The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls Top Menu At Newly Opened House Cafe In Lakeview

By Ariel Cheung | January 27, 2016 5:34am
 House Cafe, 3208 N. Sheffield Ave., opened in a formerly vacant storefront in mid-January.
House Cafe Opens Near Belmont 'L' Station in Lakeview
View Full Caption

LAKEVIEW — Everyone knows food made by Grandma can't be beat, and Dan Hitchins wasn't about to try.

Instead, the Old Irving Park resident went straight to the source when preparing the menu for his new coffee shop, The House Cafe, which opened two weeks ago in Lakeview.

The House Cafe uses the cinnamon roll recipe perfected by Hitchins' grandmother, he said. The $3.50 rolls rotate flavors, but recently came in original, chocolate and raspberry.

"We're doing everything homemade. We've got strawberry sweet rolls and homemade granola, cookies. It's a small menu but we're doing everything in-house," Hitchins told DNAinfo Tuesday.

The House Cafe, 3208 N. Sheffield Ave., is Hitchins' first business. He got his start in the restaurant industry while pursuing a master's degree in London. After several years managing restaurants in Chicago, Hitchins decided he was ready to break out on his own.

Dan Hitchins, 30, of Old Irving Park, opened The House Cafe in Lakeview this month. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

For the past year, "I'd say I did a pretty good search of the entire North Side of the city — dozens and dozens of places," Hitchins said.

The cafe offers $7 panini sandwiches, $7 hummus snack plate and a range of baked goods. The drink menu, featuring coffee, hot cocoa and tea, ranges from $2-$4.50.

Despite having three coffee shops within 1,000 feet, Hitchins believes The House Cafe will offer something Starbucks, Osmium Coffee Bar and Dollop Coffee don't.

"I think we found a little bit of a hole" in the coffee heat map, Hitchins said. "A lot of people say we needed a place in this corner because they've been having to go out of their way one way or another."

Hitchins hope for a "homey, local hang out for people to work and have a nice coffee or tea" also fills an early evening gap left by Dollop Coffee, which redesigned its Lakeview location as more of a quick meeting place with a 2:30 p.m. closing time on weekdays.

The House Cafe opened two weeks ago at 3208 N. Sheffield Ave., across the street from Home Run Inn and near the Belmont 'L' station. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

The House Cafe, meanwhile, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The coffee shop opened in the former Diplomat Hotel at Belmont and Sheffield. The 87-year-old building underwent extensive renovations three years after the city shut it down in 2009 for numerous building and fire code violations.

In 2014, it reopened as Buffett Place, an independent housing building for people with disabilities, mental illness or who are at risk for homelessness.

Thresholds, the nonprofit social services agency that runs Buffett Place, has used the first-floor retail spaces for its Urban Flowers shop and, currently, a pop-up art gallery. Now, the 51 residents upstairs "seem really happy there's a little coffee shop down here," Hitchins said.

Paninis with bacon, brie and blackberry (l.) and chicken with sun-dried tomato marinara and basil are $7 at The House Cafe, 3208 N. Sheffield Ave. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Hitchins said the storefront's proximity to the bustling Belmont ''L'' station and the central Lakeview density that "sold" him. Across the street, Home Run Inn opened in October, and Beef Shack opened this month down the street.

Up next is Blackwood BBQ, which will be opening in the next couple weeks in the former Einstein Bros. Bagel corner spot.

"This whole end of the street is new," Hitchins said. "This corner of Belmont and Sheffield is always happening."

The House Cafe opened two weeks ago at 3208 N. Sheffield Ave., across the street from Home Run Inn and near the Belmont 'L' station. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: