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A bakery worker taking a sheet of cookies from a rack.
Levain Bakery has opened its first Chicago location.
Barry Brechiesen/Eater Chicago

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Chicagoans Waited in 16-Degree Cold For These Cookies

Tour Levain Bakery, now open in West Loop

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Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The temperatures were as icy as 16 degrees on Saturday, but that didn’t stop customers outside Levain Bakery in West Loop from forming a line at 5 a.m. before sunrise and three hours before the store would open for the very first time.

Levain is a New York operation known for chunky chocolate cookies. Developed by triathlon racers as a carb-loaded post-event treat, the giant cookies began popping up at stores in Boston, D.C., and even more in New York. The Chicago location, along Randolph Restaurant Row, is their first outside the Eastern Time Zone. The original opened in 1995 in New York’s Upper East Side.

A display case with cookies.
Levain will feature five different cookies.

The line on Saturday morning curved from Randolph Street to Green Street and stopped at Lake Street. A bakery spokesperson says ownership calls the Chicago opening its most successful debut ever. Levain is already searching for spaces for a second Chicago location.

For Chicagoans, it also marks how the area is changing. Levain replaces Maude’s Liquor Bar, a two-floor restaurant from the owners of Au Cheval. The restaurant closed in 2020 — management stressed that “it was time,” and that the shutter had nothing to do with the pandemic. Instead of a full-service restaurant along Restaurant Row, a bakery without seating has opened. Another upcoming change is the closure of Little Goat, which is happening in January as Stephanie Izard and Boka Restaurant take the diner to Lakeview. Rumor has it that retail will take the space.

A hand shaping dough.
The Midwest location will also serve as shipping center to Levain can send fresher cookies to the West Coast.
Two bakers lifting up a sheet of raw cookies with a friend looking.
The cookies have a cult following.
A person kneeling down to put a sheet of cookies into an oven.
Maude’s Liquor Bar is now a bakery.

Levain’s menu in Chicago includes five varieties of cookies: chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and two-chip chocolate chip. Caffeine is from Backlot Coffee, and there’s a full line of pastries and loaf cakes.

Step inside the bakery below.

Levain Bakery, 840 W. Randolph Streetm, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Third-party delivery via DoorDash, Caviar, and Uber Eats upcoming.

A storefront of a bakery with windows.
Randolph Street is changing.
Two shelves.
There’s also Backlot Coffee.
A map of Chicago.
This art panders to locals.
A bakery’s counter.
There are no seats inside.
Beyond cookies, there’s also pastries and loaf cake.

Levain Bakery Chicago

840 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 Visit Website
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