Anthony Todd | Chicago Magazine | January 11, 2019
River North dining can get, well, a little repetitive. As Robbie Schloss, owner of the forthcoming JoJo’s Milk Bar (23 W. Hubbard St.): “You get a lot of the same stale concepts that are copies of each other, plus transplants from Miami and Vegas. We don’t want to fit in. We want to be different.”
JoJo’s, at the very least, won’t look like anyplace else in the neighborhood. Its diner-inspired interior will offer a huge selection of over-the-top shakes and a comfort food-filled menu that’s straight out of the 1950s.
Here’s a bit of background for the uninitiated: A milk bar is basically an old-fashioned soda fountain with a British name. It also refers to a spot where, back in the ’20s and ’30s, you could get ice cream drinks and basic dishes like sandwiches, instead of being tempted by the sin of booze at the pub.
But it’s 2019, the Temperance movement is largely dead, and JoJo’s will have plenty of cocktails. Still, the idea of a simple menu dominated by indulgent desserts remains.
That’s one of the reasons why top pastry chef Christine McCabe — who has experience at places from Glazed & Infused to Charlie Trotter’s — is the perfect person to run the kitchen.
“My vision is to bring an old school diner into modern time and create everything from scratch, with a lot of integrity,” says McCabe. “What comes to my mind is a soda shop, where you’ve got big, over-the-top shakes, whipped cream, lots of garnishes, and down-home cooking.”
Exactly half the menu will consist of desserts, including a large selection of pastries, frozen milk bars made with infused milks (think flavors like lavender blueberry and snickerdoodle), homemade Pop-Tarts, plenty of cookies, and a selection of hot chocolates.