Brunch at Caffè Oliva, located right on Ohio Street Beach, is as close to a legitimate getaway as I've gotten in a long time, but unlike most beach-centric vacations I've been on, the food here is shockingly ambitious and memorable.
You have to give credit to a restaurant that can make bread bowls appealing. Gather has a knack for gracefully elevating American comfort food, from fried chicken and biscuits to the oft-lambasted bread bowl.
When it comes to brunch buffets, there's a fine line between dignified and hungover-in-Vegas, a line that Howells & Hood tactfully toes. The unlimited Sunday brunch buffet ($29 per person) feels less like a tacky cruise ship spread and more like a thoughtfully curated brunch menu that just so happens to be strewn before you in eye-bulging amounts.
I secretly kind of love Waffle House, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, and the like. These types of breakfast joints are guilty pleasures that I thankfully only indulge on rare occasions, in moments of crippling weakness. So I'm thankful for Stax Cafe, which is as close as a restaurant can get to IHOP without throwing integrity out the door.
Considering how many people go to brunch to soothe hangovers induced from bars the previous night, going to a bar for brunch seems a little odd, like attempting to heal a wound by stabbing it. But Trenchermen's newly instated Saturday bar brunch brings some dignity to the experience.
It's pretty much asparaguspalooza at the market these days, as it's one of the earlier items to come into season while farmers twiddle their green thumbs waiting for rhubarb, strawberries, and the like.
The brunch ritual is often mired in screaming children and heinous portions of over-stuffed, over-syrup'd French toast. So it's a welcome relief when a place like Acadia launches brunch, gussying up the weekend tradition with some welcome pomp and circumstance.
The brunch fare at The Peasantry features a lot of items that don't scream "street food" at first, but subtly incorporate street food inspiration, like a pancake masquerading as a gyro. But since this is still just a restaurant inspired by street food, and not literally an enclave of bedraggled peasants, silverware and manners are suggested.
At Carriage House, chef Mark Steuer does a dandy job gussying up classic Southern flavors in a sleek way that almost makes everything feel light. But this is not light food. It may not be the type of "butter gone wild" food Paula Deen pigeonholed, but it packs a coy arterial punch, kinda like a taser wrapped in a doily.
Maybe it's just me, but I've never imagined seafood restaurants as being very brunch-centric. I mean, I don't think fishermen eat brunch and sip bottomless mimosas. But GT Fish & Oyster debunks my preconceptions by seamlessly incorporating seafood and fish into a brunch format, in one of the loveliest brunch settings in town.
The farmers' breakfast menu jives perfectly with Grange Hall's cottage-like decor, which looks like it was designed by somebody's crafty grandma who had a lot of time and spare cow bells on her hands. The food is just as cottage-y and grandma-esque.
The concept is simple: combine two adjoining businesses (Co-op Hot Sauce and Crumb Bread) to make one harmonious cafe. The resulting menu is more congruous than synchronized swimming, and weekend brunch features an array of saucy sandwiches, breakfast pastries, and nifty dishes that set Sauce and Bread miles apart (figuratively and literally) from Chicago's arsenal of brunch restaurants.
It takes a special restaurant to combine dainty urbanity with enough comfort food to satiate a trucker. Southport Grocery & Cafe is that diamond in the ruff. It feels like a tea party catered by sumo wrestlers with culinary degrees.
Pl-zen is the strongest push for gentrification I've seen in Pilsen since Nightwood, and not just because Pl-zen's name is the phonetic spelling of the neighborhood, beating customers over the head with neighborhood love. The food is very thoughtful, highly unique, and ultimately, memorable.
Waffles is a whimsical homage to the namesake breakfast staple, and it's the best thing to happen to waffles since Eggo.
Mexican food has never had a lot of sex appeal to me. Then along comes Mercadito, the contemporary Mexican restaurant with enough of it to melt a pack of popsicles.
Few restaurants exude lounging-in-a-hammock warmth quite like Sola, the Hawaiian-inspired restaurant in the heart of North Center. Chef/owner Carol Wallack is a culinary Jack Johnson, seamlessly combining her love for Hawaiian culture with the bounty of the Midwest.
The culinary philosophy of cooking locally is nothing new, but it's rarely done with such finesse in Streeterville as at Local Root, a smart addition to a neighborhood mired in quickservice lunches and snazzy bowling alley food.
Dining at m.henrietta is like wrapping yourself in a blanket knit by your grandma. Everything about this cottage-esque Edgewater nook wafts of comfort, most especially the "screw the New Yearʼs resolutions" menu of sweet and savory indulgences.
While chef Chris Pandel famously serves up some of the cityʼs most intriguingly meaty fare at dinner, some of the best dishes on the weekend brunch menu are just as hearty. Interspersed with a few sweet dishes, brunch is a showcase for eye-opening foods of a savory persuasion.
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