As a self-respecting, proud Millennial, brunch is hands down my favorite meal. I love a fancy dinner or a nice lunch, but man. Give me a shiny restaurant full of sunlight and preternaturally chipper servers, breakfast meats, an excuse to order a never-ending carafe of J Roget champagne at 10 am and I am happier than I have any right to be.
I recently had the pleasure of one of my partners coming to visit me in Chicago for 5 days. Luckily for me, he loves brunch, so I was thrilled to have a partner for boozy brunches and breakfasts (Andrew is many great things but a brunch fan he is not). The Great Chicago Brunchening began literally as soon as I picked my friend up from the airport Thursday morning- we stopped at Elly’s at their Norridge location. I was somewhat paralyzed by choice, but finally settled on their Florentine Benedict and an iced Nutella latte that featured house-made Nutella. Reader, this latte was life-changing. I didn’t know Nutella could be home-made or put in a iced latte, but it absolutely belongs there. My companion was also kind enough to get their Berry Mascarpone pancakes as his side- fluffy cakes topped with lots of fruit and the most amazing almond mascarpone cream. My bennie was solid, anything with bacon and good hollandaise is probably going to tasty. The service was top-notch, and we sat and enjoyed the meal and reconnecting for a good couple hours.
Friday we woke up *way* too late for any kind of breakfast, so our next brunch adventure was on Saturday when we went to Ascione Bistro in Hyde Park. Today was Bottomless Mimosa day, so it was good to have a chic option near our AirBnB in the Bronzeville area for inexpensive Ubering.
We started off a decadent morning with their Spring burrata platter- it featured fresh burrata topped with a vanilla vinaigrette, cantaloupe, arugula, and prosciutto. It was a great complement to a gorgeous 70+ degree day- it felt like springtime on a plate. I kicked it off with one of their pomegranate mimosas, while my friend opted for the classic orange. I knew we were going to be in trouble when they brought out half liter carafes of our chosen flavors instead of going by the glass. The mimosas were tasty and refreshing, and had a nice ratio of champagne to juice. Continuing a theme, I opted for the lox benedict, which was a lovely take on a benedict. The hollandaise was incredible, rich and thick and tasted house-made, not pre-mixed. The benedict was topped with this little dollop of a truffle/mushroom duxelle/ vinaigrette-y thing that I could have eaten straight with a spoon. My partner’s steak & eggs was somewhat disappointing, with the thin steak being pretty overcooked (but still edible and seasoned well). They have a gorgeous sleek dining room that feels very chic, lots of dark colors highlighted by glass and burnished gold decorations and furniture. One of the best parts though was getting pretty toasty on mimosas, and then shambling over to Promontory Point in Burnham Park.
The park was a beautiful place to enjoy the buzz and soak up some vitamind D while sitting on a seawall overlooking the lake. It was windy (because of course it was), so there was plenty of wave action. They crashed over where we sat just enough to occasionally mist us, which felt delicious as we sat in the warm sun. It’s a gorgeous place to sit and talk- I wished we’d had enough time to pack a picnic and hang out there all afternoon one day.
Finally, on Sunday was time for one of my proudest (and most ridiculous) meal planning moments. Y’all, we did a *French Toast* crawl around the Andersonville neighborhood before capping the day off with a distillery tour. I’d booked the tour first from a Groupon, and figured it would be smart to eat before trying a bunch of spirits. Andersonville is a vibrant, dense area with SO much to do and see and eat in it; I could not decide which brunch place sounded better. Every option I found sounded more exciting than the last, so I proposed to that we do all of them, and do a French toast crawl. I narrowed it down to two places, Gadabout and The Bongo Room.
We started at Gadabout, where we ended up having way more than just the planned horchata French toast. We picked a chai cinnamon rolls, overnight oats (guys they had *salted fudge* as a topping), brisket hash, and finally, the horchata French toast.
And because brunch without a drink is just sad breakfast, we ordered a couple rounds of their “Not so Irish Coffee #3: rittenhouse rye, giffard banane, chai orgeat, coffee, house whip cream, cinnamon”. I can neither confirm nor deny that I licked the whipped cream out of both of our coffee mugs after we finished the drinks… The French toast that was our original mission was insanely delicious; it featured an horchata cream and a silky custardy texture topped with crunchy toasted cinnamon Rice Krispies that will probably haunt my 3 am cravings forever.
We had a little time to kill before we needed to be at our next brunch stop, so we wandered through some of the funky little shops on N. Clark St. I highly recommend the snarky t-shirts at Raygun, and the extremely thorough (and very tempting) liquor and beer selection at Andersonville Wine & Spirits (I had to seriously restrain myself from buying 8 bottles of fancy liquor).
Finally we made it the Bongo Room, and ordered both kinds of their French toast (my friend made the excellent point that 2 entrees does not a crawl make). First we had the regular French toast, which featured spiced apples, warm vanilla cream, and some house made granola. It was a solid French toast, but not quite as memorable as the horchata, or the last version of French toast: The Chocolate Tower French Toast. It was probably my favorite of the crawl, and sadly we had to get it to go. But let me tell you, eating this the next morning in bed was probably more satisfying than it had a right to be. It features bittersweet chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone, banana crème brulee sauce (oh my God this sauce), fresh bananas and shaved white and dark chocolate.
The Chocolate Tower won my crawl vote, but the horchata was an extremely close second. I was thrilled with my little brunch crawl, and wished I’d had more time and people to do this with (more mouths means tasting more things!!). Next time, Chicago!
Brunch in Chicago was satisfying and fun, and there were so many other joints that I didn’t get to hit up but wanted to. I was super impressed with the food and the service everywhere we went, and I am eager to go around again!