Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cafe 63 Cooks Up Success on 63rd St.

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor

A chef known for his dips and spreads sold at farmers
markets is cooking up success at a restaurant in the Clearing neighborhood.

Chef Dale Andrews and his wife, Donna, launched Café 63 earlier this year at 6411 W. 63rd St., in a space that was home to Ginger & Jerry’s Rock & Roll Diner for several years—and Café Renee for many years before that.

A self-described “corporate dropout” and self-employed catering chef who among other things, has been credited with greatly improving the menu at the legendary Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Andrews said he “had been looking for a place for a few years” and the cozy space was a good fit.

“I grew up in this neighborhood [in nearby Central Stickney],” he said, adding that Donna grew up in Burbank. Both first met as students at Reavis High School.

Before opening his new restaurant, Andrews was “basically retired,” he said, although his culinary skills services were available through his website (mychefdale.com), and his Chef Dale’s Sensational Spreads were building quite a following at farmers markets.

Those spreads and dips are available now at Café 63—including such flavors as spinach and artichoke, buffalo chicken, taco, dill, carmelized onion and more.

Dale and Donna gave the interior a different look. Gone are
the colorful, kitschy decorations linked to pop music. In their place is an interior featuring plenty of wood and earth tones.

“We wanted a really clean look, so we went with wood, which brings out natural beauty,” Dale said. “We handpicked all the oak, and it’s gorgeous—the walls, the countertops, the tabletops.”

“There’s a warm and inviting feel here,” Donna added.

The star of the show, however, is the food, all prepared from scratch, Dale said.

Café 63 boasts all the steak-and-egg basics in ample portions that Southwest Siders expect from a breakfast/brunch diner that goes through about a hundred dozen eggs a week.

“Our plates are huge,” Dale said. “Let’s just get a platter and fill it, that’s my way of thinking. People are going to know if they’ve had enough. That’s why, for example, when we serve French toast, you’ll see six pieces on the plate.”

But Café 63’s menu also shows flairs of the Andrews’ creativity and even whimsy, such as “gator and eggs” featuring gator meat flown in from bayou country.

“Our red-velvet french toast is nirvana—red velvet cake with cream cheese,” Dale said. “It’s really, really popular.”

Café 63 is “basically ‘comfort food meets upper end’—if you
feel like Spam and eggs, you can have Spam and eggs,”
Dale continued. “You want a fried baloney sandwich? You can have it. You want a New York strip steak with cheesy potatoes? It’s yours. Our South Side Irish skillet is popular—fresh-shaved corned beef, potatoes and eggs, with Dubliner cheese and shredded cabbage. Especially on Saturdays, we’re a big Notre Dame place.”

Just as its predecessors did, Café 63 offers a soup lineup that tastes like mom made it. “Loaded baked potato soup, chicken noodle, French onion. We make it all from scratch, as we do everything,” Dale said. “And the neighborhood demands that we have cream of chicken soup, so every Sunday, that’s what we have.”

Café 63 also serves a spicy chicken soup with Bohemian dumplings, in a culinary nod to Donna’s grandmother.
The new eatery and its fare appear to be a hit.

“Our goal was to create a friendly neighborhood place, and I think we’ve succeeded,” Dale said, with Donna nodding in agreement and adding that Café 63 is “the first restaurant I’ve ever seen where customers come in and introduce themselves. It’s like a family, with people talking to people at other tables.”

Dale tells the story of a customer “who started talking with another man in a different booth. It turns out they went to grade school together 60 years ago, and by chance they re-connected here. That’s the kind of atmosphere there is here, relaxed and friendly. We’ve even taken messages from customers and relayed them to others. It’s kind of like Mayberry, really.”

Open seven days from 8 a.m. to the early afternoon, Café 63 also offers catering services and welcomes groups to its restaurant.

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