How it began
Update on Cassava’s 2017 Transition:
After seven great years, our sit-down restaurant in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is now permanently closed. The Chicago Transit Authority is building the new Brown Line Bypass which will run through our lot, and so we have to move.
The great news is Cassava is taking this opportunity to move into a larger commercial kitchen! We’re expanding our catering, wholesale, local delivery and nation-wide shipping business. And who knows, once we are settled, we might open another cafe. In the meantime, you can always get your empanada fix by ordering online!
Back to our story…
In 2010, Jorge Flores, founder and head chef of Cassava, opened up a small cafe in Central Lakeview. The main item on the menu was pão de queijo (as it’s know in Brazil), or pan de yuca (as it’s know in Ecuador and Colombia). These little rolls, made with cassava-root flour and cheese, are a favorite in South America. Chewy, comforting, savory, and gluten-free, they quickly caught on with Chicagoans and became a staple snack for locals, especially those with Celiac Disease, wheat allergy, and gluten-intolerance.
Wait. Back up. What is cassava?
Cassava a tropical plant with a tuberous edible root. Cassava-root flour or starch is similar to potato starch, but better. It is also known as yucca, tapioca, or manioc. Many people in the US have never heard of it, but it is a major crop in South America, Africa, and South East Asia. After Jorge saw how much customers responded to the pão de queijo, he started to wonder what else he could do with the dough. Because gluten-free customers reported struggling to find fast, affordable, healthy dining options, Jorge wanted to create something substantial enough to be a meal, that could be eaten sitting down or on-the-go.
And the gluten-free empanada was born.
Cassava’s gluten-free empanadas are truly unique. Empanadas are common in South and Central America, but empanadas made with pão de queijo dough are native to Central Lakeview. With the initial concept developed, Jorge began developing the fillings, meticulously crafting flavor combinations and balanced nutritional profiles.
Grass-fed beef anyone? Nitrate-free Bacon? Roasted Veggies?
The special empanadas caught on fast and Cassava grew. Once a one-man operation, Cassava now has a small staff. Though all the cooking still happens in the kitchen at 3338 N. Clark, Cassava Chicago products are now available in Chicagoland grocery stores.
We’re always experimenting.
Part of the fun at Cassava is re-creating classic dishes with a cassava spin.
You’re a part of our story.
Customers are the heart and soul of Cassava. Our regular customers keep us going and we meet new regulars every single day. We do tons of corporate catering to downtown, we offer fast home delivery, we ship our goodies out of state, or you can come to the cafe and meet us in person.