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There’s more to Springfield than horseshoes

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017

* Kate Silver in the Tribune

A couple of weeks ago, we met some friends of friends who’d recently moved back to Chicago after living in Springfield. They were excited to talk about the food scene when I mentioned I was writing a travel piece for the Tribune.

They suggested a new coffee joint and a sandwich shop that are at the top of our list for our next visit.

Custom Cup (321 E. Monroe St., 217-652-7279) roasts all of its beans on-site and offers individual pour-over brews and slow-brewed cold coffee. It’s also a “micro roaster,” where customers who want to buy beans by the bag can select the roast level (light, medium or dark), and a small batch is roasted to order. The inviting cafe serves baked goods from — wait for it — Incredibly Delicious.

Not too far away from Custom Cup is Long Nine Junction (5 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-210-2400), which opened earlier this year. The chef-driven sandwich joint took over an old Quiznos space and is getting rave reviews for its crafty flavor combinations, like French country sausage with apple butter and goat cheese, and one concoction I simply can’t wait to try: a garlic-bread grilled cheese with cheddar, provolone and pub cheese.

Springfield has two new downtown restaurants and I went to both last week.

* Loukinen’s on 4th is right across the street from the Executive Mansion. The building has been empty for years, but was a big Statehouse hangout back in the day. We had the Manchurian Style Cauliflower as an appetizer and it was the best cauliflower dish I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Seriously. Bar none. Service was very good. More here.

* Vele was also a treat. The restaurant, which specializes in southern Italian coastal cuisine, is in the old Café Brio building. They have a delicious raw bar, and while everyone else at the table shared their entrees, I selfishly kept my Lamb Shank Pappardelle to myself. It was that awesome. Service was high quality. The restaurant has the same executive chef as The Garden, which used to be the best kept secret within 100 miles, but booking a table there these days requires either super-human patience or a willingness to eat in the afternoon. Avoid the wait and head to Vele.

Anyway, I predict both Loukinen’s and Vele will wind up being Golden Horseshoe Award winners in the coming years. Go check ‘em out.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Matt P. - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    I’m confused by this post.

    Are you trying to infer the Tribune should cover Springfield restaurants? Or that people shouldn’t be excited about the Chicago food scene because two new restaurants opened in Springfield.

  2. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:45 pm:

    ===Or that people shouldn’t be excited about the Chicago food scene because two new restaurants opened in Springfield. ===

    How in the heck could you get that? The Trib article is about some new Spfld restaurants. I added to it.

    Try a reading comprehension class.

  3. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:48 pm:

    “I simply can’t wait to try: a garlic-bread grilled cheese with cheddar, provolone and pub cheese”.

    Given your cardiac history, I assume you will be having just one small fork full for informational purposes only? LOL

  4. - anon - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:50 pm:

    confusing non sequitur

  5. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:52 pm:

    ===Given your cardiac history===

    I didn’t write that.

  6. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:52 pm:

    Give me a Break, give me a break. That’s a quote from the Trib article, not Rich’s writing.

    Are you guys already into the Thanksgiving booze supply or what? Oh, and save the cardiac humor, it ain’t funny to a number of us.

  7. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 12:58 pm:

    Sorry Rich, I stand corrected. So, don’t try it anyway, if I can’t eat that stuff, no one else should could get to.

  8. - Red Ranger - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    Custom Cup is outstanding. Its coffee could compete with any West Loop/Bucktown/Wicker Park/Lincoln Park coffee shop. Plus the owner is very friendly. A great way to start a day at the Capitol.

  9. - Steve Rogers - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    Can’t wait to try Vele. Tried to make reservations online, but they were booked up for a few weeks. They might want to think about opening on Mondays and Tuesdays at least for a little while.

  10. - Centennial - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    I vote for regular restaurant views by Rich. I go to the same 2 spots every time I’m in town. I would love to know about the places, or even some tried and true entrees to order at the same ole spots.

  11. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    “Oh, and save the cardiac humor, it ain’t funny to a number of us.”

    For the Love of Pete, I too am dealing with those issues but can laugh at my diet restrictions so get off your soap box.

  12. - The Muse - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:02 pm:

    Springfield food scene has gotten better… Thank goodness for Happy Sushi! Place is surprisingly cheap, and high quality.

    Manchurian style cauliflower? Sign me up!!

  13. - GV - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    Are these normal entree prices for the Springfield area these days? I live in DC, and those prices would be at home on a menu here.

  14. - Chicago_Downstater - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    Good lord. This was just a nice piece about the foodie scene in our state capitol. Maybe dial it back guys.

    Anyways, I love seeing articles like this. I grew up in a small town outside of Springfield and I never realized how spoiled I was with all the great food. It’s a bit of a Foodie’s Paradise really.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. - whetstone - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:19 pm:

    As a Chicago coffee snob I can confirm that Custom Cup is fantastic. Great place to hang out in, too.

  16. - LizPhairTax - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:19 pm:

    I miss Bill Loukinen

  17. - VZguy - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:20 pm:

    They both sound amazing. Next time I’m in town I’ll check them out.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:25 pm:

    I want a place that has coffee like Gail made on Breaking Bad.

  19. - Some Anonymous Dude (S.A.D.) - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:31 pm:

    316 Wine Bar in Chatham is also incredible. The dude that ran Ross Issac’s now teaches and his cooking students and graduates are out there making some delicious food.

  20. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:50 pm:

    If you whine about Springfield food prices … you might be a …

    Wait, that was yesterday.
    I got nothing.

  21. - G'Kar - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    ==was the best cauliflower dish I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Seriously. Bar none. ==

    Best cauliflower–that’s a pretty low bar. :-) Seriously I wish both well and will look into them the next time I’m in Springfield.

    Also, did Cafe Brio close? If so, pity. It was one of my “go to” places when I was in town.

  22. - Northsider - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 2:06 pm:

    That was a nice article, but no serious Springfield foodie would omit Thai & Pie from a list like that.

  23. - ITK - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 2:07 pm:

    I remember a few years back when a certain former Sun Times columnist got her nose outta joint over the lack of late night food options in Springfield. That was hilarious.
    Maybe she will take note of these welcome additions to the scene.

  24. - Donnie - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    Any article that references pizza in Springfield and doesn’t mention Gabatoni’s falls short of inspiring.

  25. - Steve Rogers - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    Brio closed about a year ago. But honestly, the last Brio incarnation was nothing like what it was in its heyday. I miss the Brio of 5 years ago, not the Brio of a year ago.

  26. - Longhorne - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 2:53 pm:

    Thanks a lot ST
    thanks a lot Rich

    I like both places, now they will be jammed.

    Someone asked Yogi if he went to Vele. He said, “no one goes there anymore, it’s too busy.”

  27. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 3:07 pm:

    Both = Loukinens and Vele

    Left w Maldaners, Augies, Am Harvest

  28. - JoanP - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 3:46 pm:

    I may have to make a trip to Springfield just to go to Vele’s. That Lamb Shank Papardelle is calling my name. So is the Duck Gnocchi. Maybe I’ll spend the weekend.

  29. - bear3 - Tuesday, Nov 21, 17 @ 4:37 pm:

    Please try the new Emphasis at the Sangamo with Chef and General Manager with special appetizers and drinks after 4. A takeout for a family of 6 for thanksgiving for $130 and all the trimmings and the Turkey carved. Change looks good with your reviews a nd the revised regular spots!

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