Tag Archives: donuts

Experiencing Chicago’s Wicker Park Food and Evening Scene

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was going to meet up with a friend who lives in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Wicker Park is known as being the hipster part of town and a great place to hang out at night. Its gained steam as a food destination with restaurants and independent coffee shops springing up like hot cakes. I decided to make a longer foodie evening of it and soak some of that atmosphere in.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood

I hopped on the Blue Line “L” train in The Loop along with the masses getting off work and headed towards the northwest. A little bit later it seemed like half the train got off with me at the Damen station in the heart of neighborhood. What a happening place.

Since I don’t usually follow eating conventions, I’ll eat pizza for breakfast, I decided to begin with dessert. Just outside the train station entrance my feet took me into Stan’s Donuts on Damen. Starting in Los Angeles more than fifty years ago, Stan’s is a gourmet donut institution that has spread to several locations in the Windy City. Having spent only mornings in Wicker Park in the past, I’ve seen one endless line after another, with everyone grabbing pastries and coffee before hopping on the “L” to get to work. Being it was the evening this time there was no line score!

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Upon entering I saw the donuts in the display case. The gourmet one with the longest name immediately caught the eye. Hey, the more words in its name, the more goodness it must have in it right?! I enjoyed a Maple Caramel Bacon Pecan Bar amongst the retro decor. Wait nothing to wash it down with? I was saving that for my next stop.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts,  maple caramel bacon pecan bar

A short walk down W. Milwaukee Avenue, the main street of Wicker Park, brought me to my favorite coffee shop in the city and arguably anywhere, The Wormhole Coffee. I entered the sci-fi themed coffee shop already knowing what I was craving, a Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa latte. I sat next to an Apple II computer bringing back memories of childhood, while listening to one Depeche Mode song after another. That brought back memories of road trips pasts. I was in heaven. Of course I had to say hi again to the Back to the Future style DeLorean that sits in back.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee, Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa

chicago-wicker-park-food-008

It was time to meet up with my friend, who recently moved here from Michigan. He gave me some choices on places where we could grab some dinner. Dessert first, then a specialty coffee, with the main course last, that is indeed how I like to roll! Burgers, pizza and ramen noodles were the choices. I thought to myself I eat the first two things a lot, so let’s go with ramen.

We hit up Furious Spoon and both ordered the Shoyu Ramen. Fresh ramen noodles made in-house mixed in with Chashu pork belly, bamboo, bean sprouts and more foodie goodness. The outside seating along Milwaukee was full, so we hung out and caught up at a long, wooden communal table alongside the open kitchen. I thought to myself, what a great place to hang out after a long day. That was my first time dining in an authentic ramen restaurant. What took so long?

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon ramen noodle shop

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon, pork belly ramen noodles

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon ramen noodle shop

I continued to get my first taste of Wicker Park at night as we walked some of the neighborhood afterwards before calling it a night. It was a quick, but memorable evening of treats and food in one of Chicago’s more popular neighborhoods. All the other establishments and outside seating we walked by makes me want to experience more of it on another trip soon.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood

What other food and coffee spots would you recommend checking out in the Wicker Park part of Chicago?

Chicago: The Line to Doughnut Vault.

It was an early Saturday morning in Chicago during the #WindyCityTweetup and me and Leah of Leah Travels headed to The Doughnut Vault. We came to know of the place because of Raul of Ilivetotravel. He thought it’d be a great place to grab stuff for the group for breakfast.

We got there about 9:30 and saw the long line right away. It went from the front door on N. Franklin St. and turned the corner going down the sidewalk on W. Kinzie St.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

There was a light rain falling on-and-off and it had been about half-an-hour and we barely moved. We were making jokes with the people behind us and talking amongst ourselves on the fact that we could take the people who were walking by with the donuts haha. By this time, we were like, Raul!!! All in good fun of course.

Right in front of us was The Gilt Bar. It actually is owned by the same person as The Doughnut Vault. He decided to open this petite donut shop right next store a little over a year ago. They open at a set time everyday, but only stay open until their donuts for the day are sold. We worried that we’d get near the front and they would yell out, “We’re sorry, but we’ve sold out for the day.” That would be terrible.

After about an hour, we made the turn onto Franklin…

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

…and before you know we were at the front door. Not knowing anything about The Doughnut Vault at the time, I hoped there wasn’t along line inside too.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

Once getting inside, it was quite the opposite. It was a small room about the size of a walk-in closet with one girl behind the counter, taking one customers order at a time.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

The menu was displayed outside the front door to the left and also on a bigger plaque inside. The everyday donuts are buttermilk old-fashioned, gingerbread stack and chestnut, vanilla and chocolate glazed. They also have a donut of the
day, of which today is double chocolate yellow cake. It was sold out. Also, a tip for future visitors, its cash only.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

We made it to the counter and ordered a small assortment. I choose a chestnut glazed and a chocolate glazed donut. The hour-and-a-half journey was complete!

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

As we walked back to the vehicle, which oddly enough we found a space right in front on the street, I saw a seating area, not that anyone would be sitting there in the rain.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

Back at home base for the out-of-town travel bloggers, Sofitel Chicago, everyone consumed their donuts. They were big donuts and quite tasty. Definitely would be full for a while or until the next foodie opportunity presented itself. 🙂 More on that later.

Chicago - The Doughnut Valut

It turns out they didn’t sell out until 1:23 p.m. that day. I realized after the fact, that their Twitter feed keeps everyone appraised as to how many dozen donuts of each type were left, when one sold out, how many people were in line, what the special of the day was, etc.

The waiting in line for the donuts kept being mentioned all day long, as away of teasing Raul. 🙂 In all honesty, I was thankful that he found such a popular and well-known place that everyone gravitated towards. Being a foodie, it was great checking out the best donut shop in town. In fact it was named one of America’s Best Doughnuts by Food & Wine Magazine. Also, it was great chatting and getting to know Leah better during the long wait.

If you love donuts and are in Chicago, I’d definitely recommend hitting up The Doughnut Vault for the experience. What places have you waited for in a long line foodie wise? What food would you almost wait any amount of time for?