I first heard about La Farine over on the LoganSquarist Community Forum. “It finally rained in the coffee shop desert that is on Milwaukee between Diversey and Central Park,” said member BigTornado. “La Farine has finally opened and it does not disappoint.”
Of course after reading this I had to make my way over. Technically speaking, La Farine (2909 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is on the west side of Diversey and thus in Avondale, but it’s a mere four blocks away and definitely worth the trek.
The bakery itself is nothing new — in fact, they’ve been operating in the city since 2009. Before moving to Avondale, La Farine made its home in Noble Square on Chicago Avenue, where it had a minuscule kitchen and an even tinier cafe. They’ve certainly upgraded with the new 6,000-square-foot space (not to mention an additional 6,000 square feet in the basement).
“We had outgrown our space,” said Irma, the café manager, when I questioned her about the move. “It was just way too small for the types of production we were trying to do.” With clients ranging from Four Seasons to the Hotel Intercontinental and The Gage, it’s hard to believe that Irma and her team could churn such a large amount of wholesale product out of that tiny space on Chicago. “It was becoming a crutch,” she said. “We could barely fit four bakers in the space.”
When Rida Sharin, the store’s owner, decided it was time for a new space, he knew Avondale was the place to go. “He figured Avondale was far enough away from trendy Logan Square, but still close enough to be a great destination in a great neighborhood,” Irma said.
La Farine’s owner is French by way of Morocco, and you’ll see many traditional French as well as more exotic techniques in his breads and pastries. Irma highly recommended the ciabatta bread with sea salt and olive oil. “It’s the simplest thing, but we do it really well,” she said.
If you stop by, there’s no telling what you’ll find in the pastry case. On my visit, I came across a variety of macaroons, bagels, ham and fruit croissants and, of course, French baguettes.
Venturing beyond the pastry realm, La Farine offers a number of freshly-prepared sandwiches. On Irma’s recommendation I tried the tarragon chicken salad sandwich—a homemade chicken salad made with fresh tarragon, sliced apples and red grapes on a demi-baguette. The cool fresh fruit and light dressing matched incredibly with the crunchy (and flavorful, thanks to sesame, poppy and caraway seeds) baguette. Other sandwich options include a spicy tuna salad, roasted eggplant, pepperonata Panini, grilled cheese and beef with basil.
If you stop by earlier in the day, there are also a number of breakfast sandwiches. For coffee, they serve beans from Bridgeport Coffee.
While La Farine currently occupies only the first floor and basement, Irma mentioned that there is talk of turning the second floor into a wine bar in the distant future. I can’t say I’m opposed to baguettes and red wine in the neighborhood.