Sweet Table. The name alone says it all, and I've been waiting months for this one to open. When I first saw the big ol' sign go up on a restaurant-heavy strip of Lincoln Avenue, my eyes doubled in size. All that was penetrating my noggin' was, "What the heck is a sweet table and how do I get a seat?" (Keep in mind, I'm a sweet freak and literally blew off seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris so I could make it to what was rumored to be a small shop selling the best macaroons in all of France. Don't worry, I did eventually make it to see her [a very small painting, if you haven't been], but fondly remember more about France from that heavenly macaroon sampling, that's for sure.)
That said, you can see why my saucers lit up in sheer delight when I noticed not only the grand-opening-soon sign, but the close proximity to my home and office. (Sweet Mandy B runs get to be a bit hectic at the I-need-a-sugar-rush-hour.) After a hefty wait, the doors finally opened to Sweet Table last week and I plowed straight through the front door pronto.
Expecting earthy charm and country flair, let's just say I was a bit taken aback at first. The stark interior is laid out slightly cafeteria-style, with little two-top tables and white rail-back chairs dominating the small dining room. On one side of the room is a long row of glass-encased, delicious looking sweets, mini treats and homemade breads while the other half of the room is more of a Chinese restaurant to go hut, replete will gigantic pictures on the wall of the Asian soups and entrees. Weird mix.
Though I'm sure the extensive menu (think sizzling beef with onions and rice, shanghai egg rolls and sticky fried noodles) is lovely, I completely ignored it and went straight for the mini goodies, scooping up fresh-from-the-oven apricot rugalach (perhaps some of the best I've ever had) and a slew of bite-size walnut pies called, "walnut well cookies." Don't even ask me what the heck that one means. When I asked the owner (a charming import from the Philippines) to repeat it (about three times, minimum), I was still confused as a goose and didn't get it. She had a thick accent, though, and was a bit frazzled, this being grand opening week and all, so I finally just scribbled it down and moved on.
Not only were these decadent little pies still warm from the oven, they were the perfect mix of flaky crust, gooey inside and chopped walnut. A cool dozen were tossed back within about a minute flat. Also taste-tested were some wee strawberry and mango tartlets filled with thick cream and topped with slivers of the fresh fruit. Another three down, just like that.
Now, here I was in this piping hot joint (maybe the AC wasn't up and running yet?), having downed several handfuls of sweets and I happen to grab another menu (there are two) and see that they're serving up meat empanadas, garden salads and bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. What sort of establishment mixes it up like this (at least, one that wants to stay in business)? Mexican, American, Filipino and Asian are just four types of grub they're doling out. Who cares, really? Though I might eventually try the motley of dishes, what I'll be back for is the rows and rows of made-from-scratch sweets.
The Final Rave: The friendly owner, Monica Dizon, says that there is another Sweet Table up on Touhy, so they must be doing something right to justify expanding to Lakeview. Could be that variety in food offerings is the key to longevity. Keep it all in house, I say.
Keep it going:
Read it: Skokienet.org Skokie got about 20 percent of the influx of Filipinos to Chicago for the past ten years, and the town has created a thorough website that keeps you up to date on local Filipino grocery stores, markets and bakeries.
Drink it: Sensational Bites
Taking the place of Sunflour Bakery on Southport, this charming little bakery tries to one-up Sweet Mandy B's, with a more elegant rendition of cupcakes, cookies and cakes, while offering specialty coffees to wash it all down with. Good luck kids is all I have to say.
Eat it: Cupcakes
For a new-kid-on-the-block this organic cupcakery has been selling out of their wares faster than they can make them. Reviews, on the other hand, have been a little on the not-so-good side. No sweat, that fantastic name alone should keep them in the running for quite a while.
Get crazy with it eatZi's
With its own grand opening just around the corner, this gourmet market chain has gone full-on nuts and offers food from all points across the globe. Expect to see lasagna and corn fritters keeping company with eggrolls and chocolate cream pie. Yum. And, I mean that.
Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.