Loaf Lounge, a new cafe, debuted last weekend in Avondale. As the owners prepared to open, co-owner and bakery ace Sarah Mispagel (Sepia, Proxi) consulted for the bear, the FX television show based on a fictional Chicago Italian beef stand. Mispagel created the sweets depicted onscreen and allowed actor Lionel Boyce, who plays Marcus, to apply finishing touches. Mispagel’s work included a delicious chocolate cake that got viewers noticed. A huge slice of this cake is now available at Loaf Lounge for $7.50. How does the cake taste? Keep reading to find out.
Below is a slightly edited transcript of a Slack conversation between Eater Chicago editor Ashok Selvam and reporter Naomi Waxman about said cake.
The bear’s chocolate cake
$7.50 per slice
Made with Valrhona cocoa powder in the cake and icing and Valrhona 64% Tainori in the ganache.
Ashok: Instagram has ruined food photos for many of us, how can the actual article match the overly stylized image that was posted? But you know what? the bear the chocolate cake matches the hype. That wealth you saw through the screen? It’s in that first bite!
Noemie: Some people really enjoy eating cake for breakfast, which seems reasonable to me, but it’s not a habit that I’m used to. But I’m also not fooling anyone, and in the case of this cake in particular, customers have a good reason to treat yourself in the morning. At its heart, Loaf Lounge is a bakery, which means Mispagel and his staff clock in at 4 a.m. Showing up early gives customers a chance to taste the cake in its freshest and richest form.
Ashok: First, we should normalize “breakfast cake”. Second, I had the coffee fresh cake and took a slice home. Both times were fabulous, but eating it at the lounge counter was just better. The crumbs were more…wet (sorry), the icing-ganache had better richness, which may seem obvious. Mispagel tells me it’s one of her old recipes that she perfected at Proxy/Sepia, a go-to for private events where clients wanted chocolate cake. It’s a pretty reliable flavor bomb. Well balanced and not too sweet or bitter. That being said, do you think you could eat more than one slice?
Noemie: “Reliable” is a good word for this – it’s not fussy or overly decorated (honestly a welcome change from the elaborate mountains of buttercream that have taken over #cakestagram), the cake is tender but preserves its shape. It would be a hit at any birthday party, whether the guest of honor is eight or 80. But that brings me back to your point about quantity: I couldn’t fit more than one slice, especially before noon.
Ashok: I could if I was on a cake bender, but I don’t want to talk about those dark, dark days. Chicago is home to quality bakers. I’ll call Jennifer Jones at the Dos Urban Cantina in Logan Square. This chocolate cake is a champ! The Loaf Lounge entrance is right up there. It’s not flashy, but there’s a lot of depth. Mispagel said it was Chris Storer, the bear‘s co-creator and Park Ridge native, who came up with the idea of serving the coffee cake. It is a wise choice. It’s great bait to get people to walk through the door to sample the fresh bread, sandwiches and other magic inside this little kitchen. Did I mention the bread?
Noemie: And, in total surprise, arguably the best English muffin I’ve come across in a long time! Another benefit of a counter is the ability to peek through the show window to see Lustbader running the show. The too-easy egg in my breakfast sausage-egg-cheese sandwich popped in this perfectly subtle and satisfying way, which told me a lot of egg experience in this kitchen. Even though the cafe is brand new, it’s already a great site for people watching. I got to enjoy a performance by three little boys wearing matching “best friends” t-shirts holding hands and jumping up and down in anticipation of their treats. I know the feeling, guys.
Ashok: Mispagel’s husband, Ben Lustbader, says they’re not worried if the cake overshadows the rest of the menu. Mispagel says they could eventually serve Marcus’ “perfect donut” from the TV show. I have a complaint: how can Marcus be so good so quickly? He might be a natural talent, but boring star wars fans complain that Rey “doesn’t have enough Jedi training” and is able to wield a lightsaber with ease right away. After eating the cake, how can Marcus be such a master of texture and flavor without formal training? Willing suspension of disbelief wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t tasted the cake (raises the glasses).
Noemie: It’s not the only suspension of disbelief the bear asks viewers to entertain – I’ve found myself coming back to the storyline problem multiple times (spoiler alert) since finishing the first season. But there’s still room to enjoy a bit of small-screen magic, especially when Marcus’ world is so intertwined with real small business.
Ashok: In conclusion, I was very happy that this “Bear” show – which has nothing to do with a terrible football team – prompted me to try a very good chocolate cake, and I hope that other TV shows will take the initiative to hire cooks from Chicago. so I can eat and write about their food shown on TV. Also, Jeremy Allen White hasn’t had the cake yet and it’s funny that we tried the cake and Carmy was turned down. JAW told me he wanted to try the cake! All in all, hope the bear brings back Mispagel for season 2 to bring to life everything Marcus imagines. Do you have any final thoughts, Naomi?
Noemie: I can’t wait to see where the bear takes on Carmy, Sydney and the crew, though I think it’s safe to say we can expect grubby cooking behavior and hopefully more delicious treats from Marcus via Mispagel. While waiting for a new episode, I am going to have fun at the Loaf Lounge.