Everybody likes sandwiches, but after trips to Eastern Europe through the years, Tracy Miller found herself obsessed with a very particular style of stuff-on-bread.
That would be the small open-faced sandwiches popular in Austria and its neighboring countries that she couldn't stop thinking about. In particular, she and her Slovakia-born husband, Stanislav Grezdo, adored the ones at Duran European Sandwiches, a family-run chain of cafes in Vienna. "I thought, wow, this is really cool," Miller said. "Why doesn't anyone in America have them?"
After meeting with the family to work out an agreement to bring the concept to Chicago, she opened Duran European Sandwiches (529 N. Milwaukee Ave. 312-666-6007) this spring near the three-way intersection of Halsted Street and Grand and Milwaukee avenues.
The focal point of this light-filled space with a coffeehouse vibe is the sandwich case, filled with 28 different kinds of open-faced beauties, each a miniature work of art thanks to carefully arranged toppings and flourishes of herbs, egg and olives. They're $2.50 to $3.50 a pop and a trio makes a nice light meal, hence Duran's deal of three sandwiches and a La Colombe coffee for $10.
All sandwiches are served cold and start with European white bread baked at Old Town bakery La Fournette using special iron molds Miller brought back from Austria. Made with butter and milk, the bread is "soft but not mushy … and it's light, but has enough texture and a richness to it," Miller said. Sandwich toppings are a mix of Duran family recipes and Miller's own touches. Though she keeps many of the details—including secret spice blends—under wraps, we asked her to dissect the combos on a few of the most popular sammies.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Duran is open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Evening hours may be added in May along with patio seating next door.
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