There are a few differences between Chicago's Downtown Farmstand, in the Loop, and Cleetus Friedman's City Provisions Deli in Ravenswood. Both locations carry an abundance of local and regional artisanal products. Seedling Orchard cider, Rare Bird preserves and Nichols' Farm produce all play starring roles. But the best part of the Provisions experience is that you can actually grab something, sit down and eat it right there.
City Provisions has been doing catering and organizing farm dinners the past few years, but their new store is a local foodie fantasy. That little salad sampler you see above features a number of sustainable products, like the American Tuna brand (dressed simply with a bit of lemon juice and homemade mayo), and the small-yet-flavorful laughing bird shrimp, used in a salad more reminiscent of Friedman's Baltimore roots than his Chicago residence. The roasted root vegetables in the middle are all local, of course, but even the egg salad has an assertive twist: a bit of sriracha chili sauce. Next to a massive coffee bar (carrying Crop to Cup and Dark Matter beans), there is an extensive deli counter, where every pastrami, turkey, sausage and roast beef is made in-house. The only thing they don't do is cure their own meat (paging Jared Van Camp at Old Town Social...) The special yesterday was a seriously delicious duck confit on a crusty baguette, served with a vinegary pickle and homemade chips:
There are lots of big-name suppliers here, each with a focus on sustainability or, at the very least, all-natural products with zero additives (hello Frontera, Zingerman's and Eat Green Foods). But back to those sandwiches for a second. As good as the homemade pastrami (from Wisconsin's suddenly ubiquitous Dietzler Farms Beef) was, I would have loved to have seen it heated up a bit, to loosen up that fat, but that's a minor quibble:
Dessert options are few, but well-chosen: a white-chocolate-and-potato-chip cookie, a decadent slice of carrot cake and some milk chocolate muffins. Cleetus showed me a coffee cake and a bourbon chocolate cake he's been working on, but I thought the texture of both was a bit too dense and gummy. Next time, I'll hit the compact freezer case, and choose a creative ice cream from local stars such as Snookelfritz, Ruth & Phil's or Nice Cream. But knowing me, I'll probably just sit down at the big wooden table up front and start polishing it off before I even get to my car.