WEST TOWN — A family-operated cafe offering French Creole baked goods, cuisine and coffee drinks has opened in West Town.
Junebug Café opened Tuesday at 851 N. Ashland Ave. The West Town shop is an expansion of a Portage Park cafe by the same name, launched in 2018 by husband-and-wife team Chris Murphy and Jacqueline Mancias.
The cafe draws inspiration from Mancias’ French-Creole heritage. Her maternal grandmother, June Couty, a Louisiana native, is the restaurant’s namesake.
“I want to bring the community together, and I want people to feel like they’re at home … by giving them a taste of home,” she said. “I want to make people happy with our food and drinks.”
Junebug’s menu is “simple,” with an array of pastries and rotating food items. The cafe serves a full espresso bar with Dark Matter Coffee along with New Orleans-signature chicory drinks. For example, the cafe au lait has steamed milk, chicory and vanilla.
Murphy and Mancias cook the food from scratch. Mancias’ sister, Kate Soliz, bakes all of the pastries, including fresh beignets and gluten-free brownies.
“We’re making the dough, we’re cutting out the dough,” Mancias said. “Chris is making the roux in the kitchen, that’s the base of the gumbo. He’s the roux master.”
Most members of the family knew her grandmother June as “Granny,” and she was truly everyone’s grandma, she said.
June moved to Chicago and raised Mancias’ mother in Portage Park. Coincidentally, Mancias’ father grew up in the apartment above the West Town cafe.
Murphy grew up in Oak Park, where his family runs Poor Phil’s Bar and Grill.
Mancias and Murphy met while bartending at Untitled Supper Club in River North. They lived at the corner of Division and Wolcott streets in Wicker Park for five years before moving to Portage Park, where they’ve raised two children.
Returning to the area where the couple lived together for so long — and where her father grew up — felt right, Mancias said.
Once it’s safe to do so, she looks forward to hiring a New Orleans-style band to play for neighbors.
“It relates back to our heritage,” she said. “We always go back to our roots.”
“We’re really happy to be here, and back in our old neighborhood,” Murphy said.
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