An all-day European-style cafe will be coming to the Gold Coast by the end of the year from the owners of Etta and Maple & Ash.
Cafe Sophie will feature pastries, wood-fired breakfast sandwiches, and a full bar: it’s a space designed for customers to stay a while. There will also be a retail section where visitors can buy home kitchen supplies. Chef and partner Danny Grant says his team is already searching to open additional locations within Chicago and have signed leases to open a pair in Dallas and one in Houston. “I’d want one of these in my neighborhood,” Grant says.
Grant says he got the idea two years ago to pair a giant kitchen with a hearth for all-day service and “high-quality food and drink at a very fast pace.” Though the service will be quick, he doesn’t want customers to feel rushed; his inspiration is the Italian cafes in Rome and Florence. Grant says Cafe Sophie is an option for folks who are sick of the Starbucks life of quickly popping in and leaving, something that the pandemic exacerbated. And though many customers loiter inside chain coffeehouses, Grant still feels he’s filling a niche in Chicago.
“We want people to enjoy the space,” Grant says. “It really goes back to us embracing the communities and the neighborhood, giving them something they can rely on every day.”
Grant and his restaurant company, What If Syndicate, originally called the cafe “Delilah’s” after Grant’s daughter. That drew the objection of Mike Miller, owner of Delilah’s, the punk and whisky bar that’s been at the corner of Diversey and Lincoln near the border of Lakeview and Lincoln Park for 28 years. The liquor license application simply listed the venue as “Delilah’s Gold Coast.” Coincidentally, Miller says he worked with What If managing partner Jim Lasky years ago, so Lasky was likely familiar with Delilah’s the bar before approving the name for the cafe.
Miller’s objections sent the What If team back to the drawing board, and they decided to rename their project after Grant’s aunt Sophie, who used to stuff him with huge Italian meals when he was a kid and his family would travel from their home on Long Island to visit her and her husband Vinny in Brooklyn.
Cafe Sophie’s will occupy the former Little Beet Table and has room for about 20 people inside. There’s also room for a patio for about 60 more seats. Heidi Lightner Architects, the firm that designed Etta, is handling the same responsibilities for the cafe.
There are Etta locations in Bucktown, River North, and LA; a Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant is planned for early next year. There’s also a Scottsdale outlet of Maple & Ash, a younger sibling to the luxe Gold Coast steakhouse.
“We’ve created this timeless cafe and market that you’re able to enjoy any time of the day,” Grant says.
Cafe Sophie, 847 N. State Street, planned for a mid-December opening.