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First Look: Elaine's Coffee Call

By Staff in Food on Mar 13, 2012 6:00PM

Elaine’s Coffee Call, located inside the new Hotel Lincoln, opened last week not so much with a bang as a whimper - though a supremely delectable whimper. Last week’s soft opening was as ostensibly low-key yet as closely studied as the retro-chic distressed wallpaper adorning the walls of Lincoln Park’s newest coffee shop, named for the switchboard operator who catered to playwright David Mamet’s caffeine’s needs when he made the hotel his home. The Hotel Lincoln, which sat vacant for years, has finally come to life as a boutique hotel. It’s in the perfect location, right across from Lincoln Park, and will feature food from Perennial Virant for its in-room dining program. But for us locals, Elaine’s is a much more exciting opening.

Chef Paul Virant, looking relaxed in jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, presided over the scene and even offered us some complimentary chocolate brioche and a dried strawberry scone. How ‘bout them apples? Like everything else bearing the Virant imprint, the pastries stole over us by subtle degrees. Our cappuccino likewise boasted a fulsome creamy texture (we weren’t going to spoil things by specifying any of that low-fat nonsense) that felt effusively European.

Elaine’s opens into the funky, colorful warmth of the hotel lobby but also has its own entrance on Clark Street, reinforcing its status as a neighborhood coffee shop in its own right, not just a hotel adjunct. All in all, even without the free pastries, it’s easy to envision this as the 21st century caffeinated respite of another generation of Chi-town literati. At the very least, it’s well worth an hour’s afternoon idle—and the next best thing to Perennial Virant itself. With Elaine’s a mere 15 minutes away from our little domicile, we’re saying goodbye to Starbucks forever.

Elaine's Coffee Call is located at 1816 N. Clark St.

By Melissa Wiley