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Business Sun Oct 18 2009
Sometimes when one door closes, another one really does open.
I was still mourning the recent closure of Urban Café on Irving Park Road when the Julius Meinl Coffee Bar & Patisserie opened down the block (1416 W. Irving Park Road). I felt much like I did when I was about 10 and picked out a new hamster to replace our family's first hamster, which died after only a week: a little guilty and wistful, but, on the whole, selfishly happy to have a tiny, fuzzy poop-machine once again - or, in the case of Julius Meinl, an elegant neighborhood coffee-and-pastries stop.
Though the focus of Meinl's Irving Park outpost is take-out (the location houses their bakery, with a coffee shop added to the storefront), those familiar with the Julius Meinl at Addison and Southport will appreciate the bar seating in the window. If you're not in a hurry, you can enjoy a shot of espresso served in porcelain on a dainty silver tray accompanied by a glass of water. Those of us with less time to be genteel (read: 80, X80 and X9 bus riders headed for our daily Red Line commute) will appreciate the to-go coffee and tea options. My standard is the house coffee, though the Kir Royal tea is delicious and non-caffeinated, and a wonderful seasonal option is the pumpkin spice latte, made with real pureed pumpkin blended with steamed milk, espresso, and housemade spiced simple syrup. It's the best flavored latte I've ever had.
Now, I'm picky about pastries; if I'm going to eat several days' worth of saturated fat at one time, it better be well worth it. I've yet to try a Meinl pastry I regret. The croissants are like taking a miniature European vacation; the almond option is particularly luxurious. My husband tried their hearty egg-bacon-and-cheese croissant sandwich and loved it.
A final word: Every one of the baristas, including the manager, has been welcoming, pleasant, even downright cheerful, even on the greyest fall mornings. Clearly, this is a Chicago-style European coffee bar and bakery, the best of both worlds.