Make this year’s Valentine’s Day one to remember
February 7, 2014

By Dolly Duplantier

Great food and drink abound in this community. Add that special someone, and a superb Valentine’s Day celebration will result. The restaurants, bars, bakeries, and food shops in the area are ready to make your Valentine’s Day one to remember.

BAKED GOODS

Bake for Me!, 4305 S. Halsted St., (773) 624-9900, and 321 N. Clark St., (312) 644-7750, www.bakeforme.com. Bake for Me! is downtown Chicago’s and south Halsted Street’s best bakery for cakes, as well as your source for convenient catering for breakfast, lunch, and receptions. The family-owned bakery has two locations, plus the affiliated Racine Bakery at 6216 S. Archer Ave. Whatever the occasion, the bakery’s custom cakes offer many different options, including your choice of layers, fillings, frosting, icing, shapes, and sizes. In addition, Bake for Me! can personalize signature cakes and cookies with messages and photo images. Bake for Me! is proud to offer monthly featured cakes, providing new cake ideas on a regular basis. The bakery’s pastries and cookies are hand-made using only the finest ingredients. All products can be viewed and ordered online. Don’t forget to pick up some iced heart cookies, cupcakes, or chocolate dipped strawberries for your special Valentine. Hours: Halsted St. location — Mon. through Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sat. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Clark St. location — Mon. through Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bake for Me! offers cakes, pastries, cookies, and more, and provides catering for receptions. (Photo by Gabriella Valentino)
Ferrara Bakery 2210 W. Taylor St., (312) 666-2200, Facebook, www.ferrarabakery.com. Since 1908, family-owned Ferrara Bakery has used only the freshest and purest ingredients to make high-quality and delicious cakes, pastries, specialty cannoli, and gifts for all occasions. Recognized for its signature cannoli cake and sweet table selections, Ferrara also offers custom and specialty cakes including Oreo torte, Zuppa Inglese, strawberry and pineapple torte, tres leches, and carrot cake. The bakery also is known for its beautiful wedding cakes. Authentic Italian pastries include butter and traditional varieties, large cookies, biscotti, party trays, and pyramid wedding trays. Ferrara offers an extensive selection of hot and cold luncheon items for dining in or takeout Monday through Friday. Let Ferrara cater your next event with deli sandwiches, chili, soups, pan pizza, and focaccia. Half and full pan sizes of entrees, pasta, and fresh salads are available. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

BARS, LOUNGES, AND CLUBS

Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill, 1458 W. Taylor St., (312) 226-3951, www.hawkeyesbar.com, Facebook, Twitter. Located in the heart of the Taylor Street Little Italy area, Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill is a neighborhood institution for Chicago sports fans. On Valentine’s Day, enjoy Hawkeye’s specialty dinner and cocktail menu, including complimentary champagne and dessert with the purchase of dinner (limit one per table). Hawkeye’s offers great food, fun, and drink in an exciting party atmosphere. Signature items include Hawkeye’s award-winning, homemade chili (as seen on WGNTV Channel 9’s Chicago’s Best), and comforting chicken pot pie. Enjoy sporting events on one of 20 hidefinition TVs or dance to the music of Hawkeye’s DJ. Hawkeye’s private party room accommodates groups of up to 50 guests. The restaurant can be reserved for up to 200. Hawkeye’s provides shuttle and park-andparty services for a variety of events, including concerts and Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks games. Hours: Sun. through Fri. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Kitchen hours: Sun. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to midnight, and Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Little Joe’s 1041 W. Taylor St., (312) 829-5888, fax (312) 829-0261, www.littlejoespub.com, Facebook. Established in 1946, Little Joe’s pub is operated by the third generation of the Assenato family. Joe Jr. and his nephews, Michael and Peter, continue the tradition of mixing cocktails and preparing great food in a friendly environment — the same as the first generation did 67 years ago with Connie, Joe Sr., and their three sons. Their kitchen menu includes simple, well-prepared finger food with an Italian accent. The bar offers $6 Pabst Blue Ribbon pitchers and a variety of specially priced drinks. Little Joe Jr.’s signature drink is the Snakebite. Known for its Italian-style hospitality, the pub has a comfortable setting that includes four plasma televisions, a Touch Tone jukebox, and a dartboard. Tuesday is pub quiz night. Karaoke is featured on Wed. and Sat. nights. Local jazz bands can be heard on the last Thurs. of each month. Kitchen hours: Mon. through Fri. 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bar hours: Mon. through Fri. 3 p.m. to curfew, Sat. 5 p.m. to curfew. Closed Sun.

