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Nutella Cafe (Chicago)

July 30, 2017

  • 189 N. Michigan Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60601
  • (800) 861-4888
  • Website
  • Menu

When we left the Chicago Suburbs on Wednesday afternoon, we headed towards my parents house about an hour south.  We don’t eat out a lot when we go there because…simply, there aren’t many choices.  My home town is about the size of Climax and has about as many restaurant options.  There’s a Subway in the gas station and a pizza place on Main Street.

We spent two days there then headed back into Chicago to meet up with one of J’s friends.  The two of them worked together in Idaho about fifteen years ago and they’ve stayed close ever since.  J’s friend just moved to Chicago from Atlanta so we wanted to see her new place and hang out since we haven’t seen her in over two years.

We got into the city just after noon.  We found a parking garage right next to her highrise then went to hang out in our 40th floor apartment looking over Michigan Avenue.  Once the kids stretched their legs and put their grubby little fingerprints all over the floor to ceiling windows, we ventured out for the first time to go get something to eat.

Our first stop was Shake Shack.  We were hoping to grab a quick bite to eat, but there was a line out the door so we passed.  J’s friend suggested a bar near the river, but B has been such a pain at restaurants lately and I didn’t want to fight him at yet another sit down place.

On our way to Shake Shack J noticed the Nutella Cafe across Michigan Avenue from the apartment.  We started heading back that way and J asked if that would work for lunch.  As long as there wasn’t a huge line, I was fine with it.

Nutella Cafe is right on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lake Street in downtown Chicago in the Millennium Park Plaza building in The Loop.  This location is the first Nutella Cafe by the Ferrero who own Nutella.

The cafe just opened at the end of May and has been packed ever since.  The first time we walked by, there was quite a line on the sidewalk out front.  When we went back, there was no line so we headed to the Nutella Jar shaped front door.

If Ferrero is going for a relaxed atmosphere, they ruin it before you ever step a foot inside with their incredibly rude, incredibly aggressive “door man.”  There was no line outside, so we started to walk in and were abruptly stopped and asked how many in our party.  We didn’t think it was a table service restaurant so it was a little confusing.  It was even more confusing when the lady allowed us to enter the restaurant and told us to get in line.

There is a small set of stairs that lead down into the kitchen area where you order food.  There is a display case that shows all the baked goods that separates the kitchen from the rest of the room.  The line is squeezed down single file by steel cooler that holds bottled drinks.  The lady at the door told us to get in line and wrap around the cooler.  When we didn’t immediately get in single file line like we were in grade school with our legs touching the cooler, she barked her orders again…..and one more time when one of our group took a step two inches out of single file while we were looking at the menus.  Apparently, the poor design of the place has the servers coming out from the back of the kitchen and they have to cut between the staircase and the line so this door person had to keep military like control of the line so the servers had just enough room to squeeze through with their plates.  They have to control how many people are in line inside because they can’t have the path blocked.  Thus, people end up waiting in line outside until there is sufficient space for them inside.

I am not a Nutella fan.  I’ll eat it, but I don’t go crazy for it.  If you love the stuff like so many people do, the first display case you come to is the one that is supposed to make your mouth water.  It’s here they have all their Nutella filled treats on display.

The next case before getting to the cash register shows the “Artisanal Panini’s.”  These aren’t listed on the menu individually so you need to look in the case to see what they have on that particular day.

We didn’t have to wait very long in line to order and we were all ready once we got to the front.  I got a panini, J got a crepe and we got the kids grilled cheese sandwiches.  Throw in a couple drinks and some Sandwich Cookies and the total for lunch was just under $50.

We were given a table buzzer with a number on it then started looking for a table.

There are two dining areas in the cafe and a patio that wraps around the building.  The first dining area is on the lower level where the kitchen is.  It has maybe a half dozen tables but most are just big enough for two people.  There are a couple of longer communal tables in the space if you like getting close to strangers. 

The upper level only has a couple of real tables.  There are two 360 degree couches and some small coffee tables that you can use as well as some window ledges to sit on it.  It’s not really a comfortable place to eat a meal.

I’d like to point out this puff piece from USA Today when they described the dining rooms at Nutella Cafe.

Visitors enter through a door in the shape of a Nutella jar to discover ample space for sitting and lingering underneath acoustical panels resembling waves of chocolate and bright yellow lighting fixtures in the shape of hazelnut flowers that illuminate, of course, what everyone is here for — the food.

“Ample space?”  HA!  There is nowhere near enough space for the kitchy tourist trap this place is.  There will always be lines at this place and never enough room just because of the Nutella name.

We were able to take a couple of those coffee tables and use the fireplace ledge and one of the red couches as a seating area for the five of us.  Honestly, it wasn’t awful but you did have to hold your plate up to eat off it.  They’re trying to make this a “European Cafe” where people sip their coffee and converse with each other..when in reality it’s part of the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago and people just want to eat and get on with their day.

Our food came out in under ten minutes.  We had the buzzers on the table but they were mostly being used as numbers.  Someone would come up with a tray full of plates and yell out a  number.

I ordered one of the Artisanal Panini’s, the Speck Ham and Gruyere Cheese.  Up until this point, I’ve been pretty rough on Nutella Cafe, but you know what?  This sandwich was really, really good.  The sandwich is rustic bread that is grilled really crispy.  This particular panini came with several slices of Speck Ham and perfectly melted, gooey Gruyere cheese, deli mustard, and some fresh arugula.  The peppery greens threw me at first but once I realized what it was, it actually gave the sandwich an incredible extra dimension.  The sandwich comes with a small bowl of nuts as a side.

J went for the Nutella and ordered a Strawberry and Nutella Crepe.  The paper thin crepe was filled almost to the busting point with Nutella.  The strawberries were served on top and on the side alongside a dusting of powdered sugar.  The first thing I heard from here a big “MMMMMMMM” through a huge smile, so I’ll guess she liked it.

We got both of the kids a Grilled Cheese Sandwich off the Kids Menu.  This simple grilled cheese is rustic bread and cheddar cheese that is grilled like a panini.  The kids, being kids, didn’t want to eat anything, but we got each of them to eat half.  J and I took the other halves because, like the rest of our food, it was delicious.

To finish off the meal, J ordered some Sandwich Cookies.  She tried to order three, but they come in orders of five so we each got to try one.  The cookies are filled with Nutella and served with fresh berries.  The cookies themselves just sort of crumbled into the Nutella as we tried to eat them which made for a gooey, delicious, mess.  Again, not a huge Nutella fan, but I did enjoy these cookies to finish off the meal.

I have mixed feeling about the Nutella Cafe.  The whole door thing just totally rubbed me the wrong way.  I was so put off by the drill instructor approach to make sure my thighs were touching the cooler and we were all in single file line like we were in grade school. The rest of the employees we encountered were friendly and helpful…but the door person……..ugh.  The space is waaaaaay to small for a place that is going to attract a lot of tourists.  The food, however, was delicious.  Don’t write this place off if you’re a Nutella lover.   They have a product people love and will be able to thrive off that for years to come.  Expect a wait, expect a crowded dining room, but expect some delicious sandwiches and great sweets.

Nutella Cafe  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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