In spring, a young woman’s fancy turns to brunch.
Actually, to be honest, every woman’s — and every man’s — thoughts turn to brunch, each weekend on the regular. Basically, I’m telling you that brunch is essential to modern civilization. Because life is simply better when you’re in a sun-filled room with people you love (or at least tolerate), your cup is refilled promptly with good, strong coffee, and a stack of tender pancakes, dripping with melted butter and real maple syrup, is in front of you, and maybe a side of Nueske’s superior bacon, extra crispy. Am I right?
Here are some of our current favorites.
Celebrity chef Art Smith revisits his own Table 52 space with a new farm-to-table concept while maintaining his Southern accent. Opt for the Southern Benedict ($17) with shrimp, andouille sausage, stewed veggies and hollandaise, or the excellent BDK Omelet ($14) with bacon, Hook’s cheddar and kale. But whatever God-forsaken diet you’re on, make sure someone at the table gets the Fried Chicken & Waffles ($22) with rosemary-maple syrup — and share. 52 W. Elm St., Chicago, 312-573-4000
Dining in a group at brunch? Don’t mind family style? Want a kick-ass view any time of year? Cindy’s ticks each box. Grab a craft brunch cocktail and order up a storm: the Biscuit Board ($15/30), complete with hams, jams and gravy; seasonal Cast Iron Quiche ($34) for a crowd; spicy Israeli Shakshuka ($30) with eggs and fried chickpeas; or a Lox & Bagels platter ($32) for the traditionalists. Don’t panic — for those who can’t share nicely, there are individual items as well. Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-792-3502
This Italian delight in the Lakeview neighborhood will seduce you with Risotto “Oatmeal” ($12), a warm rice porridge with crispy oats, roasted fruit in season, and caramelized honey milk, or perhaps the decadent Bombolini ($9), Italian donuts to be eaten with candied orange syrup, chocolate sauce and concord grape jam. Peppery baked Eggs in Purgatory ($14), served with polenta cake and fennel sausage, are simply perfetto with a Classic Bellini ($10) or a double espresso. 3335 Southport Ave., Chicago, 773-687-8568
Head south to Bridgeport, people. Of course, homage should be paid to the restaurant’s namesake, so the Duck Confit Hash ($15) with its chunks of roasted sweet potato, smooth Calabrian hollandaise and softly scrambled eggs, is a must. For vegetarians, the Roasted Mushrooms ($14) with green garlic, red grits and a perfect golden-yolked duck egg — topped with porcini powder-dusted popcorn — is just the thing. And did I mention the Fried Cheese Curds ($8)? Not for the cholesterol-phobic, obviously. 2701 S. Eleanor, Chicago, 312-724-8811
An on-site urban greenhouse that furnishes much of their produce is just one of many features that sets this new far West Loop resto apart. Standouts include Quinoa Cakes ($13) with lemon, almond and buttermilk ricotta and a caramelized pineapple syrup, and the decadent Grilled Skirt Steak & Eggs ($18) topped with Calabrian salsa verde and a served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a soft-cooked egg. 1748 W. Lake St., Chicago, 312-366-2294
A bigger and better version of this Edgewater favorite is now open, and brunch can be had Tuesday – Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s a lot to love on this huge menu, but standouts include the Vegan Skillet ($9.99) made with potatoes, tofu, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and red peppers; the “Bomb Mi” sandwich ($11.50), with hoisin-glazed shredded pork, jalapeños, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, sriracha and a fried egg on a pretzel bun; and the Biscuits and Gravy ($9.35), which can be had with house-made pork sausage or a vegan patty. Lots of options for every palate. 5938 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-654-1444
This is not your average River North drunken brunch. Start with a light Wok-Fried Prawn Salad ($15) with sprightly notes provided by lemongrass, pomelo, mango and Thai chili sauce, then move on to the Wagyu Oxtail XO Fried Rice ($16) with asparagus and egg. The hand-pulled noodles (la mian) are both brunch theater and toothsome, delicious treat; I love the Minced Pork ($14) version in a spicy pork broth with black garlic, truffle oil and shiitake and wood ear mushrooms. It’s an umami bomb. 6 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-595-9440
The globally inspired menu at this mad popular West Loop spot shines at brunch with Havarti Mac & Cheese ($13), extra cheesy and filled with sweet corn, wild mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts under a butter-crumb crust. The Korean-inspired Short Rib Benedict ($19) features braised short ribs, Brussels sprout kimchi and togarishi hollandaise on a pretzel bun. The cool kids are hanging out here without you. Isn’t it time to fix that? 1140 W. Madison St., Chicago, 312-243-2097
Lake Forest is a “classics” kind of town, and you’ll find them here, prepared beautifully and with enough of a spin to keep things interesting, like the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($12), light and fluffy, topped with wild black raspberry compote, lemon curd and maple syrup. The standard hash is updated with Amish Chicken ($12), the Benedict with smoked salmon ($15). All this, plus Avocado Toast ($18), gilded with a lovely crab salad? This could be habit forming. 655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, 847-234-8800
If your heart can take it, you’ll find a Full English Breakfast ($12) here, consisting of two eggs, English bacon, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread. For the slightly more health conscious, opt for the classic Kedgeree ($9), a mild Indian curry rice with smoked fish, chopped egg and peas, or the House-Made Scone ($5) with Irish Kerrygold butter, jam, whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Happily, no Brexit thus far in Evanston. 623 Howard St., Evanston, 847-491-6778
Named for one of San Francisco’s toniest neighborhoods, this Bucktown hideaway likes to mix it up, from killer Huevos Rancheros ($14) made with confit chicken, black beans, salsa verde, cabbage slaw, tortilla and egg, to Thai Shrimp & Grits ($14) in a spicy coconut curry sauce. The Breakfast Burrata ($4) side dish is a must, as are the delectable craft cocktails, like the Love & Haight ($10) with gin, amaro and fresh berry juice. Peace, man. 1749 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-697-3315
There will be pig. That’s a given. But there’s also the Peekytoe Crab Scramble ($14) with crème fraîche, espelette pepper, dill and pickled shallots, served with toast; soul-warming Sorrel Spätzle ($13) tossed with celery root, sour cream and a soft egg; and decadent Lemon Pound Cake ($9) with ricotta, citrus curd and ginger. Plus, lots of perfectly brewed Intelligentsia coffee, so life is good. 837 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, 312-733-9555
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