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.
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.
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.