As fall gets underway, I think we can all agree that we’ve shmer-haps reached pumpkin spice critical mass. Just like the past five years, September hit and the stuff was everywhere, lattes to craft beer to an orange-ish lotion I saw at the drugstore that I didn’t dare smell.
Though I’ve got nothing against a little pumpkin spice action, I’ll admit there’s some fatigue happening. I got to wondering: which equally spectacular culinary signs of the season are being woefully overshadowed? Here are my top North Shore picks for decking out your tastebuds, your child’s belly and your mindset with all things fall.
Step inside this charming French-inspired cafe and a ghostly greeter awaits you, it’s creepy hand offering a bounty of boo-tiful fall treats.
Pumpkin spice replacement contenders: Pear-almond tart, hazelnut cake, caramel pecan tart and autumn-inspired pralines.
Winner: Those pralines, though. Choose from coffee cream, puffed rice or (my fave) caramelized hazelnuts inside, each generously covered in dark, milk or white chocolate.
1348 Shermer Rd., Northbrook
Dine outdoors on the lovely patio all aglow thanks to cozy string lights.
Pumpkin spice replacement contenders: Traditional apple strudel, Bonfire brown ale and the traditional bratwurst plate.
Winner: Traditional apple strudel. Can you blame me? Fresh apples wrapped in a flaky pastry, served warmed with whipped cream (or ice cream). Boo-yah.
1241 Harms Rd., Glenview
1514 E. Lake Ave., Glenview
As a transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area where it originated, I have to admit, I miss me some Peet’s. Good, strong coffee and a cozy coffeehouse feel.
Pumpkin spice replacement contenders: Maple latte, Havana cappuccino and dark chocolate pumpkin mocha.
Winner: Havana cappuccino. Though I’m typically not a cappuccino connoisseur, this one comes topped with a happy sprinkling of fall’s OG pumpkin spice: cinnamon.
817 Elm St., Winnetka
It’s no secret that Mariano’s is the mecca for all things seasonal, gelato and flowers to pastries and produce.
Pumpkin spice replacement contenders: Milk chocolate almond butter toffee, dark pecan caramel clusters, and those enormo caramel apples covered in miniature M&Ms, chopped nuts, you name it.
Winner: Milk chocolate almond butter toffee. Even just the words are drool-worthy, let alone those beautiful slabs of crunchy, crackly burnt sugar.
784 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook