Monday, November 21, 2011

Once Upon a Bagel/Arriva Dolce

It's become clear to me that Highland Park (an upper-class suburb located on the lakefront north of Chicago, if you're an out-of-towner) has emerged in 2011 as the epicenter of foodie culture outside of the city limits. About every other week, I'm seemingly reading snippets about new cupcake shops, pizzerias, barbecue joints, diners, ice cream parlors, and farm-to-table bistros opening up in Highland Park, which already had a decent concentration of well-respected restaurants even before this flurry of activity. Fortunately for us here at the Commissary, Mrs. Hackknife's brother Dan and his family (including wife Michelle, friend of the blog) reside in Highland Park, providing us with convenient access to the nearby culinary delights. It was with that in mind that the progeny and I stopped by the house a few Fridays ago for a lunch date with Michelle and cousin Connor. The 5 of us trucked over in the minivan to a local delicatessen called Once Upon A Bagel (OUAB), which was recently cited in a Chicago Tribune article by food writer Kevin Pang as having some of the best bagels in town. When we walked in the front door, my first impression was that this was simply a bakery, with racks upon racks of fresh bagels lining the narrow walkway behind the counter (the aroma was, well, striking). Towards the back of the restaurant, however, were many tables for patrons stopping by for a meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner - the menu is extensive enough that you could probably eat here daily for a month and not repeat a food selection. The portions were huge and were very reasonably priced, even taking into account the North Shore address. I opted for what is described on the menu as a grilled boat sandwich, that is, a meat (or tuna salad, in my case) topped with melted cheese and toasted on a fresh bialy (like a bagel, but longer), served with a pickle wrapped in butcher paper. The tuna salad was great, not gloppy with mayo like so many other places serve it, loaded with chunks of tuna. Hackknife Jr. dove into a large platter of chicken tenders with fries, while Hackknifette consumed an adult-sized hot dog in its entirety (that's my girl). Michelle was kind enough to let me sample both her matzo ball soup and her pastrami sandwich, both of which were delicious. On our way out, it was everything I could do to prevent myself from ordering a dozen bagels to go. I'm filled with sorrow that we have no comparable deli option within a 30-mile radius of the Commissary (support for moving north, I guess).

Although the day was gray, cool, and breezy, the kids had been good enough in a crowded restaurant during Friday lunchtime rush that us parents promised them a treat within walking distance of OUAB. About 4 blocks away is the newly-opened Arriva Dolce, a gelato and coffee bar that we were pleased to find open on a Friday afternoon in the middle of November (not exactly peak consumption time for gelato). Although they don't make their gelato in-house (according to their website, Palazzolo's in Fernville, MI provides the goods), what we sampled was excellent, including chocolate hazelnut, mint chocolate chip, and pumpkin cheesecake (my ultimate choice) for Fall. All told, this was a terrific way to cap off a terrific lunch date with the family. Now we only need to make about 16 more trips to Highland Park to visit the rest of the dining establishments....

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