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Toni Patisserie Brings a Touch of Sweetness to the Loop

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 31, 2011 3:00PM

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the Loop and walking into Toni Patisserie feels like entering a fabulous caricature of a French cafe. Everywhere you look, you see gleaming brass, white marble tabletops and chalkboard menus. Antique fixtures add to the feeling of age and permanence, even though the cafe is barely 2 months old. A beautifully restored wooden revolving door, old-style knobs on the doors, a barely perceptible curve between the walls and the ceiling; all conspire to make you feel like you've walked into a picture from one of those cookbooks where everyone is sipping cappuccino, tossing their hair and smoking Gauloises cigarettes. And the menu just keeps the fantasy going.

Traditional french favorites like Salad Nicoise and Croque Monsieur, tartines and beautiful pastries will remind you why the "French Cafe" is such an archetype. It's not craft-small-plates-American-local, but somehow, that's just fine. And they do have some local favorites: Metropolis Coffee, Black Dog Gelato and Terry's Toffee co-mingle with the French imports.

The loop doesn't have many interesting eating establishments, and the few that exist are too expensive for a casual visit. We love The Gage and Henri, but after a few drinks they tend to break budgets - and even the discount meal at Petterino's costs $20. You can get out of Toni Patisserie for about $10 - less for breakfast, where the gorgeous continental breakfast (biscuit, ham, cheese, hard boiled egg, fruit and jam) only costs $8. Don't assume that "patisserie" only means cakes and pastries - they have a wide array of savory sandwiches (including a bahn mi with a homemade pate made with pork shoulder, cream and brandy) and salads. If you're in the mood for something sweet, grab a salted caramel and chocolate tart. You won't be disappointed.

The original Toni Patisserie is in Hinsdale, and has been going strong for 16 years. Chef/Owner Toni Cox had wanted to branch out for quite a while, and when the perfect location came on the market, she headed for the loop. In the 90s, Cox was the pastry chef at the Disneyland Hotel in Paris - "I went to France to cook American food" - but fell in love with French food nonetheless. She delegates most of the cooking these days, but still decorates many of the wedding cakes. Most of their baking is still done in Hinsdale, but she hopes to move more to the downtown location as they get more established.

Even better for loop denizens - the cafe hopes to expand its hours very soon. Cox's goal is to eventually stay open till 8 PM or later. Stop in on your way to work, or grab lunch there sometime soon. Watch out; people have discovered the place and at noon, the line gets pretty long.

Toni Patisserie is located at 65 E. Washington St.