First Bites

A Chicago's Trifecta in Coconut Grove: Bakery & Deli, and Soon to be Steakhouse

The new Chicago's Bakery & Deli has only been open one week, but its performance has already received rave reviews and even a few regulars.  There was such a fuss brewing on the Cracktwit and Faceboring, initiated by neighborhood insider Tom Falco (@GroveGrapevine), I just had to stop by to see what da big deal was.  So did about 10 others right before close last night. 

After entering Chicago's, you'll probably want to shimmy past the bakery and gift shop area, and ascend the stairs to its meaty nucleus. There you'll find a deli menu featuring the classic "Chicago Dog," with Vienna beef flown in from the Windy City, steamed and then topped with mustard, onions, tomatoes, pickle spear, sport peppers, relish, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun ($5.)  Or opt for the even more manly "Ditka" polish sausage for $6, with mustard and grilled onions.  Steamed in a funky pressure contraption called an Ember GLO, these puppies are as pretty darn close to the real Chicago-style deal as you can get in these parts.

Favorites so far with the locals are "The Chicago Fire" (a take on

the Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, pepper jack, banana peppers,

creamy horseradish, and spicy mustard,) "The Al Capone" Italian Beef

(thinly sliced marinated roast beef served warm with giardiniera veggie

pickles,) and the "Harry Carey" (roasted turkey, bacon, and gouda with

lettuce and tomato.)  All 12 made-to-order sandwiches feature eight ounces of meat and cost $7, except

for the "Al Capone," which is the most expensive at $8.  You will have leftovers. 

Chicago's does not make all its baked goods or their own bread yet, although they would like to be able to in the future. Two bakers do exist, but they're tied up experimenting in-house with the cupcake fad.  So the only cool thing about the bakery here so far is that it's serving liquored-up coffee drinks, thanks to some night owls in the building's family tree.  "It's something Starbucks can't do," says Marty Bombenger, who along with his partner Sharon Bartzer are at the helm of the concept.

And the family tree is a long one here, with lots of dead branches (like Firkin Friar, Waldo's and then 11 Leprechauns.)  So current owner Manny Martinez was keen to

bring on board some fresh thinking and restaurant savvy. Cue the B team.  Originally from Chicago, these restaurateurs migrated down to Orlando in the '80s to run a successful chain of eight steakhouses called T-Bones, which they sold two years ago. They've been in South Florida for about three years, first in Key West, and are now feeling out our coconut bohemia's food habits and hours. 

"We have three different spaces all in one building here," adds Bombenger.  "The architecture speaks to what you'd find in downtown Chicago, so we ended up bringing in elements everywhere."

And they're not kidding. Downstairs next to the bakery space, there's a little gift shop featuring signature items from Chicago, like Garrett popcorn and Fannie May candies.  Gummies in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including a fun Fish Kebab, abound for the kiddies.

The third part of the equation, Chicago's Steakhouse, is slated to open Monday, July 5.  The price point will be $20-30 and, according to Bombinger, the same quality of Morton's at half the price.  They'll be able to do this by having side dishes come with the steaks, not a la carte.  A piano bar will make for a festive ambiance, where tunes will play against a backdrop of the Second City -- six painted murals currently in-production.

One thing is for certain: The Grove has been in dire need of a great deli with fresh and made-to-order sandwiches at non-touristy prices. You won't find the lox and bagel kind here, but give Chicago's a shot.  They're doing their thing quite well.

Chicago's Bakery & Deli
3162 Commodore Plaza
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
(305) 774-9981

Mon-Fri 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sat and Sun until 10 p.m. (maybe later)

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Jackie Sayet