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Pillars Piques Our Interest with Social Concept

By John DiGilio in Food on Feb 1, 2012 10:00PM

The city's far north side seems to be a hot bed of culinary activity these days. Several new restaurants have set up shop at the far reaches of the Red Line. One of the newest is Rogers Park's Pillars Social Cafe. They've not just laid down a big footprint in the neighborhood, but made some big promises as well. Are they living up to these at the outset? We had to find out.

First, you may be wondering what exactly constitutes a social cafe. (We certainly were when we first saw their "coming soon" signs.) is it a place where folks can casually sit and jaw about the latest dirt? Free wi-fi for the technology toting, perhaps? A place with plenty of space for big groups and cozy little nooks for more intimate canoodling? All of these can make a place social. But how does that make it different from any other cafe?

The folks at Pillars think they may have found the winning formula by combining all of the above with a commitment to local suppliers, independent businesses, and the environment. By seeking to source ingredients locally, reduce its carbon footprint, and even press for the humane treatment of the animals it may eventually plate, Pillars hopes to serve up good works with good food.

We visited during the cafe's opening week. Clearly the locals were intrigued as the place was buzzing and packed. It is a large space with big windows to welcome in natural light. The tables and benches are beautifully made from a stunning patchwork of reclaimed wood. Even the lamp shades are part of the eviro-friendly charm - they are made of corrugated cardboard! Pillars' interior design is definitely breathtaking.

But what about the food? Talk about an eclectic menu. Pillars serves everything from espresso drinks to sandwiches to handcrafted burgers and even poutine. Meat-eaters and vegetarians can all rejoice as there are selections for both. With every dish under $10, even the budget-conscious diner can smile.

We started with a round of coffees. Pillars brews up Intelligentsia roasts, so you know they are starting with good stuff. The salted caramel mocha was sweet and decadent: a little messy, but tasty to the last frothy drop. For our meal, we went with a comfort selection and ordered a grilled cheese. The description tempted us with the promise of not one, but three cheeses: cheddar, Swiss, and Muenster. For seven bucks, it is served with a cup of soup. The combination was nicely plated and had a wonderfully savory taste all around. We choose the minestrone as our soup and it did not disappoint in substance or flavor. The grilled cheese was equally as delicious, if a tad on the thin side (next time, more cheese please!). Our only real complaint with our visit was that service was a little slow. This is no surprise during the opening days of any restaurant.

All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Pillars Social Cafe and look forward to seeing what they do with the place. A number of neighbors stopped to tell us that thought the cafe was a welcome addition to the developing neighborhood. We could not agree more. Here's hoping that Pillars is laying down a foundation for success and sustainability.

Pillars Social Cafe is located at 6800 North Sheridan Road.