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Standing Room Only: Sprinkles

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[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Sprinkles Cupcakes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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