Nancy Silverman and Liz Wiseman Fleming are the co-owners of Ants Pants Cafe, the coffee shop/bruncherie with locations on both ends of South Street.
Friends from the age of five, the two women launched the 22nd and South streets location in October 2004 near where Wiseman Fleming resides. Years later, Silverman, who lives on the east side of town, wanted a shorter commute and they were ready to expand — so the café on Fourth Street between Lombard and South streets was born.
But how did it begin?
Wiseman Fleming married an Australian gentleman, and took an extended trip Down Under. While there, she ran a coffee shop and, when she returned, was inspired to replicate an Australian-style cafe. The name is an Aussie term for “the greatest,” sort of like “the cat’s pajamas” or “the bee’s knees.”
The coffee menu reflects Australian roots with drinks like the flat white, a latte-style coffee, the long black and the Australian iced coffee, which contains ice cream.
Meantime, Silverman had just earned a master’s degree in textile design and was job hunting. But the café business called her name, the childhood friends teamed up and the rest is history.
She explained: “I didn’t even know I could cook until I started Ants Pants. Everything we make is simple and straightforward. Women are naturally good at multi-tasking, so this came to me pretty naturally.”
When asked about her heritage and its connection to her profession, Silverman said, “I can’t really separate being Jewish from being in the food and hospitality business. It’s just a part of me. I grew up this way. When we cater, Liz and I always bring too much food. It’s in our DNA; you can never run out of food.”
The menu offers a great selection of breakfast items — omelets, eggs, pancakes and breakfast hash and contains vegetarian and vegan options. Ants Pants Cafe also provides a lunch menu featuring salads and sandwiches and a drink menu of smoothies, juices and an array of coffee selections.
Silverman shared her recipe for one of the lunch favorites:
Open-Face Toasted Brie and Apple Sandwich with Ginger-Horseradish Aioli
Makes one sandwich
- 1 piece of baguette, approximately 6 inches long, sliced open
- ½ Granny Smith apple, sliced thinly
- 4 slices brie
- Generous drizzle of ginger-horseradish aioli (recipe follows)
Place the apple slices on a baguette and top them with brie.
Drizzle with aioli.
Place in a toaster oven until the cheese is melted, the bread is crisp and the sandwich is warmed through. Enjoy immediately.
This is wonderful on just about anything. Use it in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches, as a salad dressing or slathered on fish or meat as a marinade or finishing sauce.
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon white horseradish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients. Store the aioli in an airtight container in fridge for about 10 days.
If you go:
2212 South St.
526 S. Fourth St.
Both cafes are open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.