Same Day Cafe (2651 N. Kedzie Ave.), once credited as having the best café sign in Chicago, has switched up its signage. A new, but still retro-looking sign has replaced the scratched-off lettering from the laundry service that originally gave the restaurant its name.
The change came after the café evolved amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Same Day Cafe switched to all takeaway starting in March 2020, though the restaurant’s takaway-service window wasn’t installed until midsummer that year. “We serviced takeaway orders at the door before we installed the window and through our online ordering service on the website,” said owner William von Hartz. Luckily, the business survived during the height of the pandemic thanks to front-of-house manager Alex Ryan, who spoke to LoganSquarist last August.
The dramatic change in the nature of the business during the pandemic, which basically inspired the takeout window, further influenced the direction of Same Day Cafe’s operations and inspired its decision to refresh the sign. “We loved the previous sign because it was cool and hip, but it was kind of too undercover,” said von Hartz. “But we still wanted a retro look and feel.” The sign changed at the end of March of this year, designed by Ryan Duggan (@mr_ryanduggan on Instagram) and painted by Stephen Monkemeier (@monksigns on Instagram).
The original Same Day Cafe look, with the ghost-lettered sign and the “Same Day” notice in the window, came about as von Hartz decided to just go with things in his new retail space. He had started working in the restaurant industry by sharing a space with another business. But when he opened up shop in the space of an old laundry service, Alex Cleaners, inspiration struck.
In 2008, at the height of the last recession, von Hartz lost his job as an IT director of 14 years at a design firm as a result of companywide layoffs. On that same day, he decided he would never work in an office again. A year and a half later, von Hartz started his café journey by taking ownership of a spot cleverly named Flipside Cafe. Like the flip side of a vinyl record, Flipside was quite literally operating on the flip side of the summer season for Miko’s Italian Ice (2236 N. Sacramento Ave.), or October to April. Inside that 110-square-foot space, von Hartz trained up on running a kitchen and dreamed up the menu that would later be served at Same Day Cafe.
“It was great because I didn’t have to invest in building out a restaurant,” von Hartz said.
Upon recalling the naming of Same Day, von Hartz said, “When I moved locations to Kedzie, I was not looking for a dry cleaner retail space, but it turned out to be a great location and I knew about the future plans for Kedzie to turn into a pedestrian plaza. Initially, I planned on calling it Flipside. But when we were figuring out what to put on the sign, I saw that we could use some of the same letterings from the previous dry cleaning business to spell café.
“While I was peeling off the letters, the window still read, ‘Same Day Service,’ and I couldn’t scrape them off,” he added. “I laughed to myself as I thought, ‘What is a restaurant if it’s not same-day service?’ We thought it was funny to promise same-day service as a café, and people loved it so much the name stuck, so we kept it for the novelty.”
Fast forward, and Same Day Cafe celebrated its 6 year anniversary recently (having initially opened on May 5, 2015). To mark the occasion, Same Day’s beverage director, Joey Bednarski, is making two special milkshakes that will be available for a few weeks: “Bad Boyfriend” (chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper) and “Pineapple Basil,” both of which can be made vegan, subbing coconut milk for the dairy.
Other changes have come to the café recently, too. The move to promote the takeaway window came soon after von Hartz’s completion of a free business class he took in 2019 called 10,000 Small Businesses, which is run by Goldman Sachs and runs for 15 weeks. The course helps businesses expand and grow. The walk-up takeaway window has given Same Day a way to do just that. “Prior to the pandemic, we also did not have a pastry program, and now we have a pastry chef, Jane Katte, who has curated danishes, coffee cakes and turnovers for the café,” said von Hartz.
And soon, as vaccines get into more and more arms and the neighborhood and the city open back up, Same Day will welcome customers inside again.
“We are looking forward to opening the door, which has been locked for over a year, and will take reservations for inside dining – 50% capacity,” said von Hartz. “We have the time to do it right and make sure everyone is vaccinated and do it safely by the first weekend of June,” he added. “We are really excited for people to be back in, and we miss our regulars! We are really excited about it and [look forward to] having that experience we all missed. Once we are available to reopen, we will still be available for BYOB service, and we are going to let the takeaway business continue to grow.”
Featured photo: Same Day Cafe featuring the new sign. Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography (@jaymiey on Instagram)