This is one of those posts that I didn’t really want to write. First, because I’m hungover. And second, because it’s addressing the obvious: the site isn’t really functioning (if you didn’t notice the last post was about Pitchfork over six months ago). I don’t want to say the site is dead, but it’s stagnant, maybe? Probably dead, but hey, I might post something from time-to-time when I feel like it. Anyway, this is mostly on account of that I’ve been blogging full-time over at The Feast, covering the entire dining scene (which you should totally check out) and frankly, the last thing I want to do in my free-time is more blogging. That said, according to Google analytics, you guys STILL keep coming to this stagnant site and following me on Twitter (thanks!). So, I felt that it was necessary to have a nice open-ended post of “Memorable Brunches.”
DIATRIBE STARTS HERE: Instead of doing a Top 5 or Best Of (which I think don’t do anyone justice), I’m just noting brunches that stick out to me as truly memorable. Places I remember for something really tasty and recommend—so I’m omitting places that are great, but I rarely recommend on account of it has a wait and/or screaming children.
Some time ago, Bon Appetit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton wrote a post on why he hates brunch. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him and made sure to start off by asking him “What the fuck?” He told me he hates waiting in line to order an omelet or something simple he could make at home. Which, I find rings true. Lula has an incredibly fine brunch, but it took me two tries at the asscrack of dawn to secure a seat at the bar. Yolk and Meli, also have insane waits.
Not to knock the restaurants, as it’s awesome they have such a strong following and they probably deserve it. I simply can’t wait an hour and a half while my stomach is raging with the acidity of last night’s mistakes. I’m sorry, I just don’t have my shit together enough to commit to that on the reg. Not to mention, there are so many brunch places I haven’t tried out yet but are probably really awesome. Seriously, do you know how many fucking restaurants in Chicago? There’s a lot! And brunch is only two days a week! Instead, I’d like to offer a list of brunches I have found truly memorable over the years. THANKS FOR READING.
Since this is a memories post and I didn’t have enough time to make a slideshow montage, just click play on the YouTube video of Seinfeld set to Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” to play in the background while you read.
Really memorable brunches I’ve had in Chicago
- The Publican: There are so many things I love about brunch at Publican: the floor-to-ceiling windows that make the airy space so bright and lovely; the coffee, which is always well made; the service, which is consistently delightful; the fact they take reservations (HUGE); and the food. The food here is so insanely good. Every dish I’ve tried has always been wonderful.
- Jane’s: I’ve tried a few different things here, but I always go back to the peach, strawberry, and blueberry crepes. I’m not even into ordering sweet brunch items so much, but these are so worth it. Added bonuses: the restaurant dimly lit which is great for hangovers, and they bring you a loaf of bread and honey butter. Remember when you’d get a bread basket before your meal at restaurants? I wish they’d bring that back.
- Ina’s: The pulled pork hash with poached egg is the shit. So are the Heavenly Hots. And the baked French toast with poached apples. Actually, most things here are good. So are the Bloody Marys and fresh squeezed juices. Unless you have a car, getting here can be somewhat of a pain in the ass. On the upside, that means waits are tolerable and free parking!
- Birchwood Kitchen: I’m in here so much I almost forgot this place. This is absolutely one of my favorite brunch places in Chicago. Birchwood needs to win a distinguished service award because they have the kindest staff I have encountered in all of my dining—and they don’t even accept tips. The food here is outstanding—I’m partial to the Croque Madame, their breakfast sandwich, and the salmon salad. If you come in for lunch any other day, the vegetable sandwich is off the hook and their weeknight burgers are rad too.
- Tre Kronor: Okay, this is admittedly really. far. away. Really. As in, it’s teetering on the edge of city limits. But that’s also what’s so nice about it. It’s small, it’s cute. There are idyllic murals of some fairy tale Swedish wonderland or some shit. Overall, it’s a nice semi-escape from the city. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the food here Swedish. I mean, there are some Swedish pancakes and smoked salmon omelets, but we’re not eating Kalles or anything here. But for what it is, it’s comforting, filling, and most important: tasty.
- Mercadito: I absolutely hate going downtown on the weekends, but I would make that trip for brunch here. Two recommendations: 1. the pancakes with Manchego cheese, strawberries, cinnamon butter, and maple syrup; 2. the huevos con carnitas with scrambled eggs, pork carnitas, tomatillo pico de gallo, ancho salsa. They aren’t shy with the booze in your brunch cocktails either, which is always nice.
- Kith & Kin: I haven’t been in here since they switched chefs, so I can’t attest to the current state of how brunch is rolling there. But there was a short period in my life where I went into Kith & Kin for four weeks straight to order the fried chicken and waffles. It’s a true—and very sad—story of my life. I’m pretty sure they stuck crack in that chicken. But I haven’t been in, so if the recipe still sticks, order that.
- Nana: Worth the schlep to Bridgeport if you happen to live inconveniently on the other side of the city (holla!). Another place with consistently good brunch. Great atmosphere, great service, great food. The dishes are inventive, fresh, and well-executed. Potatoes are always perfectly golden and crisp—the pupusa in their Nanadict is heaven. Loved the corn-oat waffle and the huevos rancheros. So many items on my brunch to-do list, but totally recommend.
- Big Jones: There’s something very charming about snacking on complimentary beignets and sipping on mimosas in a restaurant that is decked out in classic NOLA fashion. Especially in the middle of winter (do you feel the bite of the tundra coming?). Shrimp and grits are probably the big draw here, but I love the eggs benedict, the grilled house andouille, and the cheddar corn pancakes.
- Paramount Room: Were it not for the fact you end up eating in an enclosed basement or straddled over a bar, this would easily be one of my go-to spots. The food is spot on and the Bloody Marys here are balanced, spicy, and topped with a beautiful garden of vegetables (each one is different, like snowflakes!). Securing a table is pretty easy due to the aforementioned problem, and likewise, no one really brings their bratty kids here. LCD screens are kind of an eyesore, but again, it’s not a brunch-specific restaurant. It’s a bar/restaurant that happens to have great brunch.
R.I.P. Vella Cafe.
Again, this by no means pits these as being better than other places and there are plenty of spots with better omelets, memorable pancakes, and eye-opening Bloody Marys—I just dig these spots and can be found hanging here on the reg. And really, isn’t that why you came to this site to begin with?