PLACES TO EAT

Chicago Curry House (Indian and Nepali Restaurant), 899 S. Plymouth Ct., (312) 362-9999, www.curryhouseonline.com. Enjoy a variety of tastes from the different regions of Nepal and India. The award winning and Zagat-rated Chicago Curry House offers an extensive menu of natural, low-fat, and authentic recipes prepared from the freshest chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetables. Mouth-watering tandoori dishes come highly recommended, including the award-winning chicken wings marinated overnight in the Nepalese popular trio of spices — ginger, garlic, and cumin. Desserts include an abundant selection of delicious, traditional treats including gulab jamun (golden fried dumplings of milk pastry soaked in sweet saffron syrup). With an impressive wine list from around the world, Chicago Curry House is a great place to take a date. Can’t decide what to order? Take advantage of the restaurant’s all you can eat buffet with more than 22 delicious items. Bring the dishes of Nepal and India home or to your next event. Chicago Curry House offers catering for office, home, and special events. Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Buffet 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chicago Curry House provides a variety of tastes from different regions of Nepal and India.
Damenzo’s Banquets 741 S. Western Ave., (312) 421-5065, www.damenzospizza.com. Looking for a great place for your next event? For more than 25 years, Damenzo’s Banquets has been known for its Southern Italian specialties. An ideal destination for personal and corporate events, the beautifully decorated restaurant accommodates up to 175 people for lunch, dinner, and receptions. Damenzo’s customizes your menu with an affordable budget. Its family-style menu offers table service or buffet. Banquet offerings comprise a choice of nine different appetizers, including fried ravioli and antipasto, three different soups, and four salads. Damenzo’s offers nine types of pasta, ranging from mostaccioli to lasagna. Nine main courses include specialties such as chicken Parmesan, Italian beef, and veal marsala. Choose one of five desserts, including tiramisu. Specialty, individually plated main courses such as filet mignon and surf and turf also are available. Packages include fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, soft drinks, coffee, and hot tea. Cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres include a bar with beers, wines, and well drinks, or a premium-brands and bottle-beer bar package.

Damenzo’s Pizza & Restaurant, 2324 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-1142, www.damenzospizza.com. Since 1985, this family-owned pizzeria and restaurant has offered amazing made-to-order regular, pan, and stuffed pizzas with only the freshest ingredients and toppings on their signature crusts. Damenzo’s also is known for their huge slices of pizza, pizza puffs (calzones), and Italian beef sandwiches. The menu includes sandwiches made with a choice of panini, focaccia, and ciabatta breads, as well as an assortment of salads and made-to- order fresh pasta dishes. The extensive lunch and dinner menu features delicious Southern Italian cuisine, in addition to an equally impressive variety of Mexican dishes including breakfast items, appetizers, flautas, gorditas, burritos, tacos, and dinner entrees. Check out Damenzo’s Valentine’s Day special for lunch and dinner–purchase one pasta dish and get the second pasta dish half off. Or, treat your Valentine to one of Damenzo’s heart-shaped pizzas, available for delivery and pick-up as well. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to midnight, and Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Eppel’s Restaurant, 554 W. Roosevelt Rd., (312) 922-2206 or (312) 922-6118, fax (312) 596-1202, www.eppelsrestaurant.com. Originally located in the old Maxwell Street Market, Eppel’s Restaurant remains for many of its breakfast and lunch patrons a wonderful recollection of the old Maxwell Street Market days. Currently, Eppel’s is located between Canal and Desplaines Streets in the Roosevelt Road shopping district. The restaurant is highly recommended for its banana and apple foster pancake as well as its bacon-stuffed waffle. These items were featured on the WGN-TV Channel 9 Chicago’s Best television show by Brittney Payton, making it even more popular for breakfast. Its extensive menu offers new items as well as comforting favorites such as ham off the bone, catfish, seafood, steaks, and chops. All entrees at Eppel’s are accompanied by a bowl of their signature soup or mixed salad. Carryout orders are available. Hours: Mon. through Sun. 4:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open all holidays, except for Christmas.

