Ahhh, bread. So simple, yet to vital. And so easy to f*ck up. There’s some colossally shitty bread out there. You know who you are. And if your idea of good bread is of the Wonder variety then you may as well move on and read the Wal Mart blog for food recommendations. This isn’t about bread though, this is also about sandwiches. Bread is very obviously the essential component in a sandwich, without it, it’d be like a hug with no arms. Apologies to my amputee friends out there. Panes bread cafe is a little Chicago gem run by a group of feisty European women. Clearly, I love them. We have the same cynicism for lesser food and the same enthusiasm for real quality food and simple ingredients. A great sandwich should not be hard to come by, but in many ways it is. Panes is attempting to make that craving for a mind-blowing sandwich an attainable reality by providing Lakeview customers with the best of the best at a great price.
Located on the 3000 block of Sheffield Ave, just south of Belmont, Panes has a small, modest sign out front, and an almost equally small operation inside. This only adds to its charm as inside is brightly painted in a beautiful Tuscan yellow, with industrial beams painted in a complimentary rustic red. It maybe sits 30 people, mostly those finding time on their lunch hour to scarf down something that will brighten their day, and their pallet. Upon approaching the counter you see a slew of freshly made breads, spanning from Spain, France, Italy and Greece inspired and cornering even the banana market. The menu is on the wall to the right and beyond selling bread, they serve appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, and of course, sandwiches.
I first had the privilege of a Panes experience about 6 months ago, when a great friend who has now left Chicago ordered it for our co-workers at my 2nd job. For $5.95 I got a large sandwich with grilled portabella mushrooms, homemade pesto, tomato, fresh mozzarella on tomato bread. It also came with a side of chips. I was so amazed the bread was not soggy in the least, despite the 1.5 mile delivery length and 30-40 minute wait. It was delicious, plain and simple. I could not wait to order again. When I did, I ordered their roast beef, which is home cooked and sliced, served with avocado, spicy mayo, grilled onions and monterey jack. Oh man, so good!
Just recently I went to Panes in person. It’s even better because you can pick up fresh bread and peruse their selection of hand-crafted desserts. I’m a whore for sweets so naturally I took home one of their “monster cookies.” I’m salivating just thinking of this. It’s a large cookie, as you probably imagined, made of peanut butter, oats, M&M’s and chocolate chips. It’s fricken fantastic. This trip I picked up a Sunny California and Super Panes sandwich and we enjoyed every finger licking bite. Not a bad item in this place, just no nonsense women giving you their best. They’re my heros.
If I’m slumming and forced to be in suburban America I’ll settle for a Quizno’s or Firehouse sub, but if I’m in Chicago and I’m fortunate to have such incredible options, I’ll ride out of my way or have Panes delivered. Every. Single. Time.
Raise your expectations. And standards. Quality of life is important. Especially with food. Enjoy.