Review: Edgewater Café Varietale Isn’t a Stand-Out Spot

Varietale Bagels & Coffee (6206 N. Broadway) wins with their pastries but misses the mark when it comes to their namesake nosh.

With a bright red feather flag fluttering outside and a series of scarlet signs inside, Varietale Bagels & Coffee is trying to make its mark as one of Edgewater’s newest small businesses. 

The store, which opened March 12 at 6206 N. Broadway St., is a quick walk from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. It’s sandwiched between a funeral home and a liquor store, which are the epitome of strange bedfellows.

This is the third business in three years to open on the property. The first was The Pack, a smoothie bar, which opened in November 2020, according to HerCampus. It was followed in May 2022 by Dream Nutrition Café, a similarly health-focused eatery, according to Eater.

The store’s setup appears rushed and thoughtless. The decor looks like a 2014 Instagram photoshoot on steroids and is leftover from Dream Nutrition Café, even though the two companies aren’t associated with one another.

Varietale’s Facebook page boasts “specialty coffee,” which is like calling gas station hot dogs “artisanal bratwurst.” The coffee was bitter but not strong. Adding almond milk only made it taste more like burnt water. Both the vanilla and hazelnut syrups had notes of battery acid and Yankee Candle.

Besides bagels, Varietale serves pastries like croissants, muffins and danishes. Its cheapest drink option, a $2.35 eight-ounce drip coffee, costs just a smidge more than a plain cup of joe from Dunkin’. Malta soda, Coca-Cola and fresh-squeezed orange juice are also available.

The store’s Facebook page notes some Venezuelan influence, as evidenced by its golfeados, or sticky buns, and cachitos, or ham crescent rolls. The cachitos come in two varieties — one with just ham and one with queso fresco added.

Despite trying to emulate the signature style of a New York bagel, Varietale’s bagel — which should’ve been the star of the show — was dry and lacked barley malt, which is an essential component, according to The New York Times. Students can get the same kind of mass-produced provisions from any grocery store around the block.

To their credit, Varietale does have a wider variety of flavor options than the average dining hall toaster section, including Parmesan bagels, sundried tomato cream cheese and spinach and ricotta danishes. One of their more distinctive baked goods was an apple-filled turnover shaped like an actual apple leaf.

The chocolate croissant had a flawless combination of flaky pastry and silky filling. The chocolate shavings and sprinkles on top were a charming touch. 

Some of the flavor choices were more adventurous. The carrot cake muffin had pieces of dried blueberry, an interesting turn from regular old raisins. For $4.55, the muffin was a decent size and would’ve tasted good if it didn’t seem slightly underbaked in the middle.

The muffins and bagels come from Typica Café, a separate spot by Wicker Park, according to Varietale co-founder and Typica owner Daniel Soria.

Chicago’s carb connoisseurs are better off sticking to The Bagel (3107 N. Broadway) and Taste of New York Bagels & Deli (3268 N. Clark St.), while latte lovers can turn to Metropolis (1039 W. Granville Ave.) and Ellipsis Coffeehouse (1259 W. Devon Ave.).

Varietale Bagels & Coffee is open every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Featured image by Hunter Minné | The Phoenix

Mao Reynolds

Mao Reynolds