Gracie’s Café 1517 W. Warren Blvd., (312) 492-8800, Facebook. St. Leonard’s Ministries has opened Gracie’s Café, a coffee shop and restaurant in the former Viceroy Hotel, now known as Harvest Commons. The café offers non-alcoholic beverages, including Intelligentsia coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, hot tea, and hot chocolate. The menu includes light breakfast and lunch dishes. Delicious pastries and desserts such as pumpkin bars, apple squares, and sweet rolls from Bridgeport Bakery are delivered daily. Inspiration Kitchen provides chili and hearty soups such as tomato and split pea. The comfortable and friendly restaurant offers training and experience in the food service industry for adults who have been in the criminal justice system. The trainees bring enthusiasm and commitment to their new jobs. Gracie’s Café is a proud member of the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sat. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Jut’s @ Pompei 1529 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5698, www.Pompei-USA.com, Facebook, Twitter. Located next door to and affiliated with Pompei Little Italy, Jut’s @ Pompei offers an extensive breakfast menu, including omelets, pancakes, and waffles. The Jut’s omelet features Italian sausage, mozzarella, tomato, zucchini, and onion, while the delicious Caprese omelet comes with mozzarella and basil. There’s also a build-your-own omelet option. Pancakes are served plain or with strawberries, bananas, or chocolate chips. Thick, fluffy waffles come plain or with a choice of fruit, Nutella, or mascarpone. Jut’s also offers French toast and a variety of fruit-filled crepes. The yogurt banana split, a Jut’s specialty, is served with seasonal fruit, banana, and granola. Sides include biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and seasonal fruit. The lunch menu also offers burgers, specialty sandwiches, and soups. Ask about their daily breakfast and luncheon specials. Jut’s features a cozy fireplace in the winter and al fresco dining in warmer months. Carry-out is available. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Robert Dougherty, Mike Ellert, LaTonya Carter, and Walter Boyd of Gracie’s Café coffee shop and restaurant.
Nepal House (Indian and Nepali Restaurant) 1301 S. Michigan Ave., (312) 922-0601, www.nepalhouseonline.com. Experience the joys of multination dining at Nepal House. Featuring an array of classic Nepali and Indian cuisine, the restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients and the most healthful cooking techniques. Nepal House offers the highest quality dishes, including “momo” (dumplings with sauce), traditional Nepali “thalis” (meal combinations), “dal-bhaat” (rice and lentils), and “gundruk” (slightly-fermented and dried vegetables). The menu also includes many North and South Indian dishes featuring Tandoor-oven items such as roti, naan, and chicken, as well as many curries. Sample more than 15 different menu items during the all you can eat buffet, Tues. through Sun., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nepal House provides a unique cultural experience, combining delicious food with romantic Nepaliinfluenced decor, music, and a courteous and attentive staff. Nepal House offers take-out, delivery, and catering for private parties, fundraising, and corporate dinners. Gift certificates of $25, $50, or $100 are available now. Hours: Daily lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner 4:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Reservations are accepted. Pompei Little Italy, 1531 W. Taylor St., (312) 421-5179, www.PompeiUSA.com, Facebook, Twitter. Pompei on Taylor Street is a third-generation family business offering a comprehensive selection of hot, gourmet-quality Italian dishes made from three generations of Napolitano family recipes. Only the freshest ingredients are used to prepare Pompei’s made-to-order salads, soups, hand-rolled pizza, and classic hand cut Italian pastas. Pompei’s signature pizza strudels come in 11 different varieties, including heart healthy, Pompei Italiano and turkey stuffing. Homemade desserts include tiramisu, cannoli, and gelato. Pompei offers dine-in, delivery, and express catering for delivery or pickup. The 225-seat eatery accommodates private groups of up to 90 people in its La Stanza di Pompei party room, 60 in the new Jut’s party area, and 40 in the café. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Pranzi, 434 W. Ontario St., (312) 944-4340, www.pranzichicago.com, Facebook, Twitter. The newest addition to Chicago’s bustling River North area, Pranzi offers a variety of delicious Italian dishes. Whether you like your pizza thin, extra thin, pan, or stuffed, Pranzi has an incredible selection of only the freshest ingredients and toppings. Their signature “Da Double D” consists of two layers of crispy dough stuffed with sauce, Italian beef, mozzarella and giardinera peppers. Pranzi’s antipasti menu includes baked clams, calamari fritti, arancini, and panzerotti. There’s also a great selection of salads, soups, wraps and sandwiches. Entrée and pasta dishes feature sausage, chicken, and veal. Gluten-free pizzas and penne pasta also are available. At night, Pranzi transforms into a unique abstract lounge with an extensive wine list, specialty cocktails and drink specials, beers on tap, signature shots, and an upscale soundtrack all night long. Pranzi is available for private parties for groups of ten or more. Carry-out and delivery are available. Hours: Sun. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to midnight, Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Salerno’s Pizza & Pasta, 1201 W. Grand Ave., (312) 666-3444, www.salernospizza.com. Established in 1966, Salerno’s family-owned pizzeria has helped put Chicago on the map as having the best pizza in the country. Salerno’s staff pride themselves on quality Italian dishes made with the freshest ingredients. The Italian eatery focuses on serving homemade Southern Italian favorites. The Salerno’s menu has it all—chicken, veal, meat, and seafood entrees, as well as a variety of pasta dishes, salads, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. House specialties include homemade lasagna, manicotti, gnocchi, and baked stuffed shells. Salerno’s famous pizza comes with a thick or thin crust and is made with the freshest ingredients. Salerno’s catering is the perfect solution for corporate and family events. Choose from appetizers, salads, and pasta to chicken and veal by the pan. House specialties include calamari, sausage and peppers, eggplant parmesan, and Italian beef. Half pans serve eight to ten people. Full pans serve 15-to-20. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. noon to 10 p.m.

