Six restaurants that are bakeries, too.
Ba Le When the French controlled Vietnam, baguettes crossed cultures, and one of the finest results of this is the banh mi sandwich. They’re plentiful in this area, but this bakery creates most of the bread the restaurants use, so go try the source. We like the barbecue pork and the Ba Le special, which piles housemade pâté, headcheese and sliced pork onto a crusty baguette along with tangy carrot and daikon slivers, cilantro and jalapeño. And in the morning, we go for the flaky croissants and canned coffee drinks. 5018 N Broadway (773-561-4424). El: Red to Argyle. Bus: 22, 36, 81, 92. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average sandwich: $3.
Bakin’ and Eggs We’ve had mixed experiences on the restaurant side of this breakfast-and-lunch emporium (which is owned by the same folks as Lovely: A Bake Shop). But on the adorable bakery/coffee-counter side, thing get a lot better. The chocolate-chip cookie has enticing notes of honey, the cranberry muffins are somehow simultaneously hearty yet light, and the croissants (though not made in house) are salty, flaky affairs. Now, if only we could convince the place to sell its bacon flight at the bakery counter... 3120 N Lincoln Ave between Belmont and Barry Aves (773-525-7005). El: Brown to Paulina. Bus: 9, 11, 77. Breakfast, lunch. Average main course: $8.
Café Selmarie Maybe you’ve stopped into this bakery for a croissant and missed the dining room hidden in back. If so, go back—you might have to wait for a table, but a cup of coffee and slice of coffee cake will tide you over. For the main event, don’t miss the corned-beef hash: heavy on the smoky-salty beef, easy on the potatoes, flecked with fresh herbs and topped with two perfectly poached eggs. The next best bet is the savory tart jammed with leeks, mushrooms and goat cheese or the baked chilaquiles crusted in bubbly cheddar. 4729 N Lincoln Ave (773-989-5595). El: Brown to Western. Bus: 11, 49, 81. Mon 11am–3pm (lunch); Tue–Thu 8am–9pm; Fri, Sat 8am–10pm; Sun 9am–9pm. Brunch (Sat, Sun). Average main course: $13.
Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant Thinking of spending your Sunday morning at this classic Chicago diner? Better check the weather: The line snakes out the door and onto Lou Mitchell Way well into the afternoon. Customers are treated to fresh, sugar-dusted doughnut holes while they wait, but the real feast starts when you sit down. Stacks of “meltaway” pancakes are perfectly browned, omelettes come in hot skillets (try the sweet, rich apple-and-cheese variety) and juicy, gooey patty melts seem too big to finish. But as with the rest of the irresistible dishes, you’ll find room. 565 W Jackson Blvd (312-939-3111). El: Blue to Clinton. Bus: 7, 60, 124, 125, 126, 156. Breakfast, lunch. Average main course: $9.
Mariegold Bakery and Fast Food This family-run Filipino market has somehow managed to cram a full-blown bakery, an imported-goods grocery section (squid and anchovy chips, anyone?) and a sprawling take-out buffet (think sticky glazed pork kebabs and whole fried milkfish) into a space the size of a large studio apartment. Take your plate of lechon (fried suckling pig) or kare-kare (oxtail with peanut sauce) to one of the utilitarian tables by the window and watch as what seems like the whole of Chicago’s Filipino community stops in for a sweet pastry and a bit of local gossip. 5752 N California Ave (773-561-1978). Bus: 11, 84, 93. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $8.
Medici Bring a Sharpie and an appetite for burgers and pan pizza when you hit this University of Chicago hangout. Patrons have left poetry and political rants on the Med’s booths since it opened in 1963. Among the surprisingly good takes on typical student fare are specialty burgers and shakes, as well as great late-night salads. Go for the simple but classic Ensalada Kimba—blue cheese, apples and pecans over crisp romaine. The restaurant also serves freshly baked pastries from its sister bakery next door, which is one of the best in town. 1327 E 57th St (773-667-7394). El: Red to 55th. Bus: 2, 6, 15, 28. Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $7.