As farm-to-table restaurants emerge left and right, it’s easy to roll your eyes at a trend that seems to have worn out its welcome. But with a menu of hearty soups, salads, sandwiches and more based on local and seasonal produce, Lincoln Park’s Blue Door Farm Stand is not to be dismissed; in 2014, it earned the honor of Chicago’s “Best Place for a Portlandia Experience”.
Located just east of the Armitage Brown Line stop, Blue Door juxtaposes farm fresh eating with big city culture. True to the café’s name – which comes from the Indiana-based and formerly Oprah-owned Blue Door Farm – blue doors welcome you first. As you step inside, rustic floor tiles ease you toward the counter, where chalkboards house the latest menu. With fall in full swing and Thanksgiving just around the corner, you’ll find flavors like sweet potatoes and squash, cranberries and apples, leafy greens and root vegetables and, of course, turkey and bacon in a number of dishes. Patrons can order at the counter then have a seat at the large communal table in the back or under the eponymous “Blue Door” sign aglow in the front.
For those who like their greens, the current menu features kale prepared four ways: baked with parmesan as a chip, combined with artichokes as a dip, mixed in two substantive salads and cold-pressed in green juice. The Brussels & Kale salad is a standout. Shaved Brussels sprouts, kale, bacon, almonds, parmesan and maple tahini dressing make for a salad that is hearty, green-forward, crunchy and subtly sweet. Even veggie-centric dishes like this have something to offer carnivores.
On the sandwich front, Blue Door’s grilled cheese menu is much more than its name suggests. This season’s flavors have the restaurant turning to pies for inspiration. The Pumpkin & Sage is Blue Door’s take on pumpkin pie. Hook’s aged cheddar, local mozzarella and mascarpone are generously layered and melted between toasty Red Hen multigrain bread, along with arugula, sage, chopped spiced pumpkin and honey. This combination of flavors makes for a sandwich that is both sweet and savory – no two bites are the same. The Apple Pie & Bacon relies on caramelized apples, cheddar, mascarpone, crispy Jones Farm bacon and multigrain bread to replicate the namesake classic. Blue Door balances ingredients so that sandwiches are full of flavor and rich in texture – but without frills.
While Blue Door is an ideal lunch spot, it also has a coffee, tea and juice counter that serves up beverages from two other Chicago businesses: Bow Truss Coffee Roasters and Harvest Juicery. As you grab an almond milk latte or apricot-laced red pepper juice, you can also order a slice of impossibly tall carrot cake coated in cream cheese frosting or other pastries and desserts.
Despite a diverse menu that regularly changes, Blue Door’s philosophy is simple: “We believe in the seasons dictating what’s on the table. We are committed to being part of the community and the importance of having personal relationships with all our purveyors. We believe in providing a warm and welcoming space for all our guests to enjoy wholesome delicious food.”
Whether you want a no-fuss lunch or dishes to inspire (or fuel) your Thanksgiving feast, be sure to visit Blue Door before the season winds down.
843 Armitage Ave., 773-935-2583
Photos: Courtesy of Katie Basil Photography