|I could tell from the outside that this was the best 'caff' in the world...|
|A decent-sized glass of Pinot Noir...|
I knew immediately I saw this place that it was going to be good. I saw it after it had closed on a Sunday evening around 6.30pm. I'd arrived early for a drinks reception at the cultural centre across the street and decided that I'd look around for somewhere to relax with a cup of tea before going back to the venue for the reception. I saw Toni Patisserie & Café and immediately thought: this is the place. This is THE place! The exterior looked right, the interior had something about it and I vowed to return.
And return I did. The first great thing about Toni's is that you place your order at the counter, take a small metal stand with some kind of message that must say to the waitress 'this person has ordered these items' and you find a seat and wait. So, I checked out the specials board and saw mushroom soup. I know that earlier I'd said 'cream of' but it was mushroom soup. Then I ordered a Le Cubain sandwich containing roasted pork, premium ham, cornichon, Dijon mustard and garlic aioli on a French roll. I followed this up with a glass of the Pinot Noir and took my seat.
The food was wonderful. Tremendous even. But this wasn't a meal, of course, it was a snack. A roll with a bowl of soup and, rather quirkily, instead of a mug of tea, a glass of wine. Perfect. This strange, not strange, but quirky place was a café in the true sense of the word and it was filled with normal people enjoying their lunch break. Ordinary people in other words. Office workers.
|Mushroom soup, a Le Cubain and a Pinot Noir...|
|Chocolate chip walnut cookie and tea|
In fact, I loved Toni's so much that on my last day in Chicago, having checked out of my hotel and taken an architectural river cruise along the Chicago River, I went back there. Once again it was bustling. Toni's is never going to be empty. In fact they have a mix of tables here, some are tall and round and seat two, in fact I think most of the tables tend to seat two, but then there's also a big table that people can share and a few slightly larger and lower round tables that would seat four comfortably. On my second visit I shared the big table and got chatting to two women who, like me, and I guess everybody else, including to Chicago cops who turned up on mountain bikes, love this place.
Now you might have thought that on my second visit I'd choose something different, but I loved that Le Cubain so much I ordered it again, but this time I had two Pinot Noirs and for a starter I had cream of brocolli soup, or perhaps it was just brocolli soup. Both the soup and the Le Cubain were, as I suspected, wonderful. The wine was good too and, for good measure, I ordered English Breakfast tea and a chocolate pastry that was also out of this world.
I might have started reading my book, I can't remember. I certainly flicked through a newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, which I left there. I even managed a brief chat with the owner, Toni's husband, but I'm not sure I saw Toni herself.
|Some of the excellent cakes and pastries on offer at Toni's|