Miko's Flipside Café | Chicago, IL

A subterranean retreat for the winter season

Until recently, brightly colored sugary ice was the main event at Miko's Italian Ice.

Oh, how it has changed.

Visit Miko's Flipside, the space's new winter occupant, for all things warming: nutmeg-scented mac and cheese, vegetable-packed soups, hot cocoa, and local cider mulled with orange, cinnamon and clove.

Will Von Hartz mans the miniscule space, transformed from its summer look with wood-topped counters, seven stools and a row of glass cookie jars holding house-baked sweets. Hartz began baking as a hobby, eventually providing desserts to Rootstock wine bar in Humboldt Park.

He sold hot drinks and cookies from Miko's last winter, too, but this year he's turned it into a refuge, with seating and a menu that inspires lingering.

Bowls of hearty soups ($6), like an Autumn Harvest stew packed with farmers' market root vegetables, come with buttery garlic-rosemary white bread. Like all of the items here, the bread is made in-house, and it stars in grilled vegetable and grilled cheese sandwiches ($6), too.

For dessert: Valrhona chocolate and brown sugar cookies ($1.50) are superbly dense and chewy. Crumbly savory cookies (50 cents), made with toasted yellow curry and spices, or cheddar and smoked Gouda, are designed for dunking in cider or soup.

A grab-and-go breakfast sandwich with a house-made bun, poached eggs and Paulina Meat Market ham is next on Hartz's to-do list.

Miko's Flipside Café, 1845 N. Damen Ave.; 773-645-9664 or mikosflipside.com