Last month I visited a small cafe in the South Loop to take shelter from a sudden rainstorm. I was completely charmed. The Spoke and Bird serves up coffee, pastries, microbrewed beer on tap, and a selection of rustic meals in an off-the-beaten-path location. Here are my thoughts, originally featured on Chicagoist:
Close your eyes and picture Indiana Avenue. Can’t do it? You’re not alone. It’s a small street that runs south starting at Roosevelt Road. It also happens to hold one of the city’s best hidden cafes/beer gardens. Technically located in the Historic Prairie Avenue District, Spoke and Bird ( 1801 S. Indiana Ave.) is serving up some tasty brews, both coffee and beer, alongside thoughtfully prepared bistro food and homemade pastries.
Let’s start with beverages. Like its predecessor Cafe Society, Spoke and Bird was originally more of a cafe that catered to the lunch crowd and closed early. However, when it added beers on tap from Illinois microbreweries like Pig Mind in Rockford, Penrose in Geneva and Metropolitan in Chicago, it expanded its hours of operation so that guests can enjoy them on the charming, tree-covered beer garden until 8 p.m. every day.
And coffee is still big at Spoke and Bird—they serve up a full menu of espresso drinks fueled by Counter Culture as well as a large selection of loose leaf Rishi teas.
Breakfast and lunch are still the biggest draws at Spoke and Bird, with tempting options like a pecorino and Swiss omelette, stacks of pancakes with whiskey butter and maple bourbon syrup or Three Sisters rolled oats with apple cider and grapefruit. I went for dinner and had one of the best salads I’ve ever had: a kale and roasted vegetable medley with pecorino cheese, granola and a honey citronette dressing. As a rule, I never eat salads as meals, but this was a game changer. When I go back I’ll take them up on the option to add a fried egg to the top. I also heard some good things about the Lambeque sandwich, which consists of cured and smoked lamb and a Lexington style vinegar and pepper sauce on Texas toast.
When it was time for dessert, I did something else I never do: ordered a scone. To me, scones are an abomination. They are usually dry, crumbly and tedious to eat. They are cookies gone wrong. However, the pastry selection at Spoke and Bird is what you would find in a typical coffee house, so I took the plunge and chose a chocolate chip raisin scone. I have never been more pleasantly surprised by a scone. It was moist, delicate and bursting with chocolate chips. I was sad when it was over and shocked to find out that it was made right there in the Spoke and Bird kitchen. Well done, guys.
Another congratulations is in order for the staff, all of whom were so attentive and friendly both times I’ve been in. They really go above and beyond to make guests feel welcome whether you are dining in or just stopping by to grab a cup of coffee to go. I highly recommend visiting Spoke and Bird and doing both of those things.
The Spoke and Bird is located at 205-209 E 18th Street