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Former Pastry Chef of the Year Opens Cafe in Alley

By Paul Biasco | November 2, 2012 12:27pm | Updated on November 19, 2012 8:35am

LINCOLN PARK — Famed Chicago pastry chef Christine McCabe launched her first original restaurant concept Friday, a walk-up window cafe and pastry bar located about 50 feet down an alley off Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park.

The walk-up window for Interurban Café and Pastry Shop is offset between two trash bins and is hard to spot from the street. Customers may have to make room for garbage trucks and semitrailers that squeeze down the tight alley just west of Halsted Street every morning.

"Food trucks have caught on so well I think this is kind of the same idea — a food truck in a permanent location," McCabe said on the opening day.

The café's menu of "seasonal, locally inspired, elevated sweets and savories" includes items such as blueberry cardamom muffins, pumpkin/cream cheese and red velvet "whoopies," macaroons, cake bites and Rock House coffee. McCabe said she wants to focus on locally sourced and season ingredients to create modern twists on classic French techniques.

 Red velvet, left, and pumpkin/cream cheese whoopies at Interurban Cafe.
Red velvet, left, and pumpkin/cream cheese whoopies at Interurban Cafe.
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"It's been in the back of my head for the past couple of years now; everything seasonal locally sourced as much as possible, nothing set in stone," she said. "I'm going to keep changing the menu constantly."

McCabe is in the process of getting signage on the side of a building on Armitage Avenue OK'd by the city, which will hopefully alert passers-by to the cafe, but for now she is relying on word of mouth.

"I think once there is a little bit of a buzz it will be easy to find," she said. "As soon as the word gets out I don’t think it’ll be a problem."

The official address of the hard-to-spot location is 2008 N. Halsted in the rear. Customers can enter from the alley on the north side of Armitage between Halsted and Dayton.

Interurban Café and Pastry Shop opened with a soft launch Friday morning and will host a grand opening with champagne Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The cafe and pastry shop will open a second location at the recently renovated Grand Avenue Red Line station and will be the first business at the station. McCabe hopes to open that location in the "next couple of months."

The businesses are the acclaimed 44-year-old's first that she owns and operates.

McCabe was formerly executive chef at Skinny Piggie, a "sweet tooth boutique" on Taylor Street in Little Italy that features pastries and candy among other treats, and was named Bon Appétit’s 2005 pastry chef of the year.

McCabe, who is also a Charlie Trotter's alum, was part of the team that launched gourmet doughnut shop, Glazed and Infused.

"I've always wanted to do my own thing, and I came across this kitchen and I thought it was an ideal location," she said.