by David Downs

Late last month Lydia and I headed to Ravenswood to meet up with a group of artists for the Ravenswood Art Walk (RAW). The Lillstreet Art Center was our meeting place to begin the event.

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On the first floor of Lillstreet, next to the shop, is First Slice Cafe. Being the “sweet-tooths” we are, a visit to the cafe was just as important as seeing the artwork. First Slice is a fully functioning cafe with your common assortment of espresso drinks – from lattes to mochas. They also offer lunch items, cookies, scones and other fare.

What they are best known for are their super delicious gourmet pies! Probably the best in the city, their assortment includes chocolate peanut butter, apple, pumpkin cheese cake, the decadent chocolate mousse and many, many others. They offer pies by the slice or you can purchase the whole thing, and they do catering too! But First Slice goes well beyond creamy puffy pastries.

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First Slice is more than a cafe – it is an organization that utilizes locally grown ingredients to prepare decadent dishes for the homeless and hungry of Chicago. An excerpt from their mission statement reads, “More than one in ten households in the US experience hunger or the risk of hunger. Many of the most affected are children. Studies show that an early childhood spent in hunger creates a higher risk of chronic illness and mental and behavioral problems—often leading to a self perpetuating cycle of need later in life.”

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Chef Mary Ellen Diaz is the driving force behind First Slice. Diaz trained at l’Ecole des Arts Culinaires. The dishes she creates are created for the most discerning of food connoisseurs, yet with the help of volunteers, and funding from Chicagoans through a donation subscription program, these dishes are made available to the homeless, struggling, and hunger stricken of the city. A meal might include Italian chopped salad, spinach and butternut squash lasagna, and peanut butter pie for desert. A family can subscribe to receive three of these hearty meals a week. One family subscription feeds up to 20 hungry people!

To learn more about First Slice’s mission, volunteer opportunities, subscriptions, or delicious offerings – visit them online at http://www.firstslice.org or pop into their cafe located inside the Lillstreet Arts Center. The pie will be more than worth the trip and you will feel great about who made it!

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