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The miracle berry makes the jelly doughnut.

We ordered the “carbonated fruit,” and when we saw the small bottle filled with grapes and sealed with an odd-looking yellow cap, we weren’t sure what to do.

"Just take the cap off and eat them," said the cashier. Oh! We thought as we bit into our first fizzy grape. Cool!

It was the kind of surprise we expected from Homaro Cantu (Moto), a founder of Chicago’s molecular gastronomy scene who just opened Berrista, a cheerful, red-accented coffee shop in Old Irving Park.

The spot serves coffee-snob standards like Intelligentsia and La Colombe, but the real draw is its “healthy junk food” made without sugar.

Cantu’s secret ingredient is the famed miracle berry--he’s so obsessed, he wrote a whole book about it. The little fruit, which hails from West Africa, temporarily tricks your taste buds into thinking a sour or bitter food actually tastes sweet. (Eat one before biting into a pickle and you’ll swear that pickle was a piece of candy.)

When we tried Berrista’s crispy chicken-and-waffle sandwich, for instance, it came with what we thought was honey dipping sauce. But it was really a lemon/water/miracle berry concoction.

We can’t see a total conversion to the miracle berry lifestyle--our taste buds are pretty addicted to evil old sugar, we’re afraid--but it’s fun to see how well Cantu pulls off his tasty, less-guilt scones, doughnuts and coffee cakes.

And it’s a great excuse to order dessert.

Berrista, 4219 W. Irving Park Rd.; 312-491-3366 or

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