Sweet of the Week: Pie, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Soda at Spinning J
Nostalgia is a powerful force. For a few precious moments, it smacks you back to a special memory in your life, be it an aroma, a piece of clothing, a keepsake, or a bite of cookie. The latter beget an effective bout of wistful nostalgia upon a recent visit to Humboldt Park's new Spinning J. Everything about this place, decked out like an old fashioned Americana soda fountain, sings of nostalgia. It wraps you in its warmth immediately upon entry, and it only goes up from there, with each bite of peanut butter cookie, each sip of housemade grape soda. Nowadays, it's rare to find a place in Chicago as boldly authentic and legit as Spinning J, where counter stools swivel in front of a shiny counter, milkshakes come with an adjoining tin cup, and antique-y lights lend the perfect backdrop for plates of pie and pastries and desserts galore. I usually limit my "sweet of the week" vote to a singular dessert, but in the case of Spinning J, it's impossible not to mention at least a few.
With a portfolio that encompasses housemade sodas, phosphates, milkshakes, pies, cookies, scones, and gelato, all in a dizzying array of flavors, it's impossible to restrict yourself to one thing at Spinning J. Thus, I went a little nuts during my first visit. I opted for key lime-hibiscus pie, peanut butter cookies, a spiced Cola milkshake, and a Jupiter grape-lavender soda. Each one starkly different and unique, brightly fresh and sweet. First, the pie was a bracing rendition of the citrusy classic, the vibrant hibiscus serving to temper the tang with its innate floral character. It also made for a strikingly beautiful slice of purple pie, topped with juicy berries and a hefty dollop of killer whipped cream. The fizzy grape soda tasted like a gourmet upgrade of classic grape soda, which just so happens to be my favorite soda from childhood. Rich with treacly flavors of sweet grape, the inclusion of lavender was another prime example of floral balance. Of the miscellany of milkshakes, I tried the Bay Rum version. Bay Rum being a spice similar to allspice, it leant a pleasant headiness to the creamy Cola creation. My absolute favorite thing at Spinning J though was the simplest item. The peanut butter cookie is, quite simply, the best cookie I've had since childhood. Specifically, no cookie has tasted this good since my Nana used to make them for me when I would sleep over her house. Creamy, soft, and flecked with crystalline sugar, these peanut butter cookies packed a powerful punch of sweet nostalgia, complete with the fork tine marks across the top of the cookie.
A visit to Spinning J is a transportive experience for the senses, like stepping back in time to your warmest and most delicious memories.
- Matt Kirouac