Like most neighborhoods in Chicago, Printers Row has its own illustrious history.
In the 1880s, the neighborhood was the center of the Midwest when it came to printinghence the area's name.
And Cafe Press (800 S. Clark St.; www.goodeatsgroup.com/cafe-press-chicago&; makes sure that patrons (in-person and virtual) are aware of the double meaning of the spot's nameconnected with printing and coffee.
Owner Martin Murch (a managing member of Good Eats Group, of which Cafe Press is part) even took Windy City Times on a tour of the cozy spot (and of the restaurant Sociale, which shares the area), showing how a sense of history permeates both venues. Cafe Press has everything from actual 1930s newspapers wallpapered throughout the place to the selling of 1837 Red Ale, named after the year Chicago was incorporated into a city.
And I'm not sure even there's an official title for a coffee sommelier, but Murch may qualify. Not only did he discuss drip coffees in various blends as well as espresso, macchiatos, hot cocoas and more, with names such as, respectively, Proof, Gutenberg and Italic (after all, this is Cafe Pressget it?), but he even instructed my friend on the proper way to taste/sip/slurp coffee to experience the various notes of the cafe's offerings. (By the way, Cafe Press has a S'mores Bomb hot cocoa that's not officially on the menu, but that is available. Please try it.)
However, you just won't find drinks on the menu at Cafe Press. The spot now features a new variety of gourmet sandwiches on its afternoon edition menu for dine-in, delivery and takeout.
Luckily for this cafe (and Sociale), it has an ace up its sleeve: Chef Amanda Barnes. I've been fortunate enough to try her fare when she was at Chromium (at Midtown Athletic Club), and she's worked at several other esteemed spots, including Moto and Hot Chocolate. She's even worked with famed chef Gordon Ramsey, and she said he's nice to youas long as you do good work.
And Barnes has done some great work here. Just some of the sumptuous sandwiches offered include the Wagyu ribeye cheesesteak, made with bulgogi beef, jicama slaw, provolone and pickled Fresno chilis, on a brioche bun; a wood-roasted mushroom item made with provolone, wilted spinach, herbed olive oil and local panini bread; turkey BLT with Swiss and chimichurri mayo; and wood-fired flatbread varieties such as cheese, pepperoni, Italian sausage and Margherita; among others.
An interesting tidbit is that the flatbread dough can't be duplicated because the dough incorporates the spot's own 1837 Red Ale.
(Note: These sandwiches aren't available until 11 a.m., but Cafe Press opens at 7 a.m.)
I was fortunate enough to try a few of the customizable Afternoon Edition sandwiches (still working with the press theme), and they were absolutely wonderful. For me, however, the standout was the corned beef on rye; the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the Gruyere and Louis saucea house-made dressing with red chili sauce, minced green onions and green chili peppersonly enhanced, but did not overwhelm each other, or the meat.
Even the breakfast sandwicheswhich are served all day (with protein options such as thick-cut hickory bacon, Edwards country ham, breakfast sausage and impossible breakfast sausage)are excursions in delight. For some, these items might be afterthoughts, but Barnes transforms them; you can taste the care she infuses into each sandwich.
By the way, with coronavirus-related restrictions being rolled back, Chicago restaurants have been rolling out their welcome mats for those eager (and intrepid) enough to dine in personand Cafe Press/Sociale have gone the extra mile to make people feel and be safe. The UV-C system kills viruses, bacteria, mold and fungi, Murch noted, and there are other protocols in place, such as social distancing and hand-sanitizer stations.
I urge you to try Cafe Press. If you visit, you'll experience some really great food and coffeewhile taking in all the history this place offers. Oh, and here's an exclusive: Murch revealed that there will be an outside dining area this summer, and the place's name will be Cafe Press Coffeehouse & Eatery. I can't wait.