The Dollop Cafe opens in the South Loop, offering coffee, craft cocktails and a late-night menu

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SOUTH LOOP – Dan Weiss has spent years taking risks. The owner of Dollop Coffee Co. signed on as the sole retail tenant in a South Loop apartment complex in 2018 before construction ended — and before the pandemic forced business owners to go into survival mode.

So it’s with some luck and a lot of grace that the Columbia College dropout finds himself here on a busy afternoon, three weeks after the Dollop Cafe, Bar & Kitchen soft-opened inside NEMA Chicago. , 1210 S. Indiana Ave.

Weiss’ tight-knit staff move from the kitchen to the cafe-bar where patrons perch on bar stools, sipping lattes and pecking at laptops. Apartment dwellers mingle with college students and harassed mothers with toddlers and strollers.

This is exactly the atmosphere that the native of Rogers Park was looking for.

“I got to know our customers and spent a lot of time talking to people, which was really fun,” Weiss said. “It reminds me why I love this job. I met some really interesting people that I don’t meet anywhere else in the city.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Dollop Cafe’s Chilaquiles, with made-to-order eggs, are a favorite of owner Dan Weiss.
Credit: Provided.
Dollop Cafe owner Dan Weiss wanted the NEMA location to match the vibe of the community, with an open and airy interior to make patrons feel at home.

Weiss bought out his original friends and owners of Dollop in Uptown in 2009 and expanded the business to 19 stores between South Loop and Evanston. It hasn’t all been easy, with a deadly pandemic, shutdown and a misunderstanding between him and former Dollop owners making headlines in 2016, but the hip-hop artist-turned-entrepreneur doesn’t regret his change of career. career.

He said he plays a little more carefully as he gets older, which he says is a good thing.

“When I was younger, I took more risks. It’s who I am. I dove into a lot of things, and at this point you can’t really do it. If you do, you take a risk. Every phase of growth that we find ourselves in is dangerous,” Weiss said. “The pandemic has changed me in that I’m a little bit faster at solving a problem and a little bit more data-driven than I never have been… now is the time to take seriously what is happening with our costs, labor, efficiency and all that. I’m definitely not on the same growth trajectory that I was.

Weiss was able to weather the storm with the help of caring landlords who understood how important it was to keep these community spaces running. Investing in his team also paid off; all of Weiss’ top-level personnel returned to work with him when the opportunity again presented itself.

The NEMA Chicago location is the third to offer a full-service kitchen and the first to offer a late-night menu featuring alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft cocktails.

Weiss enlisted Roger Landes of Smyth and the Loyalist, a seasoned Chicago mixologist who has created a bar program sure to convert even the most discerning patrons. Offerings include Muse of Fire ($15) where jalapeño-infused Espolon Blanco tequila is blended with hibiscus, honey, cinnamon, and lime; and Sigh No More ($15) a mix of Montelobos Mezcal, Fruitful Mission Fig Liqeur, Peychaud’s Bitters, watermelon and lime.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Dollop Cafe owner Dan Weiss brews a cup of coffee in his new South Loop outpost.

Non-alcoholic beverages like Blue Milk ($5.99), where cold brew meets vanilla mint, pea flower tea, and cold foam oat milk; and Orange Dreamsicle ($5.99), an aerated drink with cold brew, orange zest, oat milk and sugar, also round out Dollop’s “high comfort food” menu. Weiss swears by the chilaquiles ($10.99), which come with free-range eggs cooked to order and the chicken and waffle ($13.79), where breaded and buttermilk-brined boneless chicken sits atop a homemade butter waffle topped with fresh fruit and maple butter.

Burger lovers will appreciate the classic version of Dollop and the Unami ($9.99), the latter topped with caramelized onions, shiitake mushrooms, melted Swiss and American cheeses and kewpi mayo on a potato bun . Both come with a portion of house fries and can be replaced with impossible patties. The burgers complement a late-night vegetarian menu featuring seasonal salads ($9), Mac & Cheese ($6.99), and Wisconsin Cheese Curds ($8.99).

Weiss hopes to add patio seating for the summer and, in a bid to do its part to help the planet, make everything from take-out containers to coffee mugs fully compostable by the end of the year. To do this, Weiss works with WasteNot Compost, a residential and commercial composting company based on the North Side.

“The amount of waste a coffee creates — and coffee in general — it’s a product that’s not the best for the environment,” Weiss said. “My goal is to be the most compostable and eco-friendly coffee business in town, which may be a bit pricey at first, but will definitely pay off in the long run. We can’t stop making coffee, but we can do our part. That’s what communities do.

The Dollop Cafe, Bar & Kitchen is open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday; and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

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