Whenever I think of local and farm-to-table restaurants, over-priced and average-quality food comes to mind. Living in the city, I always have a difficult time finding restaurants that use locally sourced meats and cheeses among other ingredients — until I passed by Blue Door Farm Stand (only two blocks from the Armitage Brown Line stop, located at 843 Armitage Ave.). Not only does this small neighborhood cafe offer a wide array of items ranging from grilled cheeses to cold-pressed juices, but it also sells products from local farmers and artisans.
According to past customers on Yelp, the cafe is packed daily because of its recent popularity (due to the large portions and use of seasonal ingredients). However, when I went on a late Friday afternoon, I was the first in line to order.
Blue Door uses seasonal ingredients in order to have a fresh and ever-changing offering. I took a good look at the chalkboard menu hanging behind the counter and decided to order a bowl of the daily special vegan lentil soup ($3.50) and the parsnip and kale salad ($11), which has roasted parsnips, butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, cranberries, almonds and a pumpkin molasses vinaigrette. Sticking with the kale theme, my friend picked the brussels and kale salad ($11), which came with almonds, shredded parmesan, bacon bits and a maple tahini dressing.
While waiting for our dishes, we took a look around the cafe and saw the coffee bar, which features cold-pressed juices from Harvest Juicery (a local and organic juice bar located at 1012 W. Lake St.), Bow Truss coffee (an independent coffee house with three locations in Chicago) and Mighty Leaf tea. A jar of gumballs, homemade rice krispie treats and brownies were among the other goodies displayed near the bar.
There were a few tables in the front near the coffee bar, but the majority of customers were seated in the back of the restaurant. We ended up sitting near the back and our food was delivered within moments. Despite the first impression of seeing blobs of kale on our plates with minimal toppings, once we tossed the salads, they turned out better than expected.
The butternut squash was fresh and cooked just enough so that it was neither rock hard nor too soft. Just a touch of the pumpkin molasses vinaigrette went a long way, coating the kale and making it light and sweet.
After taking a bite of my friend’s salad, I was shocked at how fresh her maple tahini dressing tasted, even though it looked so similar to ranch. She found it to be both creamy and rich, but not overpowering.
As for my tiny cup of lentil soup, the most enjoyable part of it was how fresh the tomatoes were. They tasted like they had just been washed and cut that day. The only downfall was the lack of lentils, which made the soup taste more like you were drinking straight broth rather than a lentil soup.
The prices at Blue Door Farm Stand are definitely not the cheapest, but with fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, you’re getting your money’s worth. I am a firm believer in paying more to receive a better- quality meal, even if it means splitting a salad with a friend.
The salads could have been split into two portions with the mass amount of kale included, but my friend and I devoured each of ours in one sitting. As tempting as the juices were, $9.50 for one was a bit much to purchase along with an entree.
When I return to Blue Door Farm Stand in the future, the Purple Line wrap with scrambled eggs, havarti cheese and roasted zucchini ($7) and the sweet potato hummus with crackers and vegetables ($7) seem like promising options.
With a fresh and healthy menu featuring lighter dishes such as salads and heavier such as like the apple pie and bacon grilled cheese ($9), you can come here when you are in the mood for a sit-down meal, a snack or even a juice for a morning pick-me-up. It is the perfect place to gather with friends while devouring some local eats and supporting the artisans and farmers in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Blue Door Farm Stand is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.