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Friday, March 1

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« Friday Foodporn: Kale Sick of Cupcakes? Even If They're Free? »

Openings Fri Jan 07 2011

Begging For Crumbs

Lynn Neils and her husband, Jim, were the first people on line outside Crumbs Bake Shop, patiently waiting for free cupcakes. They got there at 11am, and by the time I arrived at about 11:45, the line wound around the lobby of 303 West Madison.

CrumbsCupcakes.JPGTo celebrate the NYC-based chain's Chicago opening, the store was giving away 1,000 of their muffin-sized cupcakes. With its huge selection of gourmet baked goods -- including the Elvis, a vanilla cupcake with banana cream-cheese frosting and sprinkled with peanut-butter chips -- Crumbs has already developed a pretty strong following on the East Coast. Add that to the promise of free food, and you get a revolving door spinning nonstop on opening day.

Neils, who lives in Marina City, heard about the opening on Free Things To Do in Chicago. According to her husband, Neils always knows where to find free things in the city. She's even created her own list of free activities -- 50 pages, single spaced, her husband proudly pointed out. They've done dance lessons, ice skating, museums, but free food isn't always easy to come by.

The next woman in line, self-proclaimed foodie Janis Berlin, has the free-food touch. A few months ago, for example, at the opening of Pret A Manger (which she pronounced in a perfect French accent), she got a free sandwich. Finding the restaurant and shop openings, she said, are key.

At noon, the employees started letting the line of hungry people in. Neils and her husband got three cupcakes: the Raspberry Swirl (from the website: "vanilla cake filled with raspberry preserve and frosted with a swirl of our classic vanilla cream cheese and raspberry preserve"), the Cookies and Cream ("chocolate cake topped with our classic vanilla cream cheese with crushed sandwich cookies mixed in and a whole cookie on top"), and the third (which they paid for) was the Bryant Park, a shout-out to one of Crumbs' NYC locations (chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, white-chocolate cream-cheese frosting, and white-chocolate shavings and chocolate cake crumbs sprinkled on top).

Janis Berlin excited about her free cupcake.

As I was leaving, I overheard a woman -- ignorant of the bliss (or confusion) that was about to befall her -- on line ask a Crumbs employee, "What are your flavors?"

"What are our flavors?" the employee laughed. "There are a lot."

See Crumbs chief development officer Harley Bauer talk Crumbs and why "cupcakes are here forever" on

Crumbs Bake Shop
303 W. Madison St.

UPDATE: As of Monday, January 10, Crumbs has gone public. According to this New York Times article, the shop plans to "expand to 200 locations by 2014."

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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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