The Illinois Street Food Emporium

14 Apr

This is one of those places that I have driven by so many times, yet haven’t given it much thought.  So when I was meeting up with a group of colleagues for lunch and one of them suggested we dine at the Illinois Street Food Emporium, I eagerly shook my head with a yes.

I had no clue what to expect, because from the outside on a cold spring day, it didn’t look extremely inviting.  But once you walk through those doors and see the cases full of baked goods, you know you are in for something good.  From cakes to pies, danishes to doughnuts, there was so many baked items to try.  But I didn’t visit for something sweet (despite me thinking about changing my mind), I came for savory.  I turned and waited in line to order some food.  Little did I know, while waiting for the counter, they set you up next to these refrigerators full of some great looking products including sandwiches, quiches and more.  If you are in the mood to grab something quick for dinner, but still have it be fresh and homemade, this may be a stop to add to your list.

I tweeted to see what I should get, and received an overwhelming response to try their chicken salad.  Guess what I ordered?  On a soft, fresh and flaky croissant of course.  I also added a small cup of their soup of the day – cream of broccoli.  The woman who took my order was extremely friendly and helpful as I asked what was in the chicken salad that made it so great.  Good service and a wide selection – so far so good.

We had sat down and waited for our food, which was extremely quick.  A mere 5 minutes later, I had this very large, flaky croissant stuffed with chicken salad sitting in front of me.  The croissant – let me start there because it was the best part – was flaky and tender.  It may have been one of the best croissants I’ve ever had.  Subtly buttery, light and airy, I don’t think I could have had a better vehicle to get that chicken salad into my mouth.  Chunks of chicken, which I think may have been poached for preparation, were tender and perfectly bite sized for portion.  To my surprise (and why I can see so many people liking it), there were chunks of pineapple and mandarin oranges mixed into the creamy base.  The fruit gave the sandwich a subtly sweet taste and interesting bite.  It was a heavier type of chicken salad, so I would lean towards the idea that they used mayo rather than yogurt mix (which I prefer.)  Though random, I loved the garnish supplied with the sandwich: two pieces of apple, two slices of cheese (maybe gouda?) and an orange peel.  Better than your standard side of lettuce, that is for sure. And that is something I’ll remember.  I guess when it comes to cheese, I’ll always remember it.

Not going to comment too much on the soup – it seemed to be a standard cream of broccoli to me.  Decent flavor, little bites of broccoli rather than chunky, and more watery than creamy.  It still had good flavor, but I leaned towards the sandwich for bites rather than the soup.

On the way out, I did grab a sample of their brownie.  It was absolutely delicious, chocolaty in all the right ways without being overly sweet.  Bits of chocolate chunks graced the bite I had, but I did see others had walnuts present.  I may need to get a dessert next time I’m there.

It may be a little pricey for a sandwich and soup.  I got both and an iced tea for about $14.  But, overall a great lunch spot.  It wasn’t busy when we got there, but I could see how it would be during the work week.   Good service, good food and a good location.

The Illinois Street Food Emporium Bakery & Deli * 5550 N. Illinois Street, Indy * 317.253.9513

Illinois Street Food Emporium on Urbanspoon

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4 Responses to “The Illinois Street Food Emporium”

  1. indyscan April 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    Great place for Chicken Salad when I don’t want to make my own. They used to have a revolving oven in the wall where you could watch the bread being baked.

    • City Nom Noms April 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

      I bet the smell was even more enticing with the bread oven up front!

  2. tom h April 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    I was a foodie, PBS cooking show-watching kid… I remember reading the Best Of issues of Indianapolis Monthly and this place being mentioned as having superb desserts. I’m 31 now, so I’ve been going here for a long time.

    Anyway, I suggest the daily special for a way to make it a bit more reasonable – the restaurant isn’t too hip to the interwebs, so it is always a surprise (sometimes I’m not even slightly interested). So far as their sides, I quite like the pasta salad and the vegetable soup. Turkey/bacon/avocado/croissant being my favorite sandwich.

    • City Nom Noms April 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

      Great tip Tom – I’ll definitely need to check out their daily special next time I’m in. I also heard the turkey/bacon/avocado croissant is one of the best items on the menu, so I’ll just need to add that to my list as well!

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