Inside Levain Bakery, now open in Chicago

Temperatures were as low as 16 degrees on Saturday, but that didn’t stop customers outside Levain Bakery in the West Loop from lining up at 5 a.m. before sunrise and three hours before the store first opened.

Levain’s is a New York operation known for its thick chocolate chip cookies. Developed by triathlon runners as a carb-laden post-event treat, the jumbo cookies began appearing in stores in Boston, DC, and even more so in New York. The Chicago location, along Randolph Restaurant Row, is the first outside of the Eastern Time Zone. The original opened in 1995 on New York’s Upper East Side.

A display case with cookies.

Levain will feature five different cookies.

The Saturday morning line curved from Randolph Street to Green Street and stopped at Lake Street. A bakery spokesperson says the owners say the Chicago opening is their most successful debut. Levain is already scouting spaces for a second location in Chicago.

For Chicagoans, it also marks how the area is changing. Levain replaces Maude’s Liquor Bar, a two-story restaurant from the owners of Au Cheval. The restaurant closed in 2020; Management emphasized that “it was time” and that the blind had nothing to do with the pandemic. Instead of a full-service restaurant along Restaurant Row, a bakery with no seating was opened. Another upcoming change is the closure of Little Goat, which will take place in January when Stephanie Izard and Boka Restaurant bring the restaurant to Lakeview. Retail is rumored to occupy the space.

A hand that shapes the dough.

The Midwest location will also serve as a shipping hub to Levain, which can ship fresher cookies to the West Coast.

Two bakers lifting a sheet of raw cookies with a friend looking on.

The cookies have a cult following.

A person kneeling down to put a cookie sheet into an oven.

Maude’s Liquor Bar is now a bakery.

Levain’s Chicago menu includes five varieties of cookies: Chocolate Chip Pecans, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, and Double Chocolate Chip. The caffeine is from Backlot Coffee, and there’s a full line of cakes and flatbreads.

Go into the bakery below.

Levain Bakery, 840 W. Randolph Streetm, open from 8 am to 10 pm daily. Third party delivery via DoorDash, Caviar and Uber Eats coming soon.

A showcase of a bakery with windows.

Randolph Street is changing.

Two shelves.

There is also Cafe Backlot.

A map of Chicago.

This art pleases the locals.

The counter of a bakery.

There are no seats inside.

Beyond cookies, there are also cakes and biscuits.

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