DeCarlo Pittman wanted to give Bronzeville some variety when he opened Little Sandwich House last month. Simplicity is key to his menu, which includes morning options such as mascarpone berry toast (jam, mixed berries, mint), Chuck Berry toast (peanut butter, bananas, almonds, honey), and bagels with lox.
Pittman is an Chicago industry veteran who spent more than a decade helming the fronts-of-house at spots like Big Star and cocktail hotspot Violet Hour in Wicker Park. He’s now channeling those experiences into a cafe designed to fill a void in the neighborhood where Pittman has lived with his family since 2005.
“It all started with me deciding that our neighborhood had a few things missing... I saw a need for a good coffee shop with good deli sandwiches — the kind of place you’d see in Logan Square or Wicker Park,” says Pittman, who spent 11 years as a host at One Off Hospitality’s taco bar.
The small counter-service spot is bright and cozy with dark wood floors accented by a wall of greenery and bright orange chairs. It seats around 30 inside between tables, banquettes, and four swivel stools along the counter. There’s outdoor seating too neatly arranged behind a white picket fence.
Pittman learned much while with One Off, the James Beard-winning restaurant company, The group’s co-owners Terry Alexander and Donnie Madia have cheered him on with Madia posting about the cafe’s opening last month. Pittman and wife Mandy opened the venue after a year and a half of preparations, finding a space at 411 E. Oakwood Boulevard. There’s smoothies and espresso from Michigan-based roaster Littlefoot Coffee as the coffee bar is helmed by Willow James, a local theater artist and TikTok coffee influencer with more than 25,000 followers.
Lunch offerings include six different salads and a number of sandwiches, ranging from roast beef (provolone, red onion, chimichurri) and classic BLT to a spicy fig sandwich (prosciutto, jalapeno, arugula). Pittman is in the process of bringing in One Off’s Publican Quality Bread for sandwiches and toasts.
The homey charm and relatively close quarters are intentional — Pittman believes the pandemic is spawning an industry shift toward small spaces and away from expansive dining rooms. Costs play a role in that equation, but ultimately he wants his customers to have a more intimate experience.
“I love the small places — I like to sit at the bar and get the feeling of being at a ma-and-pa-type place,” he says. “Those are the people who really take pride in what they’re preparing.”
Little Sandwich House joins a small but growing community of cafes in Bronzeville, including locations from local coffee mini-chain Sip & Savor, breakfast spot Peach’s Restaurant, and Carver 47 inside cultural arts and education center Little Black Pearl. There are also plans next month to open a new wine bar, Bronzeville Winery.
Little Sandwich House, 411 E. Oakwood Boulevard, Open 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.