I love to while-away the hours in a great café, whether it’s with family or friends, on my own with a book or working on my laptop. When you find an all day place that you love, it becomes your home away from home. The café is an institution I truly love.
I fell in love with cafes when I was 20 and living in Paris. It was my first time living in another country, and spending time in cafes became the most wonderful preoccupation. I was a student at the time, and didn’t really enjoy studying at home or in the library. I found the silence of the library oppressive, and wanted to get out of the house; so the right café with the right kind of background noise was the perfect place for me. From that time on, great cafes became my passion.
Ever since I moved to Chicago three years ago, I have been in search of my Chicago café. In Paris, I had Les Editeurs, in London The Wolseley and now, in the Windy City itself, I’ve finally found Dillman’s. Dillman’s is an elegant, romantic and cool American brasserie / coffee house, with delicious food and some pretty fabulous cocktails. It’s open from morning ‘til night, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; and as an all day place, you can stop in anytime just for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake – something that can be tricky to find in America.
While offering a superb mix of traditional European and American food, the menu specializes in classic Jewish fare. A side of potato pancakes served with apple sauce and sour cream are a must for me at brunch. My two favorite dishes on the menu are the Reuben sandwich and the Avocado and Smoked Whitefish Salad. Even though I like the sound of everything on the menu, I always choose one of these two, because they are so delicious and I can’t bear not to order them! I guess that’s a sign of a great place: you want to go back time after time, and you have your favorite dishes that you order over and over.
As for the cocktails, their Bloody Mary is first class. I am a huge Bloody Mary fan! In fact, I’m so in love with this drink that I’ve made it my mission to find the world’s best Bloody Mary! And let me tell you friends, Chicago is not letting me down. And so far, Dillman’s is my favorite. The mix and pickles are made in house, naturally, with Russian Standard vodka. It’s full of flavor and deliciously tangy – just how I like it.
Besides the food, what makes Dillman’s so special is its cosy and atmospheric interior. A long bar sits in the center of the room where customers sit on stalls lining the outside. There is always a selection of newspapers for your enjoyment. I love seeing people sitting at the bar talking to the baristas or each other, and reading newspapers while waiting for friends. It reminds me of coffee bars in France and Italy; it’s local and familiar. Behind the bar is a lovely, low-lit parlor with a bookshelf and fireplace; it’s an intimate, private space, which is great if you’re just having a drink. The main dining room, however, is bright and colorful and beautifully equipped with deep red banquettes, a playful checkerboard floor, and a few swanky and fabulous chandeliers. I love it: it’s cool and stylish yet warm and inviting. I find Dillman’s so evocative and romantic that it makes my imagination run wild. You could be anywhere. Sometimes I pretend it’s Paris in the 20s and I’m sitting with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway just like in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. I’m already drifting off as I write this…
So for those of you in or near Chicago: get yourself over to Dillman’s tout de suite. And if you are in any way disappointed, email me and we will take it outside.