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The 12 Best Places to Brunch in Chicago

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In Chicago these days, people take brunch as seriously as hot dogs and gripes about the weather. For many, the weekly ritual has usurped church and religion as the quintessential Sunday excursion, what with seemingly every restaurant serving brunch one way or another. But even if you're a brunch diehard, the surplus of options can prove challenging. I'm here to help you navigate through the sea of syrup and the forest of flapjacks to determine some of the best brunch spots in Chicago.

The Bristol

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Braised Pork Chilaquiles at The Bristol [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

You love The Bristol for Chris Pandel's snout-to-tail cookery (and that Basque cake), so it's no surprise that weekend brunch is just as reputable. When talented toques are handling your huevos, you know brunch is bound to be good. Especially when familiar American classics are the template, modernized and polished with invigorating, memorable results. Start with a jumbo cinnamon roll or some doughnuts. Chase it with some quiche, a smoked ham Benedict with mustard hollandaise, braised pork chilaquiles, or whole wheat pancakes slathered in pistachio creme. Still reeling from over-indulgence the night prior? Pandel takes mercy with his hangover breakfast, a soothing medley of rustic noodles, pork broth, shrimp mousse, and pork belly. Read more here >>

Dusek's Board & Beer

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Poached Seckle Pear Dutch Baby at Dusek's Board & Beer [Photographs: Chelsea Ross]

A drinking-focused eatery may not seem like the most obvious destination for brunch supremacy, but Dusek's Board & Beer is full of savorous surprises. Considering the owners are part-owners of Longman & Eagle, and the chef does double-duty at both ampersand spots, you know going in that your meal here is going to be noteworthy, no matter the time of day. Brunch at Dusek's is hearty, indulgent, and just slightly over the top, but in all the right ways. Riffing on decadent American and European staples, chef Jared Wentworth wows with baked Dutch baby pancakes heaped with poached pears, tea-smoked caramel, and pie spices; biscuits immersed in duck neck gravy; a surf & turf-y oyster hash with pork belly pave; iron-roasted mussels dripping in harissa butter, a surefire kick in the pants in the a.m. Read more here >>

Beatrix

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Pecan and Praline French Toast at Beatrix [Photograph: Amber Gibson]

A restaurant loosely inspired by Lettuce Entertain You test kitchen creations could be a hodgepodge to say the least. Or it could be the greatest thing ever, with a little something for everyone. Fitting handily into the latter category is Beatrix, the coziest thing to ever happen to hotel restaurants, nestled inside River North's Aloft Hotel with a comfy smattering of dining tables, cafe seats, and lounge chairs. It's a great backdrop for a meal filled with sleek comfort fare and/or wholesome, nutritious eats. Fresh vegetable and fruit-filled juices are an apt precursor to a meal filled with angel food muffins, lush salads, ten-grain oatmeal, and some of the richest, most cake-like French toast I've ever tasted, heaped with sugar and streusel. Or if you're feeling like eating a cloud, the lemon pancakes with blackberries and lemon syrup practically float right into your mouth. Read more here >>

Endgrain

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Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich at Endgrain [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Check your belts at the door and get ready to feast on all things doughy and decadent, something Endgrain does better than most any brunch spot in town. The menu is focused and simple, filled with a thoughtful array of biscuits, hand pies, and doughnuts, and considering chef Enoch Simpson is pretty much responsible for kickstarting the doughnut firestorm in Chicago with his brunch creations at Nightwood a few years back, you can rest assured your carb-heavy meal is in good hands. Spring for one of Endgrain's doughnuts, dense and cake-y treats studded with seasonal ingredients and treacly glazes. If you're lucky maybe they'll still have doughscuits on hand, a doughnut-biscuit hybrid designed to devastate diets and delight palates everywhere. Follow it up with a biscuit sandwich, like smoked char on marbled rye biscuit or fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Have a nap for dessert. Read more here >>

La Sirena Clandestina

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Shrimp Baiano at La Sirena Clandestina [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Think outside the frittata for your next brunch adventure. Specifically, get to La Sirena Clandestina for one of the most unique, vibrant brunch programs in Chicago, with menu items so exotic and offbeat you'll feel like you're vacationing in Brazil. Bacon- and cheese-studded breakfast empanadas are the perfect brunch nosh, dulce de leche-drenched fried French toast will ruin all other French toasts for you forever, and shrimp baiano is a fascinating South American variation on shrimp & grits, featuring plump shrimp nestled over polenta and flecked with cashews, cilantro, green onions, and habanero. The okonomiyaki will permanently alter your perception of pancakes, a savory Japanese interpretation studded with bean sprouts and adorned with octopus, bacon, and kewpie mayo, aka your new favorite condiment. Read more here >>

avec

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Coddled Eggs at avec [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Selecting a favorite One Off Hospitality spot for brunch is a strenuous dilemma considering the restaurant group's knack for weekend brunch success. Between The Publican, Nico Osteria, and avec, One Off serves some of the best brunch programs in town, each one distinct, highly offbeat, and mightily memorable. For it's shareable format and cozy, close-knit environment, I'll give avec the slight edge when it comes to brunch cravings. The menu changes often, but items like coddled eggs with Taleggio fonduta, wood oven-baked French toast, and breakfast paella are apt examples of salacious stunners. One of the most revelatory options is the Moroccan "berghir" pancake, a dainty and toothsome cake the width of a crumpet layered with fried chicken wings jazzed up with honey, butter, and red harissa. It's the best thing to happen to chicken wings since the city of Buffalo. Read more here >>

