-pound of freshly-ground beef served on Greek bread–as well as roast beef, turkey clubs, hot meatloaf served with real mashed potatoes, and daily specials. Beer and wine are served. Catering is offered. In addition to being open every night before all Blackhawks home games, hours are Mon. through Fri. 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sun. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Before you start your holiday shopping, start the day off right with a hearty, homemade breakfast at Sweet Maple Cafe. (Photo by Troy T Heinzeroth)
Pancho Pistolas, 700W. 31st St.,(312) 225-8808. Authentic Mexican cuisine is featured at Pancho Pistolas, including a wide selection of appetizers, lunch, and dinner including Mexican specialties such as enchiladas suiza, flautas, chiles rellenos, burritos, tacos, tortas, tostadas, and seafood. Everything is home made from original recipes. Pancho Pistolas has a full bar, with margaritas as one of the most popular choices. Carry out and delivery are offered. Major credit cards are accepted. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Polk Street Pub, 548 W. Polk St., (312) 786-1142, www.polkstpub.com. Polk Street Pub, a fixture for more than 35 years, features a full bar and homemade American cuisine by Chef Lauro. Most popular are the burgers. The extensive menu provides a variety of choices. Appetizers include nachos, egg rolls, wings, and calamari. Salads, sandwiches, wraps, and pizza also are featured. Bartenders make customers feel they are at home in a very pleasant atmosphere. There are live blues jams on Sundays. Metered parking is abundant. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sat., 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Sun 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Pompei, 1531 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5179, www.pompeipizza.com. This bustling 225-seat eatery also accommodates groups of up to 100 people in its La Stanza di Pompei party room. Pompei also has several other locations, including in the Loop. Pizzas with various toppings are popular, as is the “pizza strudel”—an original creation. Other favorites include pastas, salads, daily specials, and fresh breads. Homemade desserts, cappuccino, and espresso also are served. There are holiday specials that are prepared only once a year. Pompei specializes in express catering for delivery or pick up. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sit Down Café & Sushi Bar, 1312 E. 53rd St., (773) 324-3700, fax (773) 324-3710. With two kitchens, the Sit Down Café & Sushi Bar offers a complete menu starting with appetizers, soups, salads, and drinks. Its sushi selections include maki/rolls, house maki, nigiri, and sashimi. Steak, chicken pesto, and Mediterranean caprese are some of the sandwich selections. Individual sized pizzas are authentically thin. In addition to Italian sodas and traditional beverages, Sit Down Café & Sushi Bar offers organic infusion drinks and fresh fruit smoothies. Among the drink specials are half-off bottles of Sake on Mondays, and half-off bottles of wine on Tuesdays. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

You’ll enjoy the high-energy atmosphere and authentic Spanish menu at Tapas Valencia.
Sweet Maple Café, 1339 W. Taylor St., (312) 243-8908, www.sweetmaplecafe.com. A 1940s style eatery, Sweet Maple Café offers breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch specials on the weekends. Sweet Maple uses deliciously creative recipes for pancakes and French toast, homemade biscuits, muffins, and egg dishes. Lunch fare includes homemade soups and sandwiches such as turkey with homemade potato chips. Weekend brunch items include salmon cakes and fried pork chops. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Tapas Valencia, 1530 S. State St., (312) 842-4444, info@mesonsabika.com, www.tapasvalencia.com. Tapas Valencia was named the No. 1 Spanish restaurant by Chicagoland Zagat in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Featuring a modern, high-energy atmosphere, Tapas Valencia ‘s décor includes mosaic walls in the style of Joan Miro. The menu, authentically from Spain, includes an extensive assortment of hot and cold tapas including vegetarian, veal, beef, chicken, fish, and other seafood, as well as signature paellas. Tapas Valencia’s paella also features vegetarian, fish, and seafood as well as chicken and shellfish choices. Desserts at Tapas Valencia are not to be missed – flan of the day and bittersweet chocolate terrine are only two. Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 4 to 10 p.m., Fri. 4 to 11 p.m., Sat. 5 to 11 p.m., and Sun. 4:30 to 9 p.m.

SPECIALTY ITEMS

Edible Arrangements, 1212 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5440, fax (312) 421-5441and 1239 S. Michigan Ave, (312) 566-9999, fax (312) 566-9906. www.ediblearrangements.com. Fruits designed into bouquets and baskets to resemble table centerpieces are featured at Edible Arrangements. Tropical fruits as well as homegrown selections are available along with dipped fruits in boxes, including gourmet chocolate-dipped bananas, dipped apple wedges, dipped orange segments, dipped pears, peanut butter apples, bananas, and strawberries. Fudge selections, Mylar balloons, and plush bears also are featured as “accessories” for an extra touch. Now open seven days a week. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

TEAzzz (pronounced teas), 125 E. 37th St. (312) 794-5700, info@teazzz.info, http://blog.teazzz.info. TEAzzz specializes in gourmet teas from all around the world. Light lunch items such as soup, sandwiches, and freshly made sweets also are served. In addition, catering and rental are available. Special menu items are available by ordering in advance. Events of all kinds can be held at TEAzzz. And, jazz nights are held on select Thurs. of each month, when music usually begins at 7 p.m. While there is no cover, a $10 Taste of TEAzzz voucher purchase is required. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. TEAzzz is closed Sun. and holidays.

Mother Butter’s Popcorn and Confectionary, 17W. 35th St., (773) 548-POPP (7677), motherbutterspopcorn@yahoo.com, www.motherbutterspopcorn.com. Mother Butter’s Popcorn and Confectionary serves up a variety of gourmet popcorn, chocolates, candy, and nuts. They specialize in corporate gifts, special events, and wholesale. Tim Donnelly and Jennifer Carey Donnelly have a passion for popcorn and decided to put their dreams to the test. Chicago White Sox fans may purchase a variety of gourmet popcorn, homemade fudge, chocolates, bulk candy, and roasted nuts to bring into the games at U.S. Cellular Field. Bananas Foster, Chicago Mix, and Cinnamon Caramel are just a few of the top choices for gourmet popcorn. The popcorn of the month is Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Spice. A new website offers a shopping cart feature. Shipping is free as a limited time offer. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sun. when the White Sox are in town 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.