Chicago: Where brunch is king
By Adrienne Samuels Gibbs Sun-Times Media December 6, 2013 11:54AM
The brunch dish called the Nanadict at Nana on Friday, Nov. 29, 3013. | Jim Boyce~For Sun-Times Media
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT FOR BRUNCH?
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Updated: January 7, 2014 6:21AM
When fan-based website Yelp declared Chicago the winner in the great American brunch war, it got Sun-Times Media thinking: What exactly makes for a winning, mid-morning to afternoon meal?
In a city teeming with Zagat-rated brunch spots and celebrity chefs the answers came easy.
“It’s a great way to relax at a meal out,” says bartending guru and Food Network superstar Steve McDonagh, half of the Hearty Boys, whose popular restaurant in Chicago’s Lake View community, Hearty, is perhaps best known for its festive brunch. “Certainly at brunch there’s no pressure. You can dress more comfortable. You don’t have to be concerned about the cost in the same way, and people feel very childlike about their breakfast. You can turn those foods you loved as a kid into a meal and you don’t feel guilty.”
And, adds McDonagh, there is the liquor. “It’s a little naughty. We shouldn’t be drinking that early and so if you’re going to, it gives you more license to have a cocktail if it’s got a fun name and has bubbles in it.”
The meal is also fun for restaurant staff, says Gale Gand, a renowned local pastry chef who penned a book on brunches. “Brunch has all this flexibility to it,” says Gand, who recently celebrated her birthday courtesy of a Hearty Boys-cooked brunch. “I mean, [for me the Hearty Boys] did grits with caviar and a poached egg on top. They added their famous lavender fried chicken and waffles. And Steve did a cocktail with sparkling wine, fennel-infused gin and lemon juice.”
Here are 10 staff-recommended brunch spots to try:
1. Sinha offers Brazilian brunch Tuesdays-Sundays on Chicago’s West Side, not too far from the United Center. The beauty of the place is in the decor: You dine inside a residential home and will meet other foodies who share the table with you. If you go on a Sunday, reservations are highly recommended. Fave dish? Mineirinho No Rio, a cornmeal and shrimp mash-up. (312) 491-8200; 2018 W. Adams St., sinhaelegantcuisine.com.
2. Nana specializes in farm-to-table cooking in its easy-to-find location in Chicago’s Bridgeport community. The menu changes due to locally sourced materials, but the Nanadict (eggs, potatoes, chorizo, poblano cream sauce), biscuits and duck gravy are consistently on the largely vegan-friendly menu. (312) 929-2486; 3267 S. Halsted St., nanaorganic.com.
3. The Clubhouse in Oak Brook has an extensive Sunday brunch including a turkey-carving station to a seafood and raw bar. (630) 472-0600; 298 Oak Brook Center, theclubhouse.com.
4. Nightwood Restaurant in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood is another farm-to-table delight that oft pairs Lake Superior walleye with scrambled eggs for a Sunday-only brunch plate. The menu changes weekly. Call ahead to check offerings. (312) 526-3385; 2119 S. Halsted St., nightwoodrestaurant.com.
5. Yolk’s South Loop location in Chicago is trendy and busy, but oh so good. The French toast is classic, and the coffee is sublime. (312) 789-9655; 1120 S. Michigan Ave., eatyolk.com.
6. The Publican is a meat eater’s dream in Chicago. Stop by on Sundays for a breakfast sausage corn dog and smoked fish pancakes. (312) 733-9555; 837 W. Fulton Market, thepublicanrestaurant.com.
7. Yes, it’s part of a chain, but the Original Pancake House in Chicago’s Kenwood and Hyde Park communities was so busy the owners had to buy a new building to accommodate the lines that wrapped — and still wrap — around the spot. The food is basic, budget and very traditional. Still, for a twist try the spicy sweet andouille sausage hash. It’s genius. (773) 285-1400; 1348 E. 47th St., originalpancakehouse.com.
8. The ultra affordable and uber-expansive, weekend-only brunch at Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap in Chicago’s Lincoln Park community offers an omelette station to chicken a la King. (312) 642-0007; 1790 N. Lincoln Ave., stanleyskitchenandtap.com.
9. Enjoy eggs, oysters, king crab legs, Bloody Marys and mimosas at this interesting take on seafood brunch in Chicago’s River North area. It’s pricey, but Shaw’s Crab House always delivers. (312) 527-2722; 21 E. Hubbard St., shawscrabhouse.com.
10. Big Jones does Southern comfort food right: biscuits and complimentary beignets. You can get grits with shrimp, or just on the side with dishes like a Simple Cajun Breakfast (eggs with fried crawfish boudin patties and corn bread). Keep the Southern theme with a Sazerac. (773) 275-5725; 5347 N. Clark St., Chicago, bigjoneschicago.com.