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Review Tue Aug 17 2010

Escape the Everyday at Cafe 676

These days your luck is about as rare as a five star Lohan flick. You just left work late for the third day in a row because your boss conveniently asked you to revise that Excel spreadsheet at 5:01pm and to top it off the zipper on your bag fittingly broke spilling your belongings on the 'L' platform only to reveal to the world that yes, you're reading Twilight (for at least the third time judging by the worn out cover).

Before you dial 1-888-YOUR-CTA to complain that your headed-north train is delayed just to let your rage out on an innocent customer service representative, gather your things (the Team Edward shirt can come too), re-swipe your CTA card and head straight to Cafe 676, 676 North Michigan Ave., at the Omni Hotel.

Just steps away from tourist packed Magnificent Mile, Cafe 676 is an unassuming, farm-to-table venture from the mind of Chef Daven Wardynski. Practicing and preaching sustainable and organic cooking, the cafe's menu features local fare using ingredients from around the Midwest as well as Wardynski's own rooftop garden.

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Open now through November, Cafe 676 is anything but the exact opposite of some of its more pretentious downtown counterparts. Although at first glance it seems to be nothing more than another restaurant boasting outdoor seating, your everyday how-will-I-ever-pay-my-rent-and-my-bar-habit-on-an-entry-level-salary worries will immediately escape you as soon as you sit down and take in the drool inducing menu amidst the minimalistic decor and vibrant foliage.

From light vegetarian dips to hearty sandwiches and desserts that will make you forget about the diet you vowed to start on Monday, not only is there something for everyone on the menu, but at prices ranging from $4-12 your wallet can take a break too.

Behind the scenes, Chef Wardynski mans his very own rooftop garden atop the hotel growing spices, fruits and vegetables which make their way onto the menu in offerings like the crunchy and refreshing Strawberry Salad featuring charred rooftop scallions.

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Be sure to start off your meal with one of the cafe's cheese or dip offerings from the snack menu - all $4 each and paired with a 100 year old sourdough flat-bread. Go for the Apple Smoke Cheddar cheese for a taste of Wisconsin or the Michigan White Bean Spread for a garlicky delight from our neighbors to the east.

For those extra hot Chicago days give your AC a rest and indulge in one of the cafe's cold libations. The Seedling Farm Peach Smoothie made up of Red Haven peach, yogurt, peach nectar, ginger and lemon is so good that it takes you back to the days of running through the orchards as a child biting into ripened peaches in the hot summer sun even if you never ran through the orchards as a child biting into ripened peaches in the hot summer sun. Really, that's how good it is.

Hands down, one of the best items on the menu is the "Un-Burger" Burger, a thick piece of Chicago strip steak smothered in a house made smoked mayo on a pretzel roll. Combined with your standard lettuce, tomato and onion the Un-Burger is anything but standard taking your mouth on a ride it only ever once experienced before with your Jonathan Taylor Thomas look alike of a neighbor back in the 5th grade. And that was practically an un-kiss.

Another must try is the 676 Prairie Honey Ice Cream featuring honey from the cafe's very own honey farm in La Fox, Ill. Covered in a honey coated cinnamon and sugar crunch the ice cream is sweet, but not overpowering. Delivered in a down-home mason jar is so befitting to the cafe's ambiance that you might start to believe that you really did once run through those orchards as a child.

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Chef Wardynski's goal is to make everyone feel welcome at his cafe from the mom and daughter coming back from American Girl to the couple on a first date who only minutes before stressed over what outfit to wear. So yes, since you're dying to know, it's totally cool if you wear your Team Edward shirt.

The cafe will be open daily from 11am to 11pm (last seating is at 10pm) and reservations are not accepted. It is slated to remain open through November, although given the ever-changing Chicago weather, we may be lucky enough to see Cafe 676 hang out a bit longer.

Cullen, party of 2?

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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