Having spent the last four years in Ukrainian Village, it’s been curious to watch it change. Right now, boutiques seem to be popping up unexpectedly. One just opened up in a spot where once there was a bakery. More and more fancier trendy places are opening up nearby. A sushi place here, Italian place there. And some places are getting noticed. Mexique, a restaurant in Noble Square, just got a star from the Michelin Guide, which is a huge deal.
These all of these changes aren’t in themselves bad. Small businesses are good and really help make a neighborhood. Also, tasty places are always a plus in my book. My only fear is that new businesses will push out traditional Ukrainian institutions.
Fortunately, it seems that my two favorite food institutions are thriving: Kasia’s Deli and Ann’s Bakery and Deli. Both are on Chicago between Hoyne and Leavitt. Food is central to every culture and these places seem to rise to the challenge of meeting the local Ukrainian needs and folks like me.
Kasia’s is probably familiar because they are the brand of frozen periogis that you can find in many grocery stores around town. They have this charming deli that has a whole host of foods. I’m particularly fond of their Ukrainian Borscht soup, the best I’ve had. It’s all I want when I’m sick. Or well. Or basically any time of year. Last time I was there, there seemed to be a distinction between regular borscht and Ukrainian. Both are that traditional deep purple but Ukrainian borscht is cloudier while regular borscht is a more see-through.
Kasia’s also has these delicious beef puffs that they frequently run out of. And bags of cookies (not fresh, but probably shipped from the Ukrainian) that are gingerbread and jam covered in chocolate. And sometimes, I think the weekends, they offer a free loaf of bread to folks (probably if they spend a certain amount of money).
Ann’s Bakery and Deli literally emerged from the ashes. In June 2012, a fire broke out and destroyed part of the building. Fortunately, the owners decided to rebuild and refashion the business. Ann’s is now open again but a little brighter and perkier. It’s still popular despite being closed for many months. Sometimes, there are amazingly long lines for a tiny store.
The smell of paczkis emanates from there in the early morning. It’s where I buy them for the office every year for Fat Tuesday. (I’m a firm believer in holiday foods. Somehow only having something once or twice a year really heightens the experience of eating it).
They also have many Ukrainian goods that seem to have been shipped here directly from the Ukraine. We especially like the juices because we can’t read the language so we go off the pictures. It’s a little bit of an adventure when we drink juice. As it really should be (no sarcasm intended).
Long live Kasia’s and Ann’s Bakery!