Brunch is my favorite mashup. It’s two…two…two meals in one, and not only is that a timesaver—let’s face it, who has time for two meals on Sunday morning when you’ve already slept through the first one?—but it’s clearly meant as an excuse for day drinking.
But a bottomless Mimosa or a fabulous Bloody Mary bar does not necessarily a great brunch make. It is, after all, about the food. Give me a fluffy omelet filled with sautéed ramps and Gruyère and a great piece of toast (preferably with mashed avocado?) and I will nap afterward with a smile on my lips.
For the record, these are acceptable after-brunch activities:
- Walking it off.
- Reading by the fire or in a park, depending on weather.
- Swinging on swings, kids optional.
- Napping wherever.
Now go forth and brunch.
Breakfast sandwiches available on a croissant, biscuit or in a burrito? And you can have Parmesan on your breakfast potatoes? This place really gets me. Plus, they’re owned by the folks at Lovely Bake Shop, so you know this is seriously tasty stuff. 3120 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-525-7005
You don’t have to be vegetarian to love this brunch, with offerings like the Aztec Hash or the Warm Apricot Banana Crepe. And might I recommend the Hawaiian Sunrise smoothie? Good morning! 525 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-328-6875
The menu here changes regularly, but look out for the Black Bean & Corn Chilaquiles Casserole or the Cheddar-Chive Biscuits with Country Sausage Gravy, because cheese makes EVERYTHING better. 4729 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-989-5595
Clearly the Portugese Egg Tart—made with puff pastry, custard, “love and secrets”—is a must, but don’t miss the Macanese Hash, made with stir-fried minced pork and beef, fried egg, potato and coconut. And the Chive Dumplings are downright addictive. 2957 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, 773-661-9170
Yes, the Brioche French Toast with fresh blueberries and whipped vanilla mascarpone are terrific, likewise the Sunday Omelette with melted leeks, shiitake mushrooms and Fontina cheese, but the Pullman Loaf Toast, people. The toast. 4539 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-506-9300
Kanela is Greek for cinnamon, and Chicagoan for delish. You’ll be ordering the Loukoumades (Greek doughnuts with lemon-honey syrup and toasted walnuts), the Bacon-Infused Waffle and the Spicy Feta Omelette. The one that cannot get away: the amazing Duck Confit Hash with charred scallions and sunny-side-up eggs. Opa! 1552 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-255-1206; 1408 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-661-1010; 3231 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-248-1622
Go directly to the “Cereal Killers” section of the menu. Attempt to choose. My picks include Fat Elvis Waffles, Parathas Burrito, Breakfast Spaghetti ‘n Clams ‘n Crab (Stephanie Izard’s take on Spaghetti Carbonara) or the Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian-Style Breakfast Tasty Thing. It’s brunch, so their “Orange is the New Shake” should be your liquid preference. 820 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-888-3455
If you’re the type that loves red meat at brunch, look no further than Lula’s Hangar Steak and Eggs. Served with a potato-sunchoke cake, winter root relish, fried eggs and charred almond sauce, it’s one of a kind. Get ALL of the House Pastries. Trust me. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, 773-489-9554
This farm-to-table favorite makes all their own condiments and is committed to local farmers and purveyors. Everything here is worth eating, but consider this: Home Fries with Brunkow Cheese Curds. Walk them off afterward in Lincoln Park. 1800 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 312-981-7070
Whether you opt for the Smoked Salmon Benedict, the lighter-than-air Lemon Ricotta Pancakes or the Prairie Scramble, it’s impossible to go wrong at this North Shore stalwart. Coffee is strong and hot, and service is fantastic. 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-205-4433
There’s a new Dutch Baby Pancake in town, and this one is sporting caramelized apples and pears and a scoop of rum raisin ice cream. That and the “Green Eggs & Ham” Benedict (cilantro hollandaise is the secret) are reason enough to check out Alpana Singh’s latest hot spot. 130 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-880-0130
The only brunch buffet on the list ($19.95 per person includes coffee, tea or juice), this North Shore newcomer has it all, from the chef omelet station to the smoked salmon display; French toast to fresh fruit. But there’s also a few great salads (beet and butternut squash with goat cheese or an “All-American” Cobb) as well as kick-ass Chicken Tacos. Some serious bang for your buck. 507 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847-441-0134
Is there something inherently wrong in enjoying a boozy Lakefront Fizz with my bowl of Hangover Fried Rice? Sorry, not sorry. Hand me that Veggie Frittata, will ya? 1700 Central St., Evanston, 847-905-0669
This menu is all over the place, and just about every place it goes, you will want to follow. Chicken-Fried Lobster? Sure. Reuben Burger? Oh, yes. Biscuits and Tasso Gravy? You betcha. Follow any of those up with a piece of Chocolate Toffee Coffee Cake and you have yourself a very serious brunch. 730 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-243-8955