Standing Room Only: Sprinkles
50 East Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-573-1600; sprinkles.com
The Short Order: Cupcakes!
Want Fries with That? Hopefully, you've gotten dinner out of the way.
Seats? There is small counter inside, and bench outside.
Chronicling Chicago's stand culture usually means that I find myself at some joint every week stuffing my face with hot dogs, Italian beefs, or both at the same time. But not this week. Oh no. This time I wore my stain-free clothes and set out for the Gold Coast. On East Walton St. you can find Sprinkles Cupcakes, the L.A.-based cupcake chain powerhouse, along with a crowd of very hungry people.
What on earth was I doing there? Well, if I'm honest about tracking the seatless eateries around town, I have to at least pay homage to this place, which only has one counter with a few high chairs. Plus, as I mentioned above, it's always, always packed. I'm not sure if I caught the after-dinner dessert crowd, the dessert-before-a-late-dinner crowd, or the I-only-eat-dessert-for-dinner crowd, but I waited in a line.
And, if I have to publicly admit this, I quite like Sprinkles. The cupcakes are just so soft and adorable. Instead of a mountain of straight sugar smeared on top, these have a totally reasonable amount of icing. Sure, the result feels a little guilty, but it won't rot your teeth directly on impact. I prefer my cupcakes this way.
Now, it's not like Oprah-level kind of obsession (the clip was playing on continuously on a TV right outside the door), but a begrudging kind of respect. I get this. I especially like the red velvet ($3.50) cupcake and its fantastic cream cheese frosting.
But I certainly wouldn't turn down the chocolate marshmallow ($3.50), which looked and kind of tasted like a Hostess cupcake, albeit one that was much less sweet with a darker and more satisfying chocolate profile.
Just like a certain L.A. location, the Sprinkles here even has a 24-hour ATM, so you can satisfy your cravings at any time of day without having to show your face to the perpetually perky young workers. This is mobile food.
Considering it already has most of the human race hooked, Sprinkles is even selling cupcakes for dogs ($2.50). I was instructed that these mini-cupcakes were made with honey instead of sugar, a fact that is apparently important to dogs.
And wouldn't you know, my dog absolutely freaked out at the sight of it, devouring the cupcake in a way that would Oprah herself proud. Of course, the treat also fueled a craziness in him I haven't seen since he was a puppy, as he refused to calm down for several hours. Still, seeing the look on his little face is kind of worth it.