Andersonville spot Lost Larson has some spectacular bakery items ( as this writer discovered ), but the people behind it has other goals involving two separate demographics: lesbians and the Swedish.
The amiable Bree Schaffer co-owns the neighborhood bakery/cafe with brother Bobby. ( Incidentally, Bree identifies as lesbian while Bobby is gay. "There are four of ustwo boys and two girlsand we're the gay ones," Bree said with a laugh. )
Regarding the focus on the lesbian community, Lost Larson held a "Lost Lesbians" series that involved showings of The L-Word: Generation Q. "That was something I thought about for so long," Bree said. "I wanted to create a community for queer women."
She added, "When I came out, I had a lesbian mentor who said, 'Go to Andersonville. That's the lesbian mecca of Chicago.' But I would come here alone and I'd be all shy, very unsure of myself. I saw lesbians, but I didn't really a place specifically for lesbiansand there's a whole Boystown for [gay men]. I've been to a few women's nights at gay bars, but even those have been dominated by men."
As for the spot's unique name, it's rootedas one might guessin vanishing nomenclature. "My brother and I had a [paternal] grandfather who was kind of a sketchy guy. He had the last name 'Larson' until his 30s and then changed it to 'Schaffer' because it was his boss' last name. We think [my grandfather] was a bit of a con man. So I grew up with a detached sense of heritage. On my mom's side, they're 'Larsen,' but with an 'en' instead of an 'on.' So we're doubly Larsen/Larson, but we have the last name Schaffer." Coming into this neighborhood, we're trying to honor its Swedish roots."
The cuisine at Lost Larson offers a smorgasbord of options for patrons, including open-faced sandwiches, bites ( like chicken-liver mousse, kaboucha squash soup and more ), pastries and many others. ( By the way, yes, there's an actual "smorgaasbord" one can order at the spot's wine bar, with choices including herring, piccante, mussels, trout spread and various cheeses. ) However, a lot of these items aren't available until 3 p.m., when it converts into a wine bar.
When it comes to working together, each has his/her roles clearly sorted. "Bobby is the pastry chef; that's his wheelhouse. I'm more the coffee/front of house/service person," Bree said. "He's very talented and he's worked at a lot of top restaurants. Everything I try here is delicious." She added that items constantly change on the menu, stating, "We give our sous chefs a lot of freedom."
Regarding her own faves, Bree said the cinnamon roll is tops, but "we have this other thing called afternoon tea bun [that's great]. We do a lot of croissant-based things, and we add lemon zest to the bun and roll it in Earl Grey sugar." Her pride in the spot really shone through when she commented that all the whole-grain flour is milled there and that the grain is sourced from Illinois farmers.
And Lost Larson's future certainly looks promising, as the business already has a second spot ( more of a bakery ) in the West Loop at Time Out Market Chicago.
Lost Larson is at 5318 N. Clark St., and also has a spot at Time Out Market Chicago, 916 W. Fulton Market. Find out more at LostLarson.com .