Shokolad Pastry & Cafe: An Interview with Owner Anya Fedus

Katia Pavlyuk

Anya Fedus, owner of Shokolad Pastry & Cafe

Shokolad Pastry & Café is becoming increasingly popular amongst the local residents of Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park and Wicker Park. What started out mainly as a pastry shop is now known for its ethnic Ukrainian dishes, freshly baked goods, modern design and pleasant atmosphere.  All these elements add to the dining experience and make it even more enjoyable. The dimly lit lanterns, long wooden counter and two-person tables are accented by yellow sunflowers. These elements  enhance its relaxed, yet elegant, décor. I spoke with the owner, Anya Fedus, as she revealed the details on the development of this unique Ukrainian café.

So Anya, tell me about the history of Shokolad Pastry & Café.

The idea was a combination of the never ending praises of my mom’s talents and an offer to buy an existing small business. The previous owner of Old Lviv approached my mom asking whether she would be interested in buying her restaurant. We gave it some thought and decided that it might be a good idea considering that both of my parents have no retirement plans and this might be a way to set one up. So with the encouragement of all of our friends we sat down and planned how we would like to set up and run our business. After a few months of calculations and negotiations we decided that buying an existing small business would not suit us. We easily found a new development space that was within our price range and gave us the advantage to build it as we saw fit since the building site was just in its foundation stages. After a year of stress and some very hard work we were ready to open.  Our initial menu was half the size it is today and the main focus were pastries, hence the name. However, after we got to know our customer base, we added more ethnic Ukrainian dishes and heartier food options. Today we are a full service restaurant, caterer, private event rental space, & a pastry shop.

Who came up with the name for the cafe? How is the name significant to you or to the other owners and to the food that Shokolad caters?

I came up with the name and I have to admit it took some good convincing to have my parents agree that it was a good fit. I chose the name Shokolad because I wanted to use a word for something sweet that has no language barriers. I think our name implies to our Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian customers that our business is ethnic and that it offers desserts and pastries. My mom has many years of training and experience as a pastry chef so it was important that this focus on pastries is not completely lost by the strong demand to sell other foods.

Cheerful sunflowers decorating the interior

When deciding how to design Shokolad, what did you have in mind?

The interior design was planned to make the space look modern, welcoming, and comfortable. However, designing with a tight budget makes it hard to achieve your ideal result so a lot of it was planned and re-planned many times. As the word spread that we were building up a café, we were approached by several people offering their services and advice for the most efficient way of getting the look we wanted. In the end, we ended up with something totally different from our original plan…but it turned out to work very well.

Since Shokolad is known to serve Ukrainian food and is carrying a Ukrainian name, what is a special dish or desert that really highlights your café’s ethnic uniqueness?

It’s definitely our Varenyky [Ukrainian-style stuffed dumplings]. We serve a wide variety of traditional ones and some invented at our café. We [take] pride in their taste, quality, and uniqueness.

Do you think that the café is significant to the area?

I think that we are one of a kind in our area and that has really worked in our favor. Our menu covers the basics of any popular neighborhood brunch place and offers a wide array of other very unique dishes that are not offered in the surrounding area. Our customers drive in from the suburbs and even stop by during their out of state visits to enjoy a meal with their friends or family at our café. This inflow of customers from outside areas benefits the surrounding businesses in our neighborhood which makes us a small contributor to their well being.

Ukrainian-style crepes: blending French and Ukrainian delights

I think that it has a lot to do with our menu selections…we’ve created a menu that caters to every taste. It offers some very popular American options along with some very ethnic ones. Also we have been very fortunate to get great exposure through the RedEye, Channel 7, and Time Out Chicago recommendations and reviews, which have a very diverse audience and are able to attract customers from all over the Chicago area.

Does the café have any features that make Shokolad special to Chicago culture?

I think Chicago culture is about being diverse and that is the one thing we definitely have. Both our menu and customers are very diverse and that makes us fit right in this great city.

As I recall, for the Halloween celebration held at Shokolad in 2008, you made an effort to invite both Ukrainian friends and Americans to celebrate. From my perspective, it was a great event in which Shokolad Café was the place to gather people from different backgrounds to celebrate this American holiday. So my last question is, if in the future Shokolad has the potential of becoming more then a café but rather a center of neighborhood activity that would invite people to celebrate holidays of different kinds.

I think that’s something that would be great for us and the neighborhood however we are still limited by our space and licensing. We hope to expand in the future and be able to host more special holiday events.

Shokolad Pastry & Café
2524 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This glowing review is tempting me to drop everything and run to Shokolad for some varenyky! I think I will.

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