Grange Hall Burger Bar

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Open-Faced Breakfast Burger at Grange Hall Burger Bar [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Some of the best brunch options in Chicago are on the weekend breakfast menu at Grange Hall Burger Bar, a farm-centric nook with a humbly delicious approach to American cookery on the West Loop's Restaurant Row. The open-faced breakfast burger is extraordinary—a thoughtful assemblage of grass-fed beef, cinnamon-raisin French toast, and bacon, slick with maple syrup and a runny egg. It's a seamless combo of sweet and savory, indicative of Grange Hall's impressive stylings. Essential brunch favorites are showcased throughout the menu, but with a few twists and turns along the way. Such as the quiche Loretta made by baking eggs, cheese, and corn in a harvest grain bread "crust," or a corned beef burger and hash, featuring a housemade corned beef patty, eggs, sauerkraut, Swiss, and 1,000 Island dressing on aromatic dark rye bread. As an added bonus, you can order one of Grange Hall's pies for dessert, which you'll want to do. Read more here >>

GT Fish & Oyster

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Smoked Whitefish Quiche at GT Fish & Oyster [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

From churros with orange cream cheese to smoked whitefish quiche, GT Fish & Oyster is brimming with lustrous flavors and awe-inspiring presentations by culinary wunderkind Giuseppe Tentori. The meticulous chef ensures each and every bite is as flavorful and sleek as the last. No item is an afterthought or an aside, from the dill buttermilk cream adjoining the "everything"-flavored monkey bread to the Chantilly cream bolstering the creamy ricotta pancakes. As one might expect, some of the tastiest items on the menu are of the nautical variety. A simple crab Benedict or shrimp & grits provide a pristine interpretation of classic preparations, while the biscuits and lobster gravy is as rich as it sounds. Succulent morsels of lobster outfit a bowl of cake-y biscuits, potatoes, and egg, providing a pleasant pop of salinity amidst a sea of indulgence. Read more here >>

Carriage House

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Cornbread at Carriage House [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Beignets, hush puppies, and grits are what brunch dreams are made of, and they come to fruition at Carriage House. All the requisite Southern comforts are present and accounted for, dutifully tended to by chef and South Carolina native Mark Steuer, a gent who manages to expertly toe the line between preserving Southern staples and modernizing them ever so honorably. Those beignets come alive with a bit of espresso butterscotch, pullman bread French toast gets an ample dose of sorghum whipped cream, and shrimp & grits arrive in a boatload of hunter gravy, enriching a classic brunch combo with some meaty heft. Even the simplest items, like biscuits with whipped honey butter and skillet cornbread, taste supreme. Read more here >>

Takito Kitchen

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Polenta, Veggies, and Eggs at Takito Kitchen [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Proving that size indeed does not matter, Takito Kitchen's minuscule brunch menu packs an impressive punch with just a few dishes. A bulk of said dishes are sopes, chewy masa dough cakes reminiscent of Mexican English muffins, laden with eggs, cheeses, vegetables, herbs, and other scintillating additions. I like the meatier options, like the pork belly sope spiced with hibiscus-ghost pepper salsa, a curious juxtaposition of ingredients both floral and fiery. Aside from sopes, Takito offers a simple-sounding Spanish ham and eggs made with Serrano, Brunkow cheddar, and incomparable papas bravas, which make most home fries seem like bland packing peanuts by comparison. There's also a bold bowl of polenta, seasonal vegetables, and eggs, showcasing prime ingredients in all their glory and proving that brunch dishes need not be overwrought or re-imagined to be extraordinary. Read more here >>

Pecking Order

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Chicken and Waffles at Pecking Order [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Chicken takes top billing at Pecking Order, and rightfully so with Kristine Subido's preeminent poultry preparations, but her expansive brunch menu should not be overlooked. Sure the chicken and waffles is some of the best in Chicago, especially when smeared with coconut jam and sriracha butter, but the well-rounded chef does a masterful job with Filipino interpretations of other brunch staples. French toast is made with chewy pandesal bread, sort of like the Philippines answer to Hawaiian bread, drizzled with calamansi honey and sweetened condensed milk. That same bread lays the foundation for the "Fat Filipino" burger, a hefty handful made with a langoniza patty, fried egg, banana ketchup, and garlic mayo. And speaking of garlic, pack some breath mints, because you'll want to binge on the garlic rice bowls while you're at it. Read more here >>

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