Address: 4 Locations in downtown Chicago (West Loop location opening this spring!)
Distance from La Colombe: ~760 miles
Hannah’s Bretzel call themselves the “Über Sandwich Makers,” and the reason why they are über is all the reasons you would hope it to be. For every sandwich, they start with freshly baked organic German pretzel baguette. They slice everything to order, they are commited to green business pratices as well as buying organic ingredients, and they still manage to get you out of the line in 6 minutes. These days, it seems you can only have the two of the three things: healthy, quick, tasty. It’s either quick and tasty but not healthy, or healthy and quick but not tasty. This is exactly what Hannah’s Bretzel has been able to balance.
Scott Perin tells us about how Hannah’s got started: “When we first started everyone was talking about the Atkins diet. ‘No carbs! No carbs!’ So there was minute competition for a company where the focus is on bread.” Hannah’s Bretzel bakes all of their bread right there, and they’re all organic. They have a classic Swabian sprinkled with salt, and now they also have a low-sodium sesame seed baguette as well as their whole grain. Sodium levels are next to calorie counts on the menu. We had the goat cheese and tomato breakfast sandwich on their crunchy salty bragel.
Scott has been working at Hannah’s Bretzel for three years now. He hasn’t been in this industry for long, but his dad has been in the grocery business for 55 years just outside of Chicago, and one of his brothers is a chef at a restaurant in Evanston. He was introduced to Hannah’s Bretzel when he used them for catering while he worked for MTV. “I was not happy, I was really burned out, and I have always wanted to work with food.” It turned out that Hannah’s had the perfect position for him.
Scott gives us a tour of the store starting with the chocolate: “We have a full chocolate fridge where we keep the back-ups. It is rare to see this empty. People ask us why we have this as a part of our store. And to be honest, it’s because seeing this large of a selection of chocolate is just smile inducing. It’s a simple pleasure.”
“Clearly, the focus is sandwiches, but we do have the largest variety of chocolate in Chicago. This wall is not as long as some of the other stores.” They take a lot of advise from customers, ones who go abroad or to other places and had a fantastic chocolate. They also add the short story that comes with the chocolate like they did with our coffee-chocolate bar, which you see below. We have Hannah’s Bretzel products at our cafe, too. The banana bread at our Chicago cafe is made right here.
They are also the first fast casual in Chicago to offer La Colombe. “It all goes back to the idea of going above and beyond.” As we grind the coffee to order at the cafes, Hannah’s Bretzel slices their bread to order. They also make all the chutney in-house as well as house roasting all vegetables. Soups are also house-made.
A lot is expected from the employee with such a wide menu and so many stories. One sandwich with a good story is Sergio’s Special. It turns out that Sergio was making this in back for everyone else to eat. The founder Florian noticed it. He tried it and thought that it had to be on the menu. It’s made with French Madrange ham and Swiss Gruyère cheese with avocado, sliced jalapeños and mango chutney on an organic bretzel baguette.
Even the soda that they have in the store have only a few real ingredients – no refined sugars or high fructose corn syrup. They also offer our cold-pressed bottled coffee, which only has coffee and water. We really like their philosophy “simply put, if we can’t spell it, it’s not in our foods.”
Hannah’s Bretzel is a great spot for a quick, healthy and tasty breakfast or lunch while listening to decent jazz and finishing off a piece of chocolate.