You can never have too many cupcake shops, apparently, as Gigi’s Cupcakes (3217 Lake Ave., Wilmette, 847-728-0848) is entering the area’s already-crowded bakery fray. The self-proclaimed largest cupcake chain in the United States specializes in baroquely topped treats in flavors such as chocolate mousse and wedding cake.

Yes, it’s less than a mile from the original Beatrix to its new second location (671 N. St. Clair St., Streeterville, 312-642-0001) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. But the second location has a quieter vibe for sit-down meals and a Whole Foods–style salad bar if you’re looking to grab and go.

Get your buzz on at Caffè Umbria’s first Chicago–area location (346 N. Clark St., River North). The Seattle–based roaster’s name may look familiar—you can find their coffees already at Piccolo Sogno, Coco Pazzo, and Caffè Baci.


Tom Van Lente, the former Two chef who was last seen manning the kitchen at taco-and-margarita machine Big Star, has a new gig. He’s signed on to be executive chef at the White Oak Tavern & Inn (1200 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park, 773-248-0200), the farm-to-table restaurant-slash-actual-inn, starting November 10.

Watch this space: Loop stalwart South Water Kitchen (Hotel Monaco, 225 N. Wabash Ave., 312-236-9300) will shut down on December 19 and reconcept over the following few months. The staff won’t change much, though, as chef Roger Waysok and lead bartender Dan Rook are slated to stick around.