There's a lot to like about Inspiration Kitchens.
It's a place where young people can train for jobs in food service.
It's a gorgeous space, a build-out of an old warehouse with powerful wood beams and well-placed skylights, LEED gold certified (i.e., environmentally sound), and very comfortable.
It's got a menu that goes beyond standard lunch stuff – including a matzo ball gumbo and a quinoa burger – and it also has chess pie.
If you've never had chess pie, then chances are good you just might be a northerner.
Chess pie (or "jes," as in "just") pie, as our friendly server Val helpfully explained, is kind of like pecan pie without the pecans. The great James Beard recorded that this pie came to the U.S. from England, and it's about as unadorned as pie can be: just eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Add vinegar, and you've got a "Jefferson Davis" pie. Either way, it's all in just a plain crust.
"But it's all about the crust," Val told us, though I beg to differ: the filling of this pie was as unselfconsciously spectacular as the crust, very creamy, smooth and sweet.
Now, being a northerner, I don't eat chess pie often – I've enjoyed it only twice before this – but the chess pie I had at Inspiration Kitchens was fantastic as only something so simple as this can be. You pretty much must have it with coffee, as it's very sweet, though not cloyingly so, and the bitterness of the beverage balances the sweetness of the cake, making for an un-complex though entirely satisfying dessert.
Inspiration Kitchens is about 12 minutes from Oak Park on the Green line to Conservatory; it's worth the trip.
3504 W. Lake
Chicago, IL 60624