After 28 years of working at a half dozen Chicago-land grocery store chains, M.J. reported that he was ready to finally work for himself. His sister, Chiquita, a long time employee of a well-established bagel chain, decided that she too was ready for a change.
The siblings added a cousin, Sherman, who most recently worked at a nationwide Seattle-based coffee chain, into the mix, and M.J.’s Cafe at 1420 N. Western was quietly born about three weeks ago, according to the cafe’s landlord, a pipeline reader who tipped us off to the opening.
Though M.J. lives in suburban Hillside, doing business in this neighborhood represents a return to his roots. M.J. and Chiquita grew up on Pierce Street in Wicker Park. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, both siblings attended Pritzker School, which was then called Wicker Park Elementary School. M.J. is a 1984 graduate of Roberto E. Clemente High School, located just up the street from the cafe, on a stretch of Western uniquely positioned between North and Division and which hasn’t seen a cafe since the short-lived Abe Frohman’s a few years back.
Beginning next week, the cafe will be serving Intelligentsia coffee. Thus far, the most popular item on the menu, per M.J., is a Pepper Turkey Club Sandwich (oven roasted turkey, bacon, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and pepper jack cheese), priced at $5.50. There’s nine other sandwiches on the menu, too, including corned beef. A veggie sandwich comprised of hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, and sprouts is just $4.50 (about $3 less than a similar sandwich The Pipeline has ordered at a cafe four blocks north, also on Western). No word on how it tastes in comparison as it was around 9AM when we popped by and the only thing on our mind was coffee, speaking of which, we didn’t get M.J.’s full name and likely would have asked about it if we were fully alert!
M.J.’s Cafe, 1420 N. Western, is open Mon-Fri. 7 AM- 6PM and 8 AM – 4 PM on Sunday. Ph: 773-697-3414. Free Wi-Fi. Website forthcoming.