Pranzi offers a variety of delicious Italian dishes in an inviting and modern décor.
Stax Café, 1401 W. Taylor St., (312) 733-9871, fax (312) 733-9872, www.staxcafe.com. Stax Café takes breakfast seriously. In fact, Stax celebrates breakfast by serving only fresh, wholesome ingredients. The award-winning, Michelin Guide-recommended café staff pride themselves on Stax’s breakfast classics by creating them the way they are meant to be—simple and perfect. Stax’s motto is “Real breakfast done right.” Stax uses only farm-fresh eggs, locally raised fruit preserves, and real maple syrup and butter. Breakfast meats come from animals raised without antibiotics. Breakfast offerings include eggs benedict, eggs to order, a variety of pancakes and French toast, as well as frittatas, crepes, and breakfast wraps. Stax serves only fresh squeezed juices. Orange, grapefruit, apple, red grape, and carrot juices are squeezed in house to order. Breakfast is served all day. Lunch items include a selection of sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. The café staff proudly serve Intelligentsia coffee. Stax even has its own blend of coffee made for it especially by Intelligentsia. Hours: Mon. through Fri. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Sweet Maple Café 1339 W. Taylor St., (312) 243-8908, www.sweetmaplecafe.com. Facebook. With a 1940s-era ambience, the Michelin Guide-recommended Sweet Maple Café serves breakfast during all open hours. Patrons know their dining experience is more than breakfast–it’s an authentic “taste of home.” All selections are made the old-fashioned way—from scratch with fresh ingredients. Try Sweet Maple’s musthave “Not-So-Plain” buttermilk pancakes with succulent slices of ham off the bone. Look for a range of egg specialties including the Taylor Street omelet with Italian sausage or country scrambles such as the 18th Street with spicy chorizo sausage and queso fresco. Sweet Maple’s recently expanded lunch menu offers popular items such as the smoked turkey club, as well as its selection of signature grilled cheese sandwiches. Try the Etruscan grilled cheese sandwich with fontina and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and black olive tapenade on buttery slices of D’Amato’s bread. The café offers take-out and catering for any daytime event. Gift cards are available. Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., open daily except for major holidays.

FOOD AND FESTIVE TREATS

Superior Nut & Candy 1111 W. 40th St., (773) 254-5345, ext. 225; 6620 W. Irving Park Rd., (773) 282-3930; 131 N. Clinton at the French Market Metra station, www.superiornutandcandy.com, rmastrangelo@superiornutandcandy.com, Facebook. Located in the heart of Chicago in the historic Stockyards Industrial Park, Superior Nut & Candy has focused on delivering freshly roasted nuts, chocolate, and yogurt products, and popular candies, since 1982. It roasts the nuts, coats its own chocolates and yogurt, and sources candy from the best suppliers in the country. Stop by one of the company’s convenient locations to pick up something special for your Valentine. Superior Nut & Candy stores carry over 300 items, including a wide variety of gift packages. Delicious and wholesome nut and chocolate gift ideas range from $4.99 to $20.99. Call for